Thursday, August 30, 2012

On board Gulf Air from Manila to Bahrain and the Middle East


Hello from several thousand feet up in the air, on a Gulf Air flight from Manila to Bahrain. I think we're somewhere over the Indian Ocean right now, so it's about 4.5 hours more to go to Bahrain. And thank goodness for free WiFi on business class. I love it. I can work 24-7 the way I do when I'm on the ground.

This was how it used to be a few years ago, when airlines put WiFi in their planes. What a nice luxury that was to be stuck in the air for 12 hours and to be online shopping on Amazon for books and all kinds of stuff -- plus, working at the same time, of course.



SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES

I remember how I used to fly Tokyo-New York and be on WiFi the entire time, buying books and having them delivered to my hotel in Manhattan. Once I even ordered a pizza to be delivered to my hotel room just before landing at JFK, since there was a time I had my JFK landing-to-New York Palace Hotel routine down to pat. Then, suddenly all the airlines stopped this service and I missed this terribly, as WiFi on board certainly made those long hours more bearable.

Now, airlines are finally putting WiFi back on again.



LOVE THE WIFI....

How nice to be connected in the air again. Thank you, Gulf Air, for providing free WiFi for business class. I don’t know if this is a permanent thing for them, but I can tell you that most airlines that do have WiFi on board are charging fees for them. I think it’s something like US$20 for the flight.

Anyway, I thought I’d tell you about my Gulf Air flight experience from Manila to Bahrain so far. It’s my very first time on Gulf Air, actually, and I chose to fly with them this time to the Middle East because they had a schedule that was convenient for me and I was able to get their flight with the flat beds on business class.

THE WOW FACTOR 



There are lots of Middle Eastern carriers flying from Manila nowadays, but not all of them have flat beds. Or not all of their flights have flat beds. So if you’re a stickler for flat beds the way I am, it’s best to research in advance.

Well, this flat bed on the Gulf Air flight to Bahrain is positively amazing. I’ve seen every kind of business class by now, and I can tell you that lots of them aren’t up to par. Of course, there’s no perfect airline; but it’s a matter of choosing what you can live with and what you can't on a long-haul flight – whether it's the inflight catering, the seats, the entertainment system or the schedule.

THE PRIVATE JET EXPERIENCE 



The best thing about this Gulf Air flight is the bed and the spaciousness of the business class cabin. The cabin itself is like a private room as there are only 8 flat beds in this section -- that's just two rows of a 1-2-1 configuration in a pretty spacious cabin. Talk about peace and quiet.

And I was just thinking now that if seven friends and I were traveling somewhere on this particular flight, we would basically have the entire section to ourselves and it would be almost like a private jet experience. Or a family of eight persons traveling together, for that matter, would be able to take over the entire business class cabin.



Then there’s the issue of the beds. These flat beds are really spacious by anyone’s standards. There’s real privacy and comfort here compared to many other flat beds of other airlines, and the leg room when you’re seated is just king-size.

 I also love the very large table, which has enough room for a dinner service for two. Yes, if you’re traveling with someone, the other person can sit at the other end and you can enjoy a meal with a set-up just like in a restaurant without feeling cramped at all.

This space issue and the flat beds are the things I care about most when I fly. In this sense, Gulf Air wins lots of points with me. It’s not the newest plane in the world; but it’s a lot more modern and well set-up compared to lots of other carriers I’ve flown in this direction.

DECENT FOOD 



Food-wise, the meal is pretty good. There’s lunch and a light meal on this flight and so far I’ve had lunch. I have to be honest that it’s not the most amazing meal I’ve had mid-air, but it’s okay. I ate everything they served, and I usually don’t really even eat plane food.

Lunch, Manila to Bahrain

Smoked salmon salad with asparagus tips
Pan-fried tilapia with basmati rice
A selection of cheeses and fresh fruits
Pumpkin cheesecake with raspberry coulis

Light meal, Manila to Bahrain

Ginger and lemongrass soup
Fried canneloni with crispy salad and mango salsa
Fresh fruits



The entertainment is not video-on-demand, but they have lots of channels running a good selection of films and TV shows. I actually watched an episode of Gossip Girl because I wanted something short and sweet as I was planning to take a nap after lunch.

And, frankly, they have Internet! I don’t care about movies if I can go online and surf. So, again, they win brownie points from me, although Internet service is not throughout the flight since you can only get it when the plane passes an area of coverage in this instance.

For instance, I had WiFi over Bangkok, and then it disappeared over India, and then reappeared shortly afterwards, somewhere over Pakistan.

GREAT SERVICE



The service is very warm and attentive – much more than I expected, actually. From the moment I checked in to the time I got settled in my seat, the cabin staff was great.

Would I ride Gulf Air again? Gosh, I would ride them just for the WiFi, all things being equal; and these great flat beds just sealed the deal. Talk about a painless way to the Middle East.

Just another day in our never-ending Travelife, somewhere over the ocean on the way to the Bahrain, thousands of feet up in the air.



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