Gulf Air Falcon Flyer Gold

IMG-20120219-00005For the 2nd year in a row, I’m a Gulf Air Falcon Flyer Gold tier owner. I have been using Gulf Air for the past two years extensively.

This is of course due to traveling for work and also for going from and to Kuwait to see my family and kids. As being a frequent flyer, this post will review the experience of being a Gold tier in Gulf Air frequent flyer program, Falcon Flyer.

It has to be noted that Gulf Air’s program was recently renamed into the Falcon Flyer, where it didn’t have a catchy name like that other airlines before. the reference to the name comes from the Golden Falcon that has been tied to Gulf Air since its early start, when it used to be owned by the GCC countries.

I have climbed my way from blue to silver and to Gold through the past three years and I have to admit that their unique points system is rather strange and no common in the region. For every short-haul trip leg in the region you would take, you would receive 50 “loyalty points”. Reaching a certain number of loyalty points would grant you the next tier. But not that loyalty points expire since they are only valid for a year. So you keep scoring and accumulating points, while the old points keep expiring. It is a race against time to reach the next tier before the expiration of the old points. This system has no relation to the air miles that are being traveled in these legs. Gulf air has decided to divide its regions into zones, where each trip leg would earn you a certain number of points when you travel from/to it.

Let’s talk about the benefits. So far and being a frequent traveler on Gulf Air (a round trip every weekend on short-haul), being on Gold has some advantages but could be labelled as limited when compared to global frequent flyer programs. Being a Gold tier earns you the following:

  • Admission to the exclusive Gulf Air lounge in Bahrain International Airport (BAH), regardless of the class of travel, and a guest provided that he/she is traveling on Gulf Air flight.
  • Admission to associated lounges to Gulf Air globally, when traveling on Gulf Air flights.
  • Excess baggage weight when traveling on Gulf Air.
  • Free change of ticket schedule, up for one time only and depending on the class of ticket and availability.
  • Possibility for upgrade to the next class of travel, upon availability. This has been happening to me only on (KWI-BAH) route and only from KWI side!! this is due to over-selling of tickets for this route! I have never experienced any upgrades at BAH!
  • Possibility for upgrade at business class ticket from C/D to J. The J class ticket is full-fare and the traveler would receive the fully flat seat, which used to be the first class rows in the long-haul trips. Flyers on C and D fares always get the semi-flat business class seats.
  • Priority for services at Gulf Air ticket offices.
  • Priority baggage handling at destination airports.
  • Personal luggage tags for Silver and Gold tiers.

Aside from these benefits, there are margins for improvements for the Gold/Silver tier frequent flyers at Gulf Air. Gulf Air can look into improving their program to be more rewarding such as the following suggestions:

  • Priority for reservations, during blackout and sell-out dates.
  • Redemption of miles for rewards and vouchers.
  • More airlines associations for miles redemption.
  • Modification of their current air miles earning system to be rewarding, rather than depending on class of ticket.

At the end, let me leave you with some snaps at the received package from Gulf Air upon renewal of my Falcon Flyer Golden tier!

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The Gulf Hotel, Bahrain

 

Believed to be the oldest hotel in Bahrain, The Gulf Hotel maintains its colossal shape over Al Adliya area in Bahrain. Arguably it could be labelled the biggest hotel in Bahrain in covered area, Gulf Hotel still maintains attraction to foreign and local visitors through its high variety of restaurants, nightlife, private parties, weddings, conventions and sports-related activities during summer.

I have stayed once before in Gulf Hotel in 2008 and I have stayed in its regular rooms, which are not yet renovated and I had a very negative feedback about it. The carpet was old, the furniture was dreadful and the TV was the old tube type. It was not a pleasant stay for me. I’ve decided to give Gulf Hotel a shot and try it again with my family on August 28th, 2011. I’ve decided to go for the executive rooms which are newly built and made are in the new tower. They cost more than the typical rooms, but are worth the money.

Here are some snaps of the room.

And what’s truly nice about this room is the bathroom and its huge tub.

Still, I have to put some of my personal remarks about Gulf Hotel. For start, their reception desk needs more staff and better training at dealing with patrons. There are usually two to three personnel and they’re always busy with something. The patrons lines do extend to a level that people start losing their patience. Their local staff are not well trained in the sense of respecting the patrons nor providing the most of their skills. I’ve been to hotel where hotel staff went out of their way to provide 110% of services and support. Gulf Hotel reception staff don’t seem to reach 90%.

Another issues is the price of services. The breakfast buffet rate per person is pretty steep. The internet is chargeable and it’s not that cheap either. I’ve seen many people go out and bring food from nearby restaurants due to the high prices of Gulf Hotel establishments.¬† I think the management should deeply look into this and revise their course of process.

Another issue is the after-sale services. I have stayed in Gulf hotel due to an offer on frequent flyer miles with many airlines. The offer was to get 500 miles per night and I was staying four nights, and this seemed very good offer indeed for me. I have made the reservation for that offer only with all confirmations and such and providing my FFP card. After a couple of weeks, and upon initiating communications from my side to them since they didn’t credit my stay to the FFP, they replied back to me that they’re only offering 500 miles and that’s the normal there. Even sending multiple emails to their management and their customer support with all the supporting documents, they wouldn’t budge down. Then , I had to go to World hotels, which had the original promo and Gulf Hotel is part of it. They were very supportive and credited me all the remaining balance after they took on Gulf hotel management on my behalf. I truly appreciated their gesture and their apologies for the mismanagement of how this issues was dealt with.

In general, this is a fairly good hotel to stay at only if you’re willing to stay in the costly executive rooms. Otherwise, go there for the nightlife and the restaurants.

 

Cathay Pacific Lounge, BAH

In my last trip to Malaysia in last November, I have used Cathay Pacific for my trip, departing from Bahrain. This gave me the only shot to have the privilege to enter its lounge in BAH airport and review it here, after my first post about it.

Cathay Pacific (CX) maintains a dedicated lounge for their patrons in the upper level in Bahrain International Airport (BAH),across from Dilmun Lounge, which both can be accessed via the escalators at gate 16.

Upon checking-in at the lounge counter, it could be seen that this lounge is the smallest lounge in Bahrain Airport, when it comes to size. Very limited seats that can only accommodate First/Business class travelers on Cathay Pacific or Marco Polo Club Silver/Gold/Platinum tier frequent flyers and One World Alliance high tiers, traveling on Cathay Pacific.

The good thing about this lounge is the view of the runway and seeing airplanes taxing off to their destinations.

The choice of food is limited and less space is dedicated for that, although they share the same supplying kitchen that supplies Gulf Air Lounge and Dilmun Lounge. Of course, the liquor has to be made available!

The reading materials are variant, including Chinese magazines and newspapers as well major international publications.

These are some dedicated desktops for usage, but no praying space and a small bathroom. Only TV monitor is provided for the current news and I don’t remember seeing any dedicated screen for flights updates.

The lounge has been used by Gulf Air during its renovations of its lounge only for its business/first class travelers and it used to get packed to the extent that people started depending on Dilmun Lounge bathrooms for comfort.

In general, this is a very minimal lounge and doesn’t offer exclusive privileges and maintains a very quiet resting area till boarding time. I think Cathay Pacific could do more with this lounge.

Confessions of a frequent traveler

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I have been away, I admit. Living as a frequent traveler due to my job and social status is not easy. I have been switching each week between Kuwait and Bahrain, going back and forth.

The two lounges in Kuwait; Dasman Lounge and Pearl Lounge, aside from GulfAir Lounge and Dilmun Lounge in Bahrain became my 2nd home.

Started to memorize the food menues, knew most of the staff names and with no pride became a familiar face in the two airports by immigration and customs officers.

Life is harsh. Very harsh.

Yet, we are the nameless “road warriors”.

Mercure Grand Hotel Seef, Bahrain

¬†Mercure Grand Hotel Seef is one of couple of hotels that I could recommend for shopping fanatics when traveling to Bahrain. It’s placed in the strategic shopping region of Seef and within a walking distance to two shopping malls and a 5 minutes drive to the biggest mall in Bahrain, City Center. I’ve decided to give it a shot and try it since I was traveling with my family and I’ve heard that it has a good reputation for being family-friendly and keeping a low profile on the alcoholic consumables and the party scene. The drive-thru of the hotel is very very small and the dedicated parking area is limited. Yet you can find a parking in the area surrounding the hotel. for the bell-boy service, you can consider yourself lucky if you found someone around to carry your stuff.

At check-in, it was bit of chaotic since only two attendants were available, yet their attention and dedication to your needs was absent. They had a hard time attending to checking patrons and answering phone calls and issuing invoices. There’s a need for improvement in that field.

I have made my reservation through their official website, Accor Hotels, so that my frequent guest points would be accounted for and enjoy my tier benefits (I was Gold at that time). Yet, when checking-in and presenting my Gold card, no recognition was received from staff and no benefits were presented for welcoming a frequent guest of their franchise. It did let me down.

My reservation was of a deluxe room that had a living room and kitchenette. This is how it looks like. Now notice that it’s nicely decorated and it’s pretty welcoming. There is a dining table with around 4 seats and a fully-prepared kitchenette, mini-stove and a microwave. Yet, I didn’t enjoy the seats in the living room as they were very rough and hard to get used to. The king-sized bed was a bit smaller than the regular expected size and the pillows were a bit lean. The bathroom is very nice and I truly enjoyed the shower glass box with the rainforest type of shower head. The only let-down of the room was having the old CRT TV in the bedroom. The living room had an LCD (around 40 inches or so). We didn’t try their room service so I can’t have a say about that. The breakfast was average and no omelet chef was available on-site to prepare for us our choice of eggs. He didn’t bother to attend till someone complained and a staffer had to go and call in the chef. I found that not acceptable for a hotel of their class.

My only issue was getting someone in the reception desk to attend to your needs. They always seemed busy and out of breath. All in general, this is not a 5 star hotel, if it claims to. The price is pretty high for its class, yet the comfort you get is worth most of it. There’s a big margin for improvement in service and staff training to attend to the patrons’ needs. I haven’t received any email from Accor Hotels requesting my feedback regarding this stay or any previous stay and I do find that careless from them to seek your customer’s feedback. I would recommend it only for family with a craving for shopping.

Framing Armageddon: The Devil’s Advocate

Collapse of the basic structural needs in South Lebanon. Death of hundreds. Many have been left without homes or shelters. A mad adventure to prove one’s wrath and a vulgar display of power. Those were the acts of the Lebanese madman, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. This man bet money and power to prove his supremacy over the Arabs and Israel, chanting the usual anti-Western slogans of imperialism and occupation. Yet, he survives on money and arms fed in from Syria and Iran, the remaining Axis of Evil in the Middle East.

What did he gain in the end? nothing! He had to go on public TV to apologize for every Lebanese for his arrogant idiotic acts for destroying the country for the sake of a couple of Israel militant hostages. His ventures against Israel and breaking whatever remained of unity between the different sects of Lebanon never cleared his character of the allegations against Hezbollah for involvement in the assassination of Mr. Rafeek Al-Hariri a couple of years ago. Now, he’s leading the sectarian hatred and acts of anarchy in the Gulf region, especially in Bahrain. Everyone knows nowadays that his days are almost over, since Syria regime is collapsing from the public resistance movement to topple down this evil regime. Iran’s position in the region is not favored nor supported by any moderate influential nation. I guess it’s time to take down this militant demon and put an end to his terrorist existence. Then, by that time let us enjoy the divine victory over the lieutenant of Satan.

The clock is ticking till that day comes. Framing Armageddon is in the progress. The showdown is pretty near.

Gulf Air Lounge, BAH

Since Gulf Air has decided recently to close down its lounge in BAH for renovations and a new look, I’ve decided to share with all of you some images I’ve taken from there before the closure and review it in hope that the new design would be a lot better in comparison. You can also compare this lounge review with my visit to Gulf Air lounge in DXB.

BAH mainly has three lounges: Gulf Air, Cathay Pacific, and Dilmun. For those who are traveling on business/first class on Gulf Air or are of Silver/Gold status of Gulf Air’s Falconflyer frequent flyer program, you can access the lounge for your leisure. Otherwise, most of the flyers would be redirected towards the common Dilmun lounge.¬† All of the lounges in BAH are located in the upper floor and they accessible by escalators/lifts. Gulf Air has the best view of the airport runway and the parked planes due to its strategic location in the upper floor. The lounge is equipped with a business center, wireless internet connection, prayer hall, quiet room for rest, children’s playground and on-site nanny, hot food buffet, snacks and appetizers as well all variations of soft drinks, hot drinks and liquor.

The mood here is usually laid back unless there are the typical middle eastern families who are not attending to their kids’ behavior, so you can hear them running all around the hard wood flooring of the lounge in a disturbing way. Gulf Air lounges are famous for the Arabic tent in it where you can chill and relax with your family members or friends. Unfortunately, on many occasions I’ve witnessed solo travelers hugging the tent to himself and laying all over the seating and it was distasteful.

Unfortunately, the area allocated to the lounge is not as big enough as Dilmun lounge, and finding seats could be a problem when it gets crowded during afternoon/evening trips. Recently, I’ve noticed that the quality of the furniture is dropping down due to overusage and it needed replacement. I guess Gulf Air sensed that and started with the closure early this season. According to their email, it would take around two months to finish and re-open the lounge. We’ll have to wait and see what Gulf Air is promising us in the newest improvement to their local lounge.