In the early 1950s, Gulf Air premiered as the first commercial airline in the Middle East. An innovative trendsetter, the airline spearheaded Bahrain’s transformation into a hub for travel and set the bar high for luxury and glamour. It quickly became the first choice for travel in the Middle East and beyond. Fast forward to 2018, and Gulf Air wanted to restore its sparkle through a new brand identity and raise the quality of its customer experience on board their aircraft.
So when 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.
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. ‘In the business class suite, for instance, every touch point visible to the passenger has been carefully considered, so that the overall effect transforms the platform seat into a luxurious flying experience.’
Every aspect of the cabin is finely detailed to express the new Gulf Air brand identity and raise the quality of the customer experience on board their aircraft. Raised privacy panels divide the business class cabin on the B787, creating more private, intimate zones. The panels feature a 3D sculpted surface, inspired by the iterative geometric forms found in Bahraini architecture. The suites are defined by a sweeping almond gold trim that draws the eye, and subtly echoes the falcon wing tip developed in the branding.
Working closely with seating manufacturer Rockwell Collins and the airframe manufacturers, to fully understand their constraints, small strategic modifications allowed us to make large improvements to the seat, without compromising the delivery schedule. The entrance way to the window seat was made more accessible by incorporating a flip-down footrest, which also makes the bed space a better experience for the window side passenger. Stacking the armrest and central console, as well as modifying the shape of the back-shell significantly improved the armrest space compared to competitor airlines using the same standard seating product.
The cabin interior colour and material palette are inspired by the fine materials and craftsmanship of Bahrain’s artisans and the traditional sport of falconry, as well as reflecting the modern elements of Bahrain, its sights and culture. Rich brown leathers, evocative of a falconry glove, a distinctive feather pattern and iridescent graphic on the bulkhead reinterpret Bahraini tradition in a contemporary fashion. The overall impression of the cabin is distinguished by clean flowing lines; the sophisticated contrast of dark materials, gold accents and elegant detailing.
‘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.