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Friday 2 February 2024

Flying Home The Golden Falcon Way With Gulf Air ! (Part 1: ATH to BAH A321NEO High Density)

 Welcome to my Gulf Air A321NEO Trip Report!

This is Gulf Air's A321neo-LR in the airline's retro livery special scheme. (A9C-XA)


Looking at my options on which airlines to fly me home from Athens. I could have gone back to Frankfurt and fly back with Singapore Airlines, but that is boring so I decided to fly home from Athens. The few options were Lufthansa, Swiss, Gulf Air, Emirates, Qatar and Scoot and in the end, Scoot and Gulf Air were my options as the airfares were lower than the others. Flying with Scoot means I could earn miles on the SQ's program but I had already flown with the airline and if I add in the the meals and seat option, the airfare would be more expensive than Gulf Air, so the decision to fly with Gulf Air was easy. Not only would it be a new experience flying with the airline, I could visit a new airport and experience the airline's A321LR and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Later on I found out that the A321 I was flying on was on a High Density configured aircraft, was it better than the standard A321LR version, read on to find out! 

So without further ado, let's begin this trip report! 

About Gulf Air 

Gulf Air is the national airline of Bahrain founded in 1950. This airline's main hub is Bahrain and operates to around 60 destinations in 28 countries. A British pilot, Freddie Bosworth set up this airline and today it is trying to be as competitive as possible, giving Qatar, Emirates and Etihad Airways some form of competition. 

This airline currently operates a mixed fleet of Airbus A320/A321 CEO and NEO version for short and medium haul flights and the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner for it's long haul flights. About this airline, it is owned solely by the Bahrain government as the previous joint-owner Oman and Qatar withdrew their support for this airline. In addition, Gulf Air Group Holding company is the sole's shareholder and Captain Al Alawi is the CEO of the airline. 

My last day in Athens 

This is Omonoia 

The view from my hotel in the evening. 

I went to a nearby cafe to enjoy Gyros. I chose pork meat which would then be wrapped in pita bread and added with other ingredients such as tomato, onion and fried potatoes. This is my absolute favourite. 

On the day of departure 

I did a check on my aircraft, the newest one-week-old A321neo will fly me to Bahrain. This is one of the 4 A321neo High Density configured aircraft. 

After checking out from my comfortable stay, I made my way to the airport by metro. For the airport transport, whether you take it from the airport to the city or vice versa, it costs Euro $9. The ride from this station to the airport took about 1 hr 20 minutes. 

This is the suburban train 

The walk from the airport station to the airport takes less than 10 minutes. 

At that time, traffic was quite busy. 

Look at the number of flights! 

It was time to check in and I had a tough time deciding whether to check in my baggage. Finally I decided not to and after 15 minutes of waiting, I faced this unfriendly ground staff, making the whole check-in process slightly uneasy. Basically he was frowning and once he was done, he lightly threw my passport and boarding pass towards me and called out for the next passenger without making any eye contact.

After getting his approval to let me bring my luggage on board, I was given my boarding passes for both flights. I was glad to see the back on him however later at the boarding time, my ticket had an issue and the gate agent had to sort out the issue. Turned out that the ground staff didn't do a good job in checking me in but fortunately, it was sorted out after a while and the worst part of it is I was one of the last to board the aircraft! 


Nothing caught my attention as I made my way to the gate area. 

There are airline lounges, unfortunately my airline status with all 3 alliance do not qualify for any of them. 

There are a good number of eateries and seating areas to hang around. 

I grabbed some sandwich while waiting for my flight. (Sorry, no photo). 

Once that was done, I explored the airside.

I did a check on my aircraft's location and it was scheduled to land on time. 

This is Qatar's Boeing 777-200LR bound for Doha. (A7-BBA)

Arkia's Airbus A321neo just arrived from Tel Aviv (TLV) airport. 

My aircraft arrived on time, but it had to wait for about 15 minutes due to an Aegean A320's late departure and once that aircraft was on its way, my aircraft taxied to the gate. I don't think the pilots on my aircraft were happy about it. 

This was the assigned gate for my flight.

It was a full flight dominated by middle-east travellers. 

Once the wait was over, the gate agent cleared me to board the aircraft. It was unfortunate that I was one of the last to board as I had to worry whether there is enough overhead space to place in my cabin baggage and also taking clean shots of the cabin. Fortunately, I found a nice spot for my baggage.

How often do you get to board a brand new aircraft? 

Welcome on board A9C-XD! 

My ride: A9C-XD 

Airbus A321-253NX
Configuration: C12 Y180
Engines: 2 X CFMI Leap-1A 
Delivered to airline in Dec 2023
11737th Airbus built 
Built in Hamburg (XFW)
Age: 1 month old (January 2024)

A better photo of this beauty. (Photo: Tom Kunzendorf)

Flight route: ATH-BAH 

Miles: 1,751 

My seat: 12A (GulfAir.com) 

As for now, Aerolopa.com and Seatmap.com do not have the seat map of Gulf Air's A321neo High Density seatmap, so this is the airline's version.

Airline's mobile app seat map

This A321neo HD version has rows up to 38. 

I was assigned to seat 12A and if I want to change, I had to pay for the seat change even during check-in. That's the price to pay for selecting Economy Lite with this airline. 

Date of departure: 11th January 2024
Airline: Gulf Air 
Flight: GF42 
Route: ATH-BAH
Aircraft: Airbus A321neo-LR
Registration: A9C-XD
Departure Terminal: 1 
Gate: A3 
Schedule departure: 1425
Boarding: 1402 
Pushed back: 1457 
Take Off: 1510 
Flight Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Actual Flight Time: 3 hours 29 minutes
Schedule Arrival: 1925 
Actual Arrival: 1939
Departure Runway: 03L 
Arrival Runway: 12L

Gulf Air has 2 different configuration for the Airbus A321neo, let me show you the difference. 

Gulf Air's A321neo (Standard) (16 Business Class and 150 Economy Class seats) - 166

A9C-NA to A9C-NH (January 2024 update) - 8 units 

There are 16 Collins Aerospace Diamond Parallel seats in this business class. These seats offer a generous seat pitch of 63 inches, with a seat width of 20 inches and can extend up to 78 inches when it is in flatbed mode. The In-Flight Entertainment System features the 16 inches HD touchscreen display, Universal AC and USB sockets are available for each passenger and WiFi. Each business class seat has a foldable adjustable headrest. 

This is how the business class looks like (Photos: Gulf Air)

I prefer this over the recliner seat, that's for sure. 

This business class product is quite popular among many airlines. 

Economy Class 

There are 150 Recaro CL3710 seats configured in a 3-3 seating configuration. The seat width of every seat is 17.5 inches and for the standard seats excluding the emergency rows, the seat pitch is around 32 inches and can recline up to 6 inches. The emergency rows usually have a few inches more legroom space due to the need of space for passengers to evacuate the aircraft in case of emergency. For the A321neo aircraft in this configuration, every Economy Class passenger gets to enjoy the 10 inches HD touchscreen display and can charge their devices with the presence of both the Universal AC and USB-A sockets. Each seat comes with foldable adjustable headrest. 

Economy Class Photos (Photos by Gulfair) 

The seats are the same as the HD (High Density) version, main difference? The presence of the IFE system. 

 Gulf Air A321neo (High Density configuration - my aircraft)
(12 Business Class and 180 Economy Class seats) - 192

A9C-XA to A9C-XD (January 2024) - 4 units 

There are 12 recliner business class seats, with each has around 41 inches of legroom space, seat width of around 19 inches and a foldable adjustable headrest. Each business class passenger gets 2 USB ports and a Universal power port, with a 17 inches Seatback Screen for entertainment. 

For this aircraft, there is wireless entertainment (streaming) available for all and do note that only Business Class cabin has IFE screen installed. 

Business Class Cabin 

Base on my observation, Gulf Air flies this aircraft (A9C-XA to A9C-XD) mainly on routes with high demand in Economy Class (leisure destinations) where demand for premium class is lower. Usually airlines will maintain the same product across the fleet but why did the airline have 2 different business and economy class products on both configuration on the A321neo? I have no idea. 

This is the bulkhead row, the monitor screen is located on the wall partition. 

Each business class passengers receives a pillow. 

Legroom space looks good and I like this window seat below, you get 2 windows for yourself. 

There is some space between yourself and the seat partner so this is not bad at all. 

Legsoom looks good. 

Only the business class passengers get to enjoy using the IFE seatback system on this aircraft. 

Overall, the product looks good. 

What do you think of these recliner seats? 

Economy Class (180 seats) 

These seats have a legroom space of around 31-32 inches excluding the emergency rows. Unlike the standard configuration of the A321neo, the seats do not have In-Flight Entertainment seatback and you need to use your own devices to connect to the aircraft's wifi streaming connection. Lastly, they are able to recline up to 6 inches and have foldable adjustable headrest. 

The bulkhead row seats offer better legroom space and look at the number of windows available for you! 

The interior of the seat looks luxurious and they are comfortable. Recaro CL3710 seats do not disappoint in my opinion. 

This is my seat 12A. 

This aircraft cabin uses the bigger size overhead compartment in which the cabin luggages fit in them perfectly. 

The difference between the Y and J class cabin. 

The seat pitch is ok (I am 6 foot 4) for me and the good thing is there is no IFE box taking up precious legroom space. 

Do you notice a green light between the seat pocket and the tray folder? That's where you can charge your electronic devices. 

The USB port 

For the universal port, it is located near the legroom space, near the foot of the handrest area. 

A few more photos of the cabin before leaving the aircraft. 

Many passengers were resting at this point of the flight. 

My in-flight Experience 

After boarding the aircraft, the purser standing near the door gave me a half hearted smile and one of the cabin crew (let's call her A) was loud, instructing the passengers like how a school teacher deals with his/her students. I noticed this gentleman sitting at my seat and after telling him that he was on my seat, he understood and together with the aisle seatmate, they got up and allow me to get into my seat. While that was happening, I took a glance at Crew A who gave me a fierce stare like as if its my fault. I am aware that your job is tiring especially after a long 5 hours flight from Athens (Due to headwind), but none of the passengers like myself deserved to be treated this way, so please be understanding and be professional and friendly towards others. Altogether there were 5 crew taking care of us on this flight, 1 purser and 4 flight attendents. Apart from the purser and Crew A, the rest were ok. 

Anyway, we managed to depart on time. A big kudos to the ground staff for that! The Captain made the welcome speech and gave us a good update on our flight and the expected turbulence during take-off. After take off, there was some bumps especially flying through the clouds but once we were out of Greece, the weather improved and for the rest of the flight, it was smooth. Great day for flying and I really enjoy seeing the colour of the engine with the golden light shining on it, it is spectacular! 

The meal service came and unfortunately Crew A served my side. She told us what our options us without giving much details. Chicken or Beef with rice. Well, I chose the beef but I didn't expect it to be beefballs, if I had known, I would have gone for the chicken option. As for keeping myself occupied,  I was wide awake so I used my Ipad to enjoy the movies from the airline's online streaming. It was great to be able to watch the sun setting during the flight, enjoying every minute on board this beautiful Airbus A321neo. 

My opinion about the cabin product, I find the seat to be comfortable with ample legroom space, I was disappointed with the lack of IFE Screen system (I prefer to use the bigger screen to watch movies on board). Apart from the 2 unfriendly crew, I find the flight to be pleasant perhaps better without the presence of Crew A and for the in-flight meal, more on this in my in-flight meal section of this trip report. 

Despite departing on time, we landed late but that didn't affect me as I had more than enough time to hang around at Bahrain Airport before my next flight. 

More photos of the Economy Class Seat

My first impression of the cabin was a surprise reaction when I saw the lack of seatback entertainment system. As I had read a few trip report on this aircraft, there was IFE system but it turned out that the airline has 2 configuration for the A321neo and here it is, my review on Gulf Air's High Density A321LR! 

 The safety card reflects the aircraft type and configuration I am flying on.  

I do like these seats, they look luxurious and more importantly comfortable. 

Legroom space is adequate. 

The foldable tray holder

You can use this as to hold your electronic devices and your cup of drink. 

The adjustable headrest is easy to adjust. 

What do you think of the Economy Class product? 

What's provided for each passenger? 

A pillow 

Safety Card 

Guide to use the airline's entertainment system on your device.

Disposal Bag 

In-Flight Entertainment (Online Streaming) 

There wasn't a lot of selection of movies, definitely lesser content than SQ's Krisflyer in-flight entertainment program. 

The flight map 

After deciding which movie to watch, I switched over to my Ipad. 

On my Ipad 

This size is better but one disadvantage about using an electronic device about the size of an Ipad or laptop to watch your movie or doing other activities, you need to put them away while enjoying your meal. 

Inflight Meal 

This is the beefball with rice

Overall I find the meal to be acceptable. 

The drink service came shortly after our meals were served and I chose gingle ale. Unfortunately, I was not given the can. On my next flight, the nice crew asked whether do I want the can. More on this in my next report. 

At least the cabin crew (not Crew A) came around a few times offering water during the remaining of the flight. 

Window view (Take off to Landing) 

Look at the golden livery on the engine, it is absolutely gorgeous especially in good weather. 

See the difference (above and below) when the lighting is good. 

Unfortunately weather at Athens was not good, it was quite windy at that time. 

A fleet of Star Alliance airlines being prepared for departure. 

The weather was the similar to the day I arrived from Thessaloniki. 

Raindrops started dropping! 

An ex-Olympic Boeing 737-200 permanently grounded. 

Finally after sometime of taxing, we reached the runway. 

We started rolling down the runway.

Off we go with a few bumps during our climb. 

Goodbye Greece, I had fun!

Flying through quite a bit of clouds. 

Finally broke through the clouds. 

The golden light shining on our aircraft and thankfully I get to enjoy this beautiful Gulf Air's colours.

This point onwards the weather was great with smooth condition all the way. 

The golden light shining on our aircraft but the window was not in the best condition. 

It was darkness as at this point, we were preparing for arrival. 

On our final approach to Bahrain runway 12L. 

We touched down smoothly.

This is the old Gulf Air's livery. (Below)

After reaching the gate, this A320 pushed back. 

My flight summary 

Welcome to Bahrain Airport! 

This was my first time at the new terminal which opened in January 2021. It looks very impressive. 

After some walking, I cleared security in order to make my way to the departure hall (airside). 

Checking my flight status, it was departing on time, 2345 hours. 

This is the departure hall. 

To be continued! 

My ratings 

Airline Mobile App/Website: 3/5 
Airport Experience (ATH): 2/5 
In-Flight Service: 2.5/5
In-Flight Entertainment System (Online Streaming): 3/5
Seat Comfort: 4/5 
Cabin Ambiance: 4/5 
Cabin Condition: 5/5 
Punctuality: 3/5
In-Flight Meal: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5 
Overall rating: 35/50
Percentage: 70%


Unfortunately I was not impressed with the airport service at Athens and a couple of crew on board my flight but sometimes this happens, you might experience unpleasant crew along the way for whatever reasons these crew were going through, perhaps they had a rough day but still it doesn't give them an excuse for providing a substandard service and behaving arrogant, treating passengers like they are kids just because they are likely to be working in fields that are less respected by other professionals. That should not be happening during this era. Every passenger should be treated equally regardless of status, don't you agree? I just had this feeling about Crew A and the purser. If I was on a J class passenger on board, would I have been treated better? Probably. However, this is just one flight, so I won't based on this flight experience to sum up what kind of airline Gulf Air is, that is unfair. However, on the positive side, I enjoyed the flight with the comfortable seats, decent meal and the good view from my seat. Was my experience on the next flight better? You have to read the next trip report to find out. 

For my previous trip report (Aegean Airlines A320ceo SKG-ATH), click here

For my part 2 of this trip report (Gulf Air's 787-9 Dreamliner BAH-SIN), click here

Have a good one! 

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