Competition continues to hot up among the Gulf carriers. Bahrain-based Gulf Air, has said it will splash out $10m on fitting lie-flat style seats in its premium classes. This puts it ahead of arch-rival Emirates, which, although it is fitting lie-flat seats in first, doesn’t have this type of seat in business class.

Gulf Air’s new first and business class seats will be fitted initially to its fleet of Airbus A330s and will be manufactured by French firm EADS Sogerma. It is claimed the seats will offer passengers more privacy and room to relax during flights. There are also plans to overhaul in-flight entertainment on these aircraft, and to install onboard changing rooms for passengers to change into their bedclothes.

Gulf Air’s latest announcement closely follows its inauguration of a new business and first class lounge at Heathrow, and its preparations to launch, in April, a new (economy class only) service between Birmingham airport and Abu Dhabi – although the latter is aimed primarily at travellers heading beyond Abu Dhabi for the Indian subcontinent, rather than the business market.

The airline is in its second year of a three-year programme to revamp services in the face of fierce competition from local rivals Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, all of which are stepping up flights to Europe and continually improving their offerings.

James Hogan, president and chief executive of Gulf Air said: “With the introduction of these new skybeds we put in place another piece of the jigsaw in the turnaround of Gulf Air. Our premium passengers can now be sure that every element of their journey, both in the air and on the ground, is in place to ensure they experience the best in air travel.”

Gulf Air is following in the footsteps of Qatar Airways in its choice of first class seat, the Class 180, a fully electronic flatbed with 200cm pitch and an excellent level of privacy.

Qatar installed these seats on all flights out of the UK (the carrier departs both Manchester and Heathrow) to Doha. For its business class, Qatar opted for EADS Sogerma’s Business Plus seat, an electronically operated seat which has lumbar support and reclines to 160 degrees.

Gulf Air will begin fitting the new seats to the A330s next March and the fleet will be converted by the following July. The carrier has not yet decided whether these seats will be fitted to its fleet of four-engined A340s.

The A330s currently operate most flights from Heathow to Abu Dhabi and Muscat (the Heathrow-Bahrain route continues to be served by A340s). They also operate a number of flights to the Gulf region out of Frankfurt and Paris.