Al Dhabi Lounge, AUH

IMG_0473This is this updated lounge of the Airport Hotel Lounge in AUH, which I have blogged about in 2011.

This lounge went through major revamp and furnishing to reach the true magnificent level of service and recognition that Abu Dhabi is reaching for to represent its image to the world of travelers.

Access to this lounge can be through association of major frequent flyer programs, priority pass and I believe some credit card programs as well. This lounge is still located at Terminal 1 of Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), right after the e-gate and immigration desks.

Shower facilities, Computer access area, kids area and smoking lounges were added in order to provide the best service and accommodation to AUH patrons. The seating, decoration, furnishing have all been renewed and improved to a level that it surprised me in comparison to the previous set-up of its old version.

I have to add that the choices for the buffet need some improvement, yet it still beats any premium lounges in Europe, where hot food and in almost unlimited portions are as rare as water in the Arabian desert!

While traveling to Abu Dhabi, I would suggest visiting this lounge to experience comfort before taking off on your flight!

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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 Blue bird is to fly again!!

Kuwait Airlines (9)As announced yesterday through the local media, Kuwait Airways has announced that it has awarded a contract to Airbus to provide them with 25 new airplanes at the estimated cost of 3 billion dollars.
Such step has been waited for in the last 10 years since the true decline of Kuwait Airways and its services to patrons.

This news has been received positively locally, after the ongoing re-structuring and improvements of the business model for the national carrier of Kuwait, especially after the decree of transforming it into a local airline business, rather than whole governmental asset and business.

Personally, I can’t wait to try the new planes, provided with the high-class level of service to match the other successful gulf carriers such Emirates, Qatar airways and Etihad.

Aside from the fleet renewal, Kuwait Airways has to work harder on gaining the trust of the local traveling patrons, re-gain the air routes which has been lost to local and regional competition, re-evaluate the the ticket prices and revamp its local flyer program, Oasis Club, into a more dynamic and more-rewarding program.

I wish the best of luck for the new Kuwait Airways and hope to see the Blue Bird fly again!!

First Class Lounge, DOH

This post is about Doha’s International Airport Premium First and Business class lounges in its Premium terminal. I’ve been to this lounge a couple of times and it is worth writing a post about.

Now, this terminal is dedicated only for Business and First class travelers on Qatar Airways. Business Class has it own lounge and thus First Class as well. The camera snaps in this post are from the First Class side.

This lounge is magnificent. You’re talking about a great breakfast/lunch/dinner buffet with a dedicated steak and sushi bar. I’ve heard that there’s an à la carte menu as well, but didn’t have the chance to try it. On the side there’s a dedicated bar for drinks and fresh juices. There are dedicated lounge staff who would service all kinds of hot drinks upon request. For all smokers, there’s a dedicated cigar lounge with nice leather seats and great view of the airport. The seating area is very big and flight update monitors can be found almost everywhere.

The most remarkable feature of this lounge is the spa. There’s a dedicated spa with jacuzzi and massage services. To enjoy it, your stay in the lounge shouldn’t be around one hour only. I’ve gotten used to their massage lazyboys chairs. For a whole hour, I couldn’t get my ass off it.

Outisde of the seating area, there is a business center for those who need to finish their office work. There is a private room for kids with video games consoles and multiple screens. A praying room with abolition is made available as well.

In general, this is one of the best lounges that I have been to in GCC region. I haven’t tried the Emirates First Class lounge in DXB, but in the meantime this stands as the best in my own opinion.

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.

Kuwait Airways Oasis Club

First post after a long absence due to personal commitments. I have been wanting to write this post for a long time ago. I will review Kuwait Airways’ Oasis Club, the frequent flyer program and add in my personal feelings about it.

Oasis Club has been established since 1995 or 1996, according to their website. Most of the Kuwaiti frequent flyers are enrolled in it. Of course, along with the fall of development of Kuwait Airways fleet, the subsidized budget and loss of professionalism and sales over the years starting from year 2000 till now, it could be argued that most locals find Kuwait Airways not a safe airline due to the age of its fleet and the reduction of premium services on the basis of cutting costs.

My experience with Oasis Club didn’t start until 2008, although I should have enrolled earlier since 1996, where I was traveling from Kuwait to the States during my bachelors study there. If I may remember, I used to see their ads during flights and some of their promos, but it wasn’t well explained to me and I didn’t fully understand what was a frequent flyer program.  I thought it was a program for the elite and enrollment was through connections or selectivity.

Oasis Club has three tiers of membership: Blue, Silver and Gold like many other standard frequent flyer program and is based on the basic rules and regulations of most universal standards of the FF programs around the globe. Simple and regular, it is generally accepted and easy to implement.

Next, come the services and implementation towards its patrons. Now, this is the main issue of this post. Oasis Club has been low-maintained with a very small promotional profile in Kuwait. This is in reflection of the current policies the airline is enforcing to survive. Let me indicate the main objectives a FF program has to attend to in order to maintain service to its customers and see where Oasis Club stands at.

  • Frequent Flyer program recognition: Oasis Club members (whatever tier they are) are not recognized at any sales or service office of Kuwait Airways. The program itself is not even recognized locally in Kuwait, except recently at Sultan Center and Wataniya Telecom through rewards-transfer into FFP air miles . The only recognition that you get is in the airport, where you can check in at the Business/First class counters if you have Silver or Gold tier. Priority is provided at immigration  and security checkpoint only. I can’t exclaim if that’s anymore valid. I have flown for a whole year (2008) using Kuwait Airways and each time I would quote my FFP number at the check-in desk or hand in my card and they would register it, just to find out in the next year that none of my flights are rewarded because (according to the Oasis Club staff whom I had a major argument with) that Kuwait Airways airport system is not linked with Oasis Club system. What kind of nonsense was this? I have lost over 10 flights worth of segments and miles because the airline didn’t connect its airport system to its frequent flyer database? I was going to be a sure Silver!! That was the beginning of the end for me to use this airline or even trust it.
  • Benefits: Oasis Club members are not granted any virtual benefits according to the program itself anymore. Oasis Club Luggage tags that would indicate priority handling and arrival are not recognized locally or even dealt with in that manner. Online upgrades, miles claiming, and more services of using your miles can’t be done online. You have to go to their main office during office hours to do all the paperwork. Talk about being updated. Another benefit was taken away from the members was the usage of the airport limo. Gold/Silver and First/Business class travelers are given a ride to and from the airport through calling in a dedicated number for setting appointment. And when you arrive, you can show them your card or ticket, and they would surly take you home. I have been dependent on that during the times when I was flying with Kuwait Airways. Till one time, when I have arrived to find the dedicated office in the Arrivals in KWI, empty and vacant. Upon asking, I have found out that the service is terminated without any prior notice. That was truly unappreciated as I had to find a taxi to head out home.
  • Communications: Oasis Club has set up a website where you can log in and check out your statements. Only. no other simple web-based services are even provided. No mileage calculator, just a simple chart. I don’t see any strong affiliations to international chains with good promos for earning miles. Upon registration, I didn’t receive my FFP card. Upon many calls to their hotline, I was asked to come and pick it up. Upon arrival and waiting for my turn and after much wait, I was plainly handed in my card and two luggage tags without any welcoming envelope or any kind of kit. I a bit shocked but figured “what the hell?”. For the sake of truth, I have to mention that Kuwait Airways did maintain a bit of quarterly communication through postal mail (which is another disaster in Kuwait) with a newsletter about their promos and offers for miles. I think the last issue was released somewhere in 2010 or 2011. No monthly email statements or communications are in service or even maintained periodically.

Some may say that this post is a harsh critique about Kuwait Airways and its services, but let me say that this is only a glimpse of reality. You can always read reviews about the airlines services here by actual travelers. For the meantime, I don’t even know what to do with those air miles since I don’t plan on using Kuwait Airways for any of my traveling.

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”.