The Worst Gulf Air Flight I Have Ever Taken — and Why
A seat in row 9 was awaiting me for the flight from Bahrain to Cairo on an Airbus A321 aircraft operated by Gulf Air — or so I thought, according to my reservation. I personally reserved the seat myself when booking the reservation for the flight, which turned out to be the worst Gulf Air flight I have ever taken.
When I checked in at Bahrain International Airport, a ticket agent who was employed by Etihad Airways issued my boarding pass. She was polite and nice to me — so much so that I did not bother to do what I usually do: check that the information on the boarding pass was indeed correct…
…so you can imagine my surprise when I boarded the airplane and found that I was actually assigned to a seat towards the rear of the aircraft in row 34 — and while the airplane did have a lot of passengers aboard it, it was not completely full; but only middle seats were available.
Figuring that the duration of the flight was slightly greater than three hours and that many passengers were already seated, I decided that wondering what happened and attempting to resolve it to my satisfaction was not worth the trouble. I should have checked my boarding pass upon receipt like I usually do; and I would have caught the unexpected seat change soon enough to have been able to question it and correct it.
I would not have minded being seated near the rear of the aircraft had it not been for a child who was incessantly screaming nearby — and did so for much of the duration of the flight — so I turned to this package which was at my seat when I arrived after I boarded the airplane…
…and while I clearly saw that the zippered plastic bag included headphones, I wondered what was the black cloth that was in a smaller plastic bag inside…
…and it turned out to be covers for the earpieces of the headphones. I had never seen that before. That is an interesting idea; but they apparently are included for sanitary reasons because the members of the flight crew collect the headphones — which are actually of cheap quality but passable to spend time listening to music — prior to the conclusion of the flight to be used again on a future flight.
By the way, ensure that you carry an adapter equipped with one prong with you if you want to use the headphones for your portable electronic device, as the headphones have two prongs at the end of the cord and most portable electronic devices only have one input jack.
It was time for the meal service, which was lunch.
Unlike the flights on which I was a passenger on airplanes operated by Etihad Airways, there was no seafood meal option; and the other options did not seem all that appealing to me — so I went with a regular meal, which was a choice of a pasta dish or a meat dish.
I chose the pasta, which was shells — my favorite type of pasta — in tomato sauce and cheese. I dislike cheese. Fortunately, the cheese was congealed enough that it was relatively easy to remove. The meal was not all that bad. Along with the pasta shells, it came with a packaged roll and butter; some sort of chick pea salad, which was my least favorite part of the meal; and some type of pistachio pudding, I would venture to guess, which was my second least favorite part of the meal.
After witnessing me photographing my meal — how embarrassing! — a fellow passenger granted me permission to photograph a vegetarian mean which was ordered. I understand that the rice with vegetables was actually fairly good.
Cleanliness — or Lack Thereof
The airplane left the gate at the airport in Bahrain fairly clean; but as the flight wore on, the economy class cabin gradually became filthier with trash and other items due to the carelessness of fellow passengers…
…and upon using one of the lavatories at the rear of the aircraft, it was quite obvious that people had missed the toilet and urinated on the floor. The appearance of the lavatory — as well as the strong odor which enveloped it — was quite nasty. This was worsened by the absence of paper products, as there were no more paper towels or toilet paper. Apparently, the supply of all of the paper products had been depleted and not replenished.
Otherwise, the service by members of the flight crew was rather nondescript: good; but not memorable.
During the last hour of the flight, the aircraft entered extreme turbulence — especially upon descent into Cairo — and the bumps and shaking of the aircraft were rather jarring. It was like speeding on a road of rocks in a vehicle with no shock absorbers.
The child was screaming even louder; but the attention of passengers and members of the flight crew were suddenly focused on a fellow passenger who experienced severe motion sickness and violently vomited upon approach to Cairo.
Exiting the Aircraft
Passengers exited the aircraft from both the front and rear exit doors on the left side of the airplane.
I was greeted with what felt like a blast furnace when I exited outside of the airplane, as I have never felt such intense ambient heat as the sun burned through the hazy brownish air. I later found out that the outside temperature was 112 degrees Fahrenheit when I trudged across the tarmac to the terminal.
Things could have always been worse. My experience — which really was not all that bad; but was indeed the worst flight operated by Gulf Air which I had ever taken — paled in comparison to that of Elena of Muslim Travel Girl, who initially was stranded and could not continue on to Jeddah from Bahrain because there was no record; and whose luggage was missing for six days. “If you follow me on social media you know a little bit about my super unpleasant adventure with Gulf Air and their horrible customer service”, Elena wrote. “Currently I am in Makkah to perform Umrah in the holiest month for Muslims. I had booked my flights from Abu Dhabi to Jeddah via Bahrain on Gulf Air; which I am totally regretting now, though at the time seemed like an awesome deal.”
Much of what occurred in my experience during the flight was not the fault of Gulf Air. After all, members of the flight crew certainly could not do much about the turbulence or the weather; and I place the responsibility of the incessantly screaming child on the parent.
However, having a seat assignment change significantly without warning or notice — especially when that seat assignment is 25 rows further towards the back of the airplane — and not keeping the lavatories in a reasonably clean state and stocked with paper products is the responsibility of employees of Gulf Air. These unacceptable failures in service can be improved quickly and with not much effort on the part of the airline.
Even with all of that, this flight does not even come close to being as bad as this flight which was operated by Etihad Airways; and it was arguably not as bad as this flight which was operated by Alitalia. However, I can say with confidence that it did not compare with this flight which was operated by Gulf Air, which was a far superior and pleasant experience — as were the next two flights on which I was a passenger on airplanes operated by Gulf Air.
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.