Upgrade aims to regain glory days

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2005, 12:00am

The carrier is coming back with a comprehensive revamp of services and equipment to regain its title as king of the skies

GULF AIR IS carrying out a US$10 million upgrade of its cabins and services to regain its position as the airline of choice, as it was in its trendsetting heyday in the 1970s and '80s.

The first aircraft to be refurbished with state-of-the-art first-class and business-class sky beds took to the skies on March 25, and the upgrade will eventually be extended to the entire fleet.

The upgraded first-class cabin has only eight seats, each able to recline 180 degrees into what the airline claims to be the longest and widest beds in the sky.

The seats, upholstered in New Zealand wool and leather, are enhanced by adding cotton fitted bed sheets, duvets, pyjamas, silk cushions, fluffy pillows and sleeping comfort packs. Partitions provide full privacy.

The seats also feature extra-large side stowage areas, mood lights, lumbar support, adjustable headrests and folding lateral armrests. There are 15-inch monitors for in-flight entertainment with noise- cancelling headphones, PC points, and Sky phones.

The 24 seats in business class, in two-two-two configuration, are ergonomically designed using a lounge-bed profile and can recline within a pod to a pitch of 63 inches. They come with privacy screens, advanced swivel-type tray tables, retractable lateral armrests and extra space to accommodate laptops and storage for personal items.

In-flight dining is also enhanced with first class and business class offering contemporary modern European and classical Middle Eastern gourmet choices, which are served on request.

There is an additional touch in first class - the food is freshly prepared by in-flight chefs trained at five-star hotels.

'In September 2002, we introduced our five-star chefs in the first-class cabin along with dine on demand options and superior menus,' Gulf Air president James Hogan said.

'In line with the customer centric basis of Project Falcon [Gulf Air's three-year restructuring programme], we have enhanced our products and services across the airline both on the ground and in the air.'

A selection of vintage wines from Gulf Air's Sky Cellar as well as spirits, soft drinks, speciality teas and coffee are available in both first and business class.

One unique service Gulf Air introduced in November 2003 is Sky Nannies - flight attendants who double as nannies to help passengers look after their children. 'This service is available on all long-haul flights to assist parents and ensure that they have a more relaxed travel experience,' Mr Hogan said.

On the ground Gulf Air operates 'two exceptional first- and business-class lounges' at Bahrain International Airport and Terminal Three at London's Heathrow.

'The contemporary Arabic setting provides a relaxing but sumptuous ambience as part of the greater travel experience. Both have been recognised for two successive years with prestigious Skytrax awards,' Mr Hogan said.

The latest technology has been used to provide better service. Examples include the e-kiosks, SMS (systems management server) global traveller notification and the establishment of a worldwide contact centre in Oman, which provides a central contact point for customers, handling everything from reservations, mileage scheme redemptions and package holiday bookings.