“Do you have any smart trousers, sir?”
I’m standing at the Gulf Air Business class check-in desk in London Heathrow, due to depart on a flight to Bahrain in just over an hour.
But the check-in assistant refuses to print my boarding pass. This is due, he says, to my attire. (To clarify, I am travelling on an upgradeable ticket, so having not coughed up for the guaranteed privilege of Business class, I find myself at the mercy of the gatekeeper.)
“Possibly,” I reply. “What exactly do you mean by ‘smart trousers’?”, suddenly realising that ‘smart’ is in fact a frustratingly nebulous term, and other than, you know… not jeans, sort of means everything and nothing? (For the record, I am wearing a slightly cropped navy tailored trouser with an elasticated waist and drawstring. Not Lonsdale trackies.)
“Smart, sir. Smart trousers.”
Right. Smart. Of course, smart, yes.
We stare blankly at each other.
“Smart trousers, sir” he says again, this time louder, more forcefully, as if repeating the same two words at a higher volume and now with added exaggerated hand gesture is somehow more explanatory.
“… I have some belted trousers. Would they work?”
“Yes, belted! Good. Belted is good.”
Good. Glad that’s settled, then. Off I go to the gent’s to change into a beige lightweight chino barely distinguishable from the navy pair I was wearing save for the fact that this pair is beige and, of course, worn belted. (Which, by the way, can’t even be seen because I’m wearing an untucked shirt.)
This first encounter with Gulf Air’s Falcon Gold class experience, launched in 2018, was regrettable for two reasons. Firstly, it’s 2019; athleisure and sporty tailoring have already happened… at least two years ago… so an elasticated trouser IS a smart trouser. And secondly, what’s the point in enforcing a draconian dress code for upgradeable passengers when, as happened on my flight, bona fide Business passengers amble into the cabin in board shorts and polo shirts too small to cover their paunch?
On-the-ground sartorial conflict aside, travelling in Gulf Air’s Falcon Gold class was a pleasure. The cabin is modern and smartly designed, with a two-two-two arrangement. Seats are perfectly comfortable with the ability to be articulated as you choose using the handy control system built into the armrest. Some may find the 22” width a little too narrow, but if that’s the price to be paid to ensure all seats – including outermost window ones – have direct aisle access, then that’s fine with me. The very last thing you should have to worry about having shelled out a few thousand pounds for a Business class seat, is – offending airlines please take note – having to clamber over someone else’s to get to the loo.
Food was tasty, if a little unremarkable for flying at this price. One exception was a small plate of mezze so fresh and pleasingly tart it more than surpassed my barometer for good plane food, which by the way is quite simple. Spare me your celebrity chef. Hold the poetic menu descriptions. All I want to know is, would this be good enough for me to order were I in a restaurant and not held captive in a tin can hurtling through the air at several hundred miles per hour? The mezze was a yes, hands down.
Service throughout the flight was impeccable. A stark contrast to check-in, staff onboard were warm, helpful and efficient. I very much appreciated the traditional Arabian touches, too: dates and Arabic coffee at the beginning of the flight (the latter in this case an almost tea-like, subtly cardamom-spiced beverage brewed from lightly roasted Arabica beans) and a splash of reviving rose water to dab about one’s neck just before descent.
Overall, I’d fly Gulf Air’s Falcon Gold class again. While sometimes its deference to tradition can get in the way of its service, it’s a solid offering any airline ought to be proud of.
Gulf Air’s selection is fairly paltry (unless you consider yourself an avid fan of Arab soap operas)
That said, it’d be remiss of me not to share a couple of entertainment-related caveats. Firstly, that Gulf Air’s selection is fairly paltry (unless you consider yourself an avid fan of Arab soap operas) and secondly that you’ll be hard-pressed to get it going in the first place. I can appreciate discreet design as much as the next person, but if you’re going to conceal a headphone port almost to the point of making it invisible entirely, then at least make the process of inserting the headphones intuitive?
I spent a good minute trying to feel around for the port next to my armrest only to give up, slide down my seat, slide down my seat more and then – in a near-horizontal and thoroughly awkward position not unlike a car mechanic lying on a creeper – finally glean a clear enough view of the port that I could insert the lead.
Elegant, right? I’m just glad I wore my “smart trousers” for the occasion. C