In the early 1950s, Gulf Air premiered as one of the first commercial airlines in the Middle East. An innovative trendsetter, the airline spearheaded the Kingdom of Bahrain’s transformation into a top travel hub and set a high bar for luxury and glamour in the skies.
So when internationally renowned design consultancy tangerine and brand consultants Saffron were tasked with giving the Gulf Air brand a contemporary visual identity, they started by delving into the airline’s past, rediscovering its pioneering magic to give the brand a modern lift and raise the quality of the customer experience onboard their aircraft.
The design team fused the airline’s trailblazing attitude with the warmth and friendliness of its people to create their ‘smart with heart’, brand identity. The idea informs every touchpoint of the design: from the new livery and brand identity created by Saffron, through to the cabin interiors, designed by tangerine.
The powerful balance of ‘smart with heart’ is expressed in tangerine’s design for all Gulf Air’s aircraft interiors, from Business right through to Economy; the cabins are inspired by a fusion of Bahrain’s heritage and its modern spirit today.
‘We wanted to express opulence and sophistication, which for us, was all about detail, ’says tangerine Creative Lead Daniel Flashman. ‘Every touch point visible to the passenger has been carefully considered, almost to the point of obsession so that the overall effect transforms the platform seat into a luxurious flying experience.
‘We added raised privacy panels to the suites to divide the business class cabin on the B787, creating more private, intimate zones. We had to work closely with Boeing to ensure these were as high as possible whilst meeting tight line of sight visibility regulations for the crew. These panels feature a 3D sculpted surface, inspired by the iterative geometric forms found in Bahraini architecture. When the cabin lighting strikes the surface, it casts shadows onto the textured surface, dappling the light to create an intimate and relaxing suite.’
‘The suites themselves,’ Flashman continues, ‘are defined by a sweeping almond gold trim, that draws the eye, and subtly echoes the falcon wing tip developed by Saffron for the branding. As you get closer, finer details catch your attention, repeating visual elements, so that everything is tied together.’
Small strategic modifications allowed the tangerine team to make large improvements to the business class seat, without compromising the delivery schedule. The entrance way to the window seat is dramatically improved by incorporating a flip-down foot rest, which utilises a specially-sourced magnetic latch. This also significantly improves the bed space for the window side passenger.
Stacking the armrest and central console, as well as modifying the shape of the back-shell significantly improves the armrest space compared to competitor airlines using the same standard seating product.
‘The cabin trim and finish are inspired by the fine materials and craftsmanship of Bahrain’s artisans and the traditional sport of falconry,” says tangerine Head of Colour, Material and Finish, Emma Partridge. ‘We’ve given these influences a modern twist to reflect the contemporary Bahrain; its culture and the sights of the country.’
Rich brown leathers, evocative of a falconry glove, are used on the seat headrests, arm caps and the business class footstool; all of which are beautifully stitched and detailed to create an elegant and sophisticated finish.
The pattern from the privacy panels is repeated in different scales in the upholstery fabric, and again on the inner lining, to tie all the elements of the suite subtly together.
Gulf Air’s falcon motif inspires a feather pattern on the Business Class curtains, as well as an iridescent graphic on the bulkheads that glints as passengers pass, creating intrigue.
The revolutionary changes to the standard business class seat were achieved through close collaboration between tangerine, seating manufacturer Rockwell Collins and the programme team. Using tangerine’s unparalleled expertise in working within airframe and seating manufacturers’ constraints, the design team were able to create something truly unique and special for the Gulf Air brand, as well as raising the quality of the onboard experience for their customers.
The overall impression of the cabin is distinguished by clean flowing lines; the sophisticated contrast of dark materials and gold accents and elegant detailing that reinterprets Bahraini tradition in a contemporary fashion.
‘The new cabin design carves a distinctive place for Gulf Air in the market, elevating the customer experience to new heights,’ says Matt Round, tangerine Chief Creative Officer. ‘We curated the design carefully across multiple seating products and aircraft, including the B787, A320 and A321, to ensure that a cohesive brand and customer experience is established across every touchpoint of Gulf Air’s service. The result is a completely updated flying experience that is elegant, sophisticated and quintessentially Bahraini.’
For Gulf Air Chief Executive Officer Krešimir Kučko, ‘the new state of the art fleet and best in class products and service will pave the way for Gulf Air’s growth and expansion, having a positive impact on the entire Kingdom of Bahrain and cementing our role as the regional airline of choice with a global footprint and best in class. We believe Gulf Air’s pioneering legacy, which dates back to our establishment in 1950, will continue to positively shape our future.’