If you’ve ever been in the UAE or the Gulf in general, you’ll know that Indians make up a huge percentage of the population, and their influence on the local culture is enormous—from cuisine to movies to language, it is inescapable. Having grown up in Abu Dhabi, I’ve eaten many a biryani, spent many Friday nights at home with the fam watching the Indian Film of the Week on Abu Dhabi TV
(back before satellite TV
became ubiquitous), and I know enough Hindi/Urdu words to string into a nonsensical but authentic-sounding sentence. And yet, despite the fact it was only short 3-hour hop across the Arabian Sea, it took me 25 years to finally visit the source of a lot of my childhood memories.
In mid-November I was invited to spend New Year’s with a friend of mine from college in her native Mumbai. I would be home for winter break for about 3 weeks (read about my trip home here! Homeward Bound!: BA GND-LGW/LHR-AUH (by taloush Apr 10 2011 in Trip Reports)
) and, not wanting to deprive my family of my presence too long (yes, I am special), I decided on a quick 3-day jaunt, from Dec 30 to Jan 2, giving me enough time to take in the sites, enjoy my friend’s company, and have fun on New Year’s Eve.
The most logical and straight-forward route would have been a direct flight to Bombay on either Etihad or Air India. Air India was cut from the running almost immediately, as their flight times were terrible and wouldn’t give me much time in Bombay. An INSANE fare of Dhs2800/$760 quickly eliminated any chances of flying Etihad, too. A quick Expedia search showed an excellent deal with GF
—Dhs1500/$400 and good flight timings and the ability to earn AAdvantage miles. Even better: the chance to fly their new ERJs. Deal!
Please note: I unfortunately lost all of the details of this trip in a computer crash. I’ve tried to reconstruct them as best as possible!
Thursday, December 20, 2010
(Terminal 1) – BAH
Embraer E190-AR A9C-MD
An early flight meant an early start from my home in the Khalidiyah district of Abu Dhabi, and my mom was kind enough to drive me the 35 km to the airport at 06.00. AUH
is pretty quiet at that time, so all check-in and immigration formalities were a breeze, and 10 minutes after being dropped off, I found myself in the empty, glorious, psychedelic toilet that is AUH
’s Terminal 1 satellite.
Thank you, Aeroports de Paris, for this monument to 80s architecture and design.
I had an overpriced but tasty breakfast at Costa, marking the beginning of what would turn out to be the central theme of this trip: FOOD.
Soon enough, my flight was called. I made my way to one of the mini-satellites that branch out of the Mother Ship; they are basically holding areas that require you to pass through a security point.
on one side…
on the other.
Boarding finally started; it was pleasantly (and surprisingly) orderly for a flight involving Middle Easterners.
Now I hadn’t flown on GF
since…2000? 1999? Back when the emirate of Abu Dhabi was one of four investors in the airline (along with Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar), when AUH
was a major hub, when peach was the color of choice for everything from uniforms to seats, and when the Golden Falcon actually…mattered. So I didn’t really know what to expect when I entered the Embraer, but after a warm and friendly welcome from the Bahraini male FA
, I walked into the business class cabin to find…
Hats off to Gulf Air--I definitely didn’t see that coming. After getting over the shock, I took a quick look around the J cabin and noted that, with its 2-1 layout, it was compact yet spacious, and the seats looked comfortable and roomy.
I continued down the aisle…
…to be met by surprise number 2: PTVs! Nice, big PTVs!
Very nice, GF
! So far, so good.
Obligatory Airliners.net TR
I was seated in an aisle seat next to a Yemeni man who, upon my sitting down, decided to phone his family in Sanaa and yell his flight details to them.
The load on today’s flight was somewhat light, and, looking around, I noticed that the entire exit row, 2 rows behind me, was empty. Once boarding was complete, I scurried back and planted myself in the window seat. Much better.
New Obligatory Airliners.net TR
The welcome announcement was made in Arabic and English by the same male FA
who had greeted me, after which the safety video was played on the PTVs. The safety video was tedious and cheaply produced and seemed to take forever to finish. Safety checks were done by the 2 female FAs with way too much make up on.
The Golden Falcon looks on at the other falcon that stole its glory.
After take-off, I took a closer look at my surroundings.
The seat itself was quite comfortable—not too hard, not too soft. The cabin itself was fantastic: spacious, light, bright, and in excellent condition. This was my second time on the E170/190 family, my first experience being on a NW
example in 2008, and I remember being extremely impressed by the plane back then; the sentiment was certainly similar today.
The PTVs started playing cartoons once we reached cruising altitude—a loop of 3 or 4 classic Disney and Loony Tunes episodes. No headsets were distributed, though, and even when I plugged in my own, there was no sound.
About 15 minutes or so into the flight, the crew came down with this morning’s in-flight service.
I was given this pleasantly designed box.
Inside it was:
Orange juice, a moist oatmeal muffin, and a cup of fruit. I was also offered a choice of coffee or tea or water. Everything tasted good (except, of course, the coffee), and overall I was very impressed—this was more than I expected for a 1-hour flight. Hats off again, GF
The crew was pleasant and courteous, if not a bit reserved. No complaints from me.
After finishing my (second) breakfast, I went down the aisle to check out the toilet.
It was big enough and it was clean (which, incidentally, is also what she said).
Before long, it was time to land in Manama.
Lots of GF
and a lone Bahrain Air at the terminal.
We were parked at a remote stand, thankfully. That would give me a chance to take a closer look at the beauty that carried me today.
follows the UK airport model in which all passengers pass through a central security checkpoint before entering airside. On the one hand, it makes life easier once you pass it, but on the other hand, you’re stuck in line behind three or four (or five or six) planefuls of passengers and it can get a bit chaotic, which was the case for me this morning.
I eventually made it through, though, and took the escalator up to the main terminal area.
A little art gallery as you enter the duty-free.
was very much alive at 08.00. Lots of passengers walking around, shopping, eating, or just sitting and waiting for their flights to be called. The airside has a decidedly early 90s vibe, but I found it nice and compact and welcoming.
It had been almost an HOUR since I had last eaten, so I had to rectify that situation tout de suite! I settled on a breakfast platter at Chili’s—all of this plus unlimited coffee for only 2 Bahraini dinars/$5.30; I couldn’t NOT eat!
I then walked from one end of the terminal to the other about 4 times, taking in the scenery.
Bahrain’s national day was in a few days.
What a beautiful sight.
Eventually my flight was called. I ended up being one of the last to board. Judging by the line to board, I was one of 10 or so non-Indians on the plane. I was also one of 10 or so that wasn't sniffling and sneezing and coughing.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Airbus A320 A9C-??
I was welcomed aboard by yet another male Bahraini FA
. Again, it was a warm and friendly greeting. The reason I emphasize the fact that he is Bahraini is that you will basically never see an Emirati in a similar position on EY
; it’s an interesting indicator of the difference between the cultures of the two countries.
In contrast to my earlier flight, the load was 100% in both classes and the seats were a less jarring (but more boring? It’s a lose-lose situation with me, apparently) blue.
Also: no PTVs.
Obligatory Airliners.net TR
Boarding ended soon after I sat down, and before I knew it, we were rocketing off into the skies of Bahrain.
One for all you foot fetishists out there.
Your attention, please.