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!

IMG-20120219-00006IMG-20120219-00009

 

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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.

Lunardream: The Frequent Flyer

OK. I’ve always wanted to show you my crazy collection of frequent flyer program cards. I just didn’t have the time to shoot pics of them. Now, I’ve did and here goes nothing!! I do apologize for the sloppy work of adding in art to hide my private info. Yeah, I suck in that matter LOL. The coming posts will be about the hotel and car programs.

 

Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club

Oman Air Sindbad

Wataniya Airways Diwan

EgyptAir Plus

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

All Nippon Airways Mileage Club

Kuwait Airways Oasis Club

Gulf Air Frequent Flyer

Qatar Airways Privilege Club

Lufthansa Miles & More

Gulf Air Frequent Flyer (Silver)

 

Gulf Air Lounge, DXB

Getting ready to board my flight after leaving my hotel, I’ve decided to visit The Gulf Air Lounge in DXB Terminal 1 since I’m a holder of a business class ticket. It’s located at gate 122, where it’s the regular gate for Gulf Air flights. Admittance is for Gulf Air Golden Falcon ticket holders or Gold/Silver members of Gulf Air or its partners. More info is available at Lounge Guide.

This is the entrance of lounge

As you can see, Gulf Air lounges in BAH and DXB share the same aspect of having a tent-like seating area for a taste of originality.

Gulf Air serves Hot and Cold dishes on their buffet bar, which is a lot better than those big global airlines with lousy lounges (Lufthansa), aside from hot and cold drinks as well as you can from the far right side here

The lounge was pretty quiet when I have arrived. Mainly three travelers beside me. The reading materials were limited to newspapers and business/finance magazines. They had a shower room with towels for those who like to refresh. The space is very limited here, and it did get a bit crowded after 4:30 PM.

This is a 49 seconds low resolution recording of the lounge by my old Sony Ericsson W890i

 

 

My latest Hobby!

OK, since early November I’ve started this new hobby which I’ve been trying to establish for a while but didn’t seem to have the enough resources for it. I’ve started to collect miniature airplane models scale 1:600.

I’ve gotten these from KWI Duty Free market. Each model went for 3.5 KDs. They have other airlines as well, but I really liked the Gulf Air Blue and Gold models. I need to find some Asian airlines as well.

Is there any specialty store in Kuwait for this scale of models?

Gulf Air Business Class KWI-BAH-DXB

On Sept. 30th, 2010, I’ve decided go for a mini-trip to Dubai, solo style. During the last days of Ramdan, Gulf Air announced their 30% online discount sale on all fares within the GCC region and some south eastern countries. I felt that I should go for it, regardless of whatever shows up later on. Gulf Air made some restrictions on applying the web discount code on the traveling classes and fares. So to apply this far, you couldn’t go for the promo fares because they are already discounted and the code wouldn’t apply. I had to choose the regular economy and applied the code. Upon checking out and purchasing the ticket, I was given the option of upgrading to Falcon Gold class. I upgraded it, then somehow though about re-applying the discount code again. It Worked!! I was discounted twice to a total of 60% off!!! The original ticket when upgraded should be around 162-165 KDs and know how much I paid for it? 117 KDs!! Talk about a real catch!!! I know some would wave off  it because to go to Dubai from Kuwait with Gulf Air, you would have to make a transit connection in Bahrain. I didn’t mind at all since I’ve wanted to try out the Gulf Air First/Business Class Lounge in BAH to review it, and this was a really good chance to.

After checking-in in KWI, I’ve headed to Damsan Lounge (my 2nd visit) since Gulf Air business class travelers and Gold/Silver members are entitled only to be admitted at Dasman Lounge. Upon call for boarding, I’ve headed to gate 20, which is by far the worst gate in KWI. It’s the last gate on the right hand side after the smoking room. A couple of seats for waiting and it was crowded as hell. I don’t know when KWI would start making special entrance for First/Business travelers for reach gate, which is the norm in every country on this planet. Upon boarding, the plane was packed!! Earlier, I have checked-in online to reserve my seat (2A) according to recommendations from SeatGuru and there it was. Most of the plane was packed with Kuwaiti students going to Bahrain to taking examinations for their suspicious commercial diplomas. I’ve turned down the offer of breakfast since I’ve had mine at the lounge. I didn’t bother taking snaps here because there was nothing remarkable about the plane to shoot. The typical large business seats, old and overused.

For connecting flights, it’s very normal in worldwide airports that the check-in counter would print you a boarding pass in case the amount of time between the flights is limited. In KWI, they did that for me. In DXB, it was something else that I would mention later on.

Upon arrival in BAH, I’ve wanted to lounge-hub the Gulf Air Lounge, but I only had one hour to board the plane. And there’s this stupid thing going on in BAH airport about banning all Gulf Air departures announcements in the lounge. A couple of months ago, lounge staff would walk around and gently announce the boarding announcement to lounge users. That has been discontinued in Dilmun Lounge and Gulf Air Lounge due to the large number of Gulf Air flights around the clock. And mainly, updates for flights in BAH is shitty as hell. One minute a flight gate is declared open, a couple of minutes later ”Last Call” is displayed for all travelers. I swear to God, the last two trips from BAH didn’t have any update at all, it started with “”Last Call” !!! So, summing all of the above mentioned reasons, I gave up and headed directly to my gate. Upon boarding, it was the same class of airplane A320, and no sleeper seats. We arrived in DXB safe and sound.

Here’s some snaps of the flight back from DXB

Now, let me talk about my return trip from DXB. Upon arrival to DXB terminal 1, I’ve searched for Gulf Air counter just to be told that it has been moved to Area F, which is located outside of the main counters area to the far left side of the terminal. I took my bag and dragged it outside just to find that Gulf Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudi Arabia Airlines and some I can’t remember have been tossed to a lonely area I’ve never seen before. Upon checking-in, I was told that I can’t receive my 2nd boarding pass for BAH-KWI because DXB pass system is not compatible with BAH and Gulf Air. So? it meant that I had to arrive in BAH and go to the transit counter and ask for my connecting boarding pass. I didn’t digest that one. I asked my bag to be shipped all the way to Kuwait. Leaving the security area, I headed to Gulf Air Lounge located near gate 122, which is the main gate for Gulf Air flights. The next post would be about my visit to this lounge.

Upon entering the gate, a security personnel asked to keep my stump of boarding pass because he was trying to print me the 2nd connecting pass and I thanked him for the effort. After waiting for 30 minutes, I’ve checked again with him just to find out that it was impossible. I gave up and headed to the plane entrance. Now here comes the best part of this trip. We got the sleeper seats. I sat down and started screwing around with the mechanism of the seat, trying to see how long it can stand my continuous changes. It was alright. Again, I turned down the food because I had a good mini-meal at the lounge. Upon arrival in BAH, I went around and started asking about how to get a connecting pass since all of the provided counters for other airlines. After here and there, I was ”sneaked” into the first of the line just to get my boarding printed. There, I headed down to Gulf Air Lounge for short time before departure of my flight back to Kuwait. On my last flight, we also got the sleeper seats and the bad luck to be seated next to a horny-swinger-married lady who kept making phone calls and messages to multiple dudes, one after the other. Thank God she changed her seat afterward.

The whole experience here was ruined when we arrived at KWI. Multiple planes arrived at the same time. My bag, along with some others, is nowhere to be found. The shutter for the baggage belt shutdown and all airport staff announced that ”that’s it”! I went crazy. My buddies are waiting outside to pick me up. I went from one baggage lane to another searching for my one and only bag. Its tagged with ”Golden Falcon” priority strap, meaning it should be handled among the first with care. No bag in sight. I was told to go the missing baggage claim office where I filed for it. The whole filing process took me like 30 minutes due to the retarded way the airport staff are dealing with travelers. I was called in the next day and been notified to come and pick it up at the Civil Aviation Main Building. It turns out that Gulf Air didn’t ship it along with us upon departure to Kuwait. So, they sent it on the first early flight from BAH. I swore at that time that I would never check-in my small luggage if it’s a transit connection in BAH!