The course with the Emirates Flight Training Academy in Dubai ends at lunch time on Maundy Thursday. I have the rest of the day off, which gives me some time to relax and rest before I fly home in the evening. It’s been a long week.
This year I visited the UAE in February, March, and April. And it looks like I’ll be back again in June and then again in September. So I think I can hardly be blamed for wanting to add a bit of variety with the flights I take: to break the monotony of business travel by using the opportunity to try some new airlines. For the trip to Dubai, I had intended to fly via Beirut, with the aim of course, of sampling MEA Middle East Airlines. But then Air France broke the triple seven that was supposed to take me to Beirut, and I was subsequently rebooked onto the nonstop flight I’d already taken the previous month.
For the return, I’ve booked myself on a flight from Dubai via Bahrain to London Heathrow, for the sole purpose of trying out Gulf Air and their new Dreamliner. Originally, I should have been on the day flight to London on Good Friday. But then it was announced that they would be resurfacing one of the runways in Dubai, which would inevitably lead to a reduction in capacity of 32%. This is achieved, mainly, by airlines thinning their schedules to and from Dubai. As a result, I was rebooked onto the night time service from Bahrain, with the feeder flight departing from Dubai at 23h35.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I leave the hotel in Al Barsha at 20h40. From here the journey by car to Dubai airport takes 27 minutes. It’s the weekend here in the UAE, when the traffic on the road tends to get a bit frantic by mid-afternoon and then gradually deteriorates from there into the evening.
Gulf Air operates out of Terminal 1 in Dubai. I’ve already checked in online. However, the boarding passes cannot be transferred to the wallet, even though, according to the app, Dubai is one of the few airports from which the service should work. But I need to check-in my suitcase anyway.
Gulf Air checks in on row 5. Check-in is done by DNATA. There are four dedicated Gulf Air counters on row 5, with one row for premium passengers. But the check-in agent is friendly enough. He checks my suitcase all the way through to Zürich, gives me instructions for the lounge and then wishes me a pleasant flight.
Gulf Air has its own lounge on the D concourse. And what a depressing place it is. The lounge is located one floor up from the general airside area, above the duty free shop.
The lounge has its own smoking room, which is furnished in the traditional Arab style, and not much else. The selection of hot and cold dishes looks good though, but I don’t try any of the food, figuring I’ll be eating on the plane.
Boarding for the flight starts at 23h00. There is no call for premium passengers, but there is a separate queue for Business Class passengers.
The first impression of the cabin is good, although I must say it does looks rather old-fashioned. There are four rows of seats in the Business Class section, and Gulf Air has a proper, dedicated Business Class seat in a 2 + 2 configuration.
The seat covers are leather. There is a foot rest for every seat. Unfortunately though, there is also a large IFE box under the window seat of the row in front, which means that there’s actually no room to fully stretch my legs.
Each seat has its own power socket, but mine is not working on this flight. The seat controls are operated mechanically, and not electrically.
There are four crew on the flight. Two females working the rear section, and two males in the front working the Business Class cabin. The two men are not particularly friendly and do not seem overly enthusiastic about being there either.
The service on the ground begins with the welcome drink. There is a choice of water, orange juice and a lemon and mint juice. I go with the latter, but it’s not very good. It tastes like the seriously diluted version of a similar but much more flavourful drink you get on Qatar Airways.
Once boarding is completed, the crew distribute the towels and then the cardamom infused coffee with dates. For the towel there is a choice between a hot and a cold towel. I request a hot towel, but it’s not really warm anymore.
As we taxi out, the crew pass through the cabin taking orders for dinner. From what I understand the flight attendant telling the lady in 1A in Arabic, there is a choice of salad with shrimp or some sort of cheese sandwich. By the time the crew reaches row two, where I’m sitting, he merely wants to know what I’d like to drink. And I figure he’s probably out of options for the meal service and will just bring the rest of the passengers what’s left.
The flight time is announced at 55 minutes.
Once we’re airborne, the service begins. I get my tea, the passengers on row 1 are given their trays with the food and then the crew vanish in the galley behind the curtain. The guy sitting next to me doesn’t get anything. Not even the small bottle of water he’d ordered. The crew only appear again briefly before landing, to open and secure the curtain.
We land in Bahrain after a flight time of 50 minutes. The farewell message for passengers is recorded, so the poor crew are not made to endure the presence of their pesky passengers unduly. Now let’s hope the next flight will be a better experience. Because this one rubbish!