September 06, 2013

Muscat to Beirut: A Business Class Experience On board Gulf Air

I first had a bad impression of Gulf Air while traveling from Beirut to Manama. I think I must have misjudged them, especially after trying their newer planes during other flights. But I must say here, after my experience with this airline, I have learned not to expect - meaning you don't know what your flight will be like as each one dramatically varies.
 
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Traveling from Manama to Muscat, the new A320 that boasts large screens and relaxing chairs were great. Adding to that experience was my flight back home today. Leaving Oman on board a fresh new A320 (an extended range), the experience couldn't have been better:
  • More than a meter between your legs and the seat in front of you
  • Large and relaxing leather chairs
  • A seat that turns into a bed with the touch of a single bottom
  • A total bed: Flat! 180degrees, horizontal to the floor
  • A 17inch wide screen
  • Four spaces in the back of the seat in front can host a bag, bottles, headphones and magazines
  • 30% of the plane's cabin is occupied by the business class and its 8 seats
  • These new planes don't have the no smoking led sign anymore. It was replaced by a sign to out off electronic devices
Like all Gulf Air flights, we were welcomed on board with refreshing napkins, dates, fresh drinks and coffee before the plane even took off.
 
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Breakfast was served, a choice of eggs or cereals followed by croissant or muffins. I still don't understand why no menus are distributed, instead the hostess passed around asking about everyone's preferred choice. I asked for an espresso and continued writing this article. The chocolate muffin is always tasty.
On the longer hall flight, from Manama to Beirut, a A320 again but with a different cabin setup. A three hour flight and a seat that doesn't recline more than 15 degrees! It is frustrating to say the least, especially when on a 1hour and thirty minutes flight the seat could transform into a bed. Breakfast again, but this time, and for the first time after three flights, a menu was distributed.
Here comes breakfast:
  • Breakfast started with fresh fruits, followed by a selection of cereals accompanied by pastries and toasts. I loved their bread and muffins. The chocolate and raspberry muffin were both succulent.
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A Bizarre company:
  • Four planes, four different experiences. We started by having a chef on board but no screens on an old plane, then a small but very new plane, a long courier with the most relaxing business seat and now, the fourth is an A320 with big screens but this time, no refreshing towels, no coffee and no dates.
  • I don't know how to describe it all. It seems like every trip is based on the head of cabin's know how or the plane's history. A huge lack of sustainability makes you feel constantly uncomfortable. Even though I already published two articles about their business class, I can't' promise you that your experience will be the same.
The minuses:
  • The unsustainable service
  • The quantity of meals on board is never enough. If you are sitting back all the choices would have been finished by the time the service reaches you. My friend sitting behind me asked for eggs but unfortunate was obliged to eat foul mdammas. On each of the four trips this week, nothing asked for was delivered: "Sorry, ask for something else, we don't have your order anymore." This is unacceptable in a business class.
  • The table cloth is too small and doesn't cover more than one leg
  • The movie choice is below average. They call what they offer "New Hollywood Movies" when none is close to being new?

Four trips, four different experiences in a company that has zero sustainable service. Each trip was good but it was weird not knowing what to expect in every flight. I would choose Gulf Air again since I know now to always be prepared for the best or worse.

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