Gulf Air is to overhaul its Airbus A330 interiors with a $20 million refit including fully-flat business class seats, six years after their last update as it bids to match service levels of its rivals.

Four of Gulf Air’s six A330s will go through the refit, to be masterminded by Mirabel, Quebec-based maintenance and modifications specialist Avianor, with bespoke seating supplied by B/E Aerospace in business class and Zodiac in economy. A decision about refitting the other two aircraft will be taken later, according to Gulf Air acting chief executive Maher Salman Al Mussalam, speaking at the Bahrain air show.

The plan is to take the first aircraft out of service on 1 June for a 30- to 40-day refit, followed “nose to tail” by the others, with aircraft two through four expected to be in the workshop for 30 days, says Avianor chief executive Earl Diamond.

Gulf Air wants the first two aircraft finished before the Eid holidays begin at end-July, and the other two by October. Acting chief technical officer Jamal Hashim says the work would have no more impact on flight schedules than grounding aircraft for normal maintenance.

While Maher would not be drawn on the fifth and sixth aircraft – merely saying that “we might give them [Avianor] the other two” – he stresses the importance of “at least matching our competitors” with a fully-flat seat in Gulf’s Falcon Gold business class. He adds the refit would see the aircraft through five years of service.

Maher also stress Gulf Air’s belief in maintaining a common feel between all its aircraft, noting that the A320s that make up the bulk of its 26-aircraft fleet feature “state of the art” interiors and are mostly less than three years old.

At 22in wide and converting to a 1.9m-long bed, the new Falcon Gold seat looks very similar the product currently flying in Gulf Air A330s but promises more personal space. The 18in-wide economy class seats from Zodiac will recline by 4in and have adjustable head and foot rest positions.

Neither Gulf Air nor Avianor would specify the pitch, but Diamond said that new materials and slimmer seats would be more comfortable and increase “living space” to leave passengers “feeling as though they’ve removed seats” from the cabin, even though the numbers will remain the same.

Source: Cirium Dashboard