Impressions Of Gulf Air’s Boeing 787 Business Class

Impressions Of Gulf Air’s Boeing 787 Business Class

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Hello from Singapore, as I continue my whirlwind review trip. After flying Gulf Air’s Airbus A321LR from Rome to Bahrain, I connected on Gulf Air’s Boeing 787-9 from Bahrain to Singapore. I was excited about this flight, given Gulf Air’s excellent seats on the 787s. How was the experience? Well…

Gulf Air 787 business class: what I loved

Business class is ultimately primarily about the seat, and that’s an area where Gulf Air excels on its Boeing 787s. The airline has Apex Suites, which I rank as one of the best business class seats. From looking at the cabin, you might not think much of the 2-2-2 layout.

Gulf Air 787 business class cabin
Gulf Air 787 business class cabin

What’s so exceptional about this product, though, is the window seats. That’s because they’re some of the most private and least space constrained seats out there. The window seats have a narrow walkway from the aisle leading to them, so this configuration features direct aisle access from all seats.

Gulf Air 787 business class seats

Then there’s a shield you can raise, which gives you unparalleled privacy. There’s significantly more privacy than you’d find in a business class seat with a door, and this is a product where it really doesn’t matter whether you have a seatmate or not.

Gulf Air 787 business class privacy

There’s then an ottoman that folds down in front, which also becomes part of the bed. While in many business class seats you have to stick your feet in some small footwell when sleeping, that’s not the case here. The seat is simply so spacious, which I love.

Gulf Air 787 business class legroom
Gulf Air 787 business class bed mode

Now, there are a few quirks to the product — there’s limited storage, and the power outlets are oddly positioned. However, that’s a small price to pay for an otherwise exceptional seat.

I also think that Gulf Air might just have the most elegant Apex Suites of any airline. I loved the cabin finishes, from the patterns to the tones.

As on the previous flight, I also appreciated the amenities. There were very nice amenity kits, and pajamas and slippers were also offered. It’s not often you get that in business class on a seven hour flight.

Gulf Air 787 business class amenity kit
Gulf Air 787 business class pajamas & slippers

Lastly, the cabin manager on this flight was a rockstar. While the rest of the crew consisted primarily of female flight attendants from Thailand, the cabin manager was Bahraini. Among Middle Eastern airlines that hire some “locals” as cabin crew, the service can sometimes be… not great. They often view themselves as superior to the rest of the crew, and feel they don’t have to work so hard. Not this guy, though.

For one, he was so genuinely hospitable and seemed to love his job. He came around to each passenger and told them with a smile “you are most welcome onboard, if you need anything at all, please call me.” Not only that, but he was in the cabin the entire flight working, from providing turndown service, to serving meals.

He was the best “local” cabin crew I’ve ever had on a Gulf carrier.

Gulf Air 787 business class: what I’m lukewarm about

The meal service on this flight was… okay? Admittedly this seven hour flight had odd timing, departing at 1AM and arriving around 12PM, and it’s never easy to plan a meal service on flights like this. There was a snack served after takeoff, and then breakfast was offered before landing. That’s what I’d expect, but it’s the execution that was less than great.

After takeoff, drinks and snack mix were served.

Gulf Air business class drink & nuts

Then the after takeoff snack as such was really limited. You could order one thing, ranging from a soup, to a mezze platter, to a stuffed croissant. There was no option to order multiple things. My issue wasn’t necessarily with the size of the meal, but rather that it was only served 75 minutes after takeoff. I think either serve something more substantial, or serve this really fast, so that people can maximize their rest.

Gulf Air business class snack

Then there was a more traditional, full breakfast served before landing.

Gulf Air business class breakfast
Gulf Air business class breakfast

Gulf Air 787 business class: what I didn’t like

While I love Gulf Air’s 787 business class seat, I found it to be oddly hard when in bed mode. While there’s a turndown service where they essentially put a sheet on the seat, it doesn’t actually add much padding. The fact that the bedding is lackluster doesn’t help either — Gulf Air just offers passengers a small pillow and a blanket that’s not particularly plush.

Gulf Air 787 business class bedding is subpar

Apex Suites are an expensive investment for the airline. After all, the seats are pretty inefficient, as they have a big footprint. If you’re going to invest in this product, it seems like a waste to not complement it with great bedding so that you can truly get solid sleep.

Lastly, much like on the last flight, the service flow was simply off once again. Ironically the Bahraini cabin manager was the most attentive and detail oriented crew member, while the rest of the crew was just kind of lacking with attention to detail.

I’ll have more details in the actual review, but just to give a sense of the breakfast service:

  • Breakfast orders were taken in advance, and I ordered a coffee, which I would have liked to have prior to even being served any food; instead it was served five minutes after the main course (let alone that it didn’t come with the starter), despite me asking a couple of times
  • The bread basket was brought around, and then jam and honey were brought around five minutes later
  • The crew took away my silverware with the starter, and I assumed it would be replaced; it wasn’t, and when the main course was brought out, the flight attendant didn’t notice she was putting the dish on a tray with no silverware

Individually these are all minor things, it just seems like there’s a lack of training about service flow and attention to detail at Gulf Air, compared to rivals in the region. Airlines like Qatar Airways consistently nail service flow, while Gulf Air definitely doesn’t.

Meanwhile to the Bahraini cabin manager’s credit, when he noticed my empty coffee cup (after I finished the first one), he asked if he could get me another one, and returned 30 seconds later with it.

Bottom line

Gulf Air has come a long way, between a refreshed fleet and a beautiful new terminal in Bahrain. There’s a lot I loved about Gulf Air’s 787 business class product, from the Apex Suites, to the cabin finishes, to the amenities, to the exceptional service from the Bahraini cabin manager.

At the same time, there was something a bit off about the service flow, and I find the airline cuts corners in strange places. For example, as much as I love that Gulf Air offers pajamas, I’d rather the company invest in significantly better bedding, as I think that would make much more of a difference (not to mention it would be cheaper, since bedding can be reused).

What do you make of Gulf Air’s 787 business class product?

Conversations (8)
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  1. DRJ New Member

    Hi Lucky. As a Bahraini myself, I must admit that service and attention to details has always been GF's Achilles' heel. That is mainly due to the policy of Bahrainisation in the country, and the fact that most staff at the airline don't have much overseas/other airlines work experience to bring back to the company. But I do agree that the hard product is solid on the Dreamliners

  2. Tom Guest

    The correct spelling for citizens of Bahrain is “Bahraini”.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Tom -- Thanks for the correction, fixed. I need some sleep. :p

  3. JB Guest

    "Breakfast orders were taken in advance, and I ordered a coffee, which I would have liked to have prior to even being served any food; instead it was served 10 minutes after the main course (let alone that it didn’t come with the starter), despite me asking a couple of times"

    It is traditional in the Middle East/South Asia (and maybe the rest of Asia), to have tea/coffee after your breakfast. We don't normally drink...

    "Breakfast orders were taken in advance, and I ordered a coffee, which I would have liked to have prior to even being served any food; instead it was served 10 minutes after the main course (let alone that it didn’t come with the starter), despite me asking a couple of times"

    It is traditional in the Middle East/South Asia (and maybe the rest of Asia), to have tea/coffee after your breakfast. We don't normally drink it before. Which is why many airlines in the Middle East will serve it to you after. This happens on Emirates and Qatar as well (in Economy Class). They will not serve coffee/tea until after the meal service, even if you ask for it. Qatar has dine on demand in Business, which is why that isn't a problem.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ JB -- I get that in economy it's often served after the fact because it's an assembly line approach to service. But surely if you're in business class you should be able to request a basic beverage when you'd like, especially if you explicitly ask for it?

      Ultimately Middle Eastern carriers are serving the needs of global travelers. A vast majority of passengers in business class on this flight weren't from Asia or from...

      @ JB -- I get that in economy it's often served after the fact because it's an assembly line approach to service. But surely if you're in business class you should be able to request a basic beverage when you'd like, especially if you explicitly ask for it?

      Ultimately Middle Eastern carriers are serving the needs of global travelers. A vast majority of passengers in business class on this flight weren't from Asia or from the Middle East, but rather were Europeans connecting.

      I've flown Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar a LOT over the years, and never has this been an issue. Ever. And I don't think this was intentional either. On my previous flight my wine was brought to me significantly after my food was served as well. It's just bad service.

  4. Alvin | YTHK Diamond

    Are you sure that it's not a service feature for beverages to be served exactly five minutes after the main course?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Alvin | YTHK -- Hahaha, I'm almost starting to wonder...

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ JB -- I get that in economy it's often served after the fact because it's an assembly line approach to service. But surely if you're in business class you should be able to request a basic beverage when you'd like, especially if you explicitly ask for it? Ultimately Middle Eastern carriers are serving the needs of global travelers. A vast majority of passengers in business class on this flight weren't from Asia or from the Middle East, but rather were Europeans connecting. I've flown Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar a LOT over the years, and never has this been an issue. Ever. And I don't think this was intentional either. On my previous flight my wine was brought to me significantly after my food was served as well. It's just bad service.

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JB Guest

"Breakfast orders were taken in advance, and I ordered a coffee, which I would have liked to have prior to even being served any food; instead it was served 10 minutes after the main course (let alone that it didn’t come with the starter), despite me asking a couple of times" It is traditional in the Middle East/South Asia (and maybe the rest of Asia), to have tea/coffee after your breakfast. We don't normally drink it before. Which is why many airlines in the Middle East will serve it to you after. This happens on Emirates and Qatar as well (in Economy Class). They will not serve coffee/tea until after the meal service, even if you ask for it. Qatar has dine on demand in Business, which is why that isn't a problem.

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Alvin | YTHK Diamond

Are you sure that it's not a service feature for beverages to be served exactly five minutes after the main course?

1
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