After a week of work at the new and very empty Dubai World Central Airport, it is time for me to head home to Switzerland. This Oman Air trip review covers the return segments from Dubai via Muscat to Zürich.
Part I: Positioning to Muscat
Date: 29. June 2012
Airline: Oman Air (WY)
Aircraft: Embraer E-175
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 1F, first row of Business Class, window
Getting to the Airport
It is Friday morning, the weekend here in Dubai. So the streets are empty and the journey to the airport only takes 30 minutes to complete. I am at the airport by 07h45.
Oman Air check-in in Dubai is done by DNATA in sector E. There is no queue for the Business Class counter. The check-in agent is an efficient, friendly young man. With the boarding passes he also hands me an invitation to the Gulf Air lounge near gate 122, which Oman Air shares.
The airport is quiet, so immigration and security are painless. The latter also has to do with the fact that in Dubai you do not have to take out your laptop and liquids before going through security.
From security it is down the escalators and across the pedestrian walk way underneath the apron, which connects the departure gates to the terminal building.
In contrast to check-in, the transit area is incredibly busy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people sleeping in such uncomfortable looking positions in one place. There’s one guy lying stretched out across the floor face down and slobbering on the carpet. For a moment I wonder if perhaps he may have passed out.
But fortunately I am able to make an escape from it all. I enter the Gulf Air lounge, where I am greeted by a friendly young lady. She tells me she will inform me when my flight is ready for boarding. How nice of her.
The lounge is empty when I arrive. It has a nice feel to it and I quite like the Bedouin theme of the place, with individual seating areas covered by a stylised tent. Outside there is an Emirates B777 being readied for departure. Not sure where it is heading, but it’s interesting to watch the activity around the aircraft as it is prepared for departure.
The lounge is sufficiently well stocked, especially given that it caters only for Gulf Air and Oman Air passengers doing the short hop to either Bahrain, Muscat and possibly Salalah.
There appears to have been an aircraft change and instead of the Boeing B737-800 I was expecting, I suddenly see an Embraer E-175 of Oman Air taxiing past the lounge. That’s quite okay I guess.
At 09h10 I notice the flight is showing as ‘boarding’, which in Dubai is the equivalent to ‘Gate open’ or ‘Go to Gate’ at other airports. When I arrive at gate 112 most passengers are already waiting inside the holding pen.
I think I can truly say that I have never seen such vast amounts of ‘cabin’ luggage in all my life. There is one guy pushing and dragging two large suitcases that can only be called ‘carry-ons’ by a very considerable stretch of the imagination. His son, probably not more than four years old, is trying to pull a third suitcase of equal dimensions, which is slightly larger than him. What on earth do these people have in there for heaven’s sake?
There are four passengers in Business Class this morning. I have row one for me alone and the seat next to me stays empty. Behind me are two ladies happily chatting and on the other side of the aisle from them is some dude who evidently thinks he is way too cool for this world.
The doors close, the red cap and flight attendant say good bye to each other with a polite ‘Ma’a as-Salama’. And we’re on our way.
Our take-off route is a spectacular one. We depart in a northwesterly direction. Once we are over the sea, we do a long, gentle left turn. It looks as though we’re orbiting around the Burj Khalifa. As we come out of the turn, the Palm Island and Burj al-Arab become visible on the right.
Considering all the junk the passengers have brought aboard this flight, boarding is surprisingly fast. As soon as the red cap informs the flight attendant that we’re all on, the service up front begins with the distribution of those nicely scented cold towels. This is followed by a drinks round and I choose a glass of excellent and very refreshing lime squash.
As the glass is removed, the flight attendant informs me that we will be served a continental breakfast. She would like to know if she should prepare a coffee or tea for me with that. And coffee it is for me.
Shortly after take-off the meal is served. First the table is set with linen and the metal cutlery. The tray itself consists of a plate with a warm croissant and a warm cardamom roll, which is very tasty. There is also butter, strawberry jam and a small bowl of dried fruit and dates.
The flight is only 45 minutes long, just enough time to leisurely drink the coffee. Our co-pilot on this flight is obviously German, judging by his accent. He’s a very friendly guy and gives us a detailed update about the flight’s progress.
Our arrival is rather unspectacular. As on the outbound trip, Business Class passengers have their own bus to the terminal. It’s kind of strange to watch. As soon as the plane stops, one of the two attendants working the Business Class cabin immediately jumps up, rushes towards the back and closes the curtain to prevent the Economy Class passengers from getting in the way. Of course this does not give me much of a photo opportunity, I don’t want to hold up everything, so I just snap a quick shot of the cabin and then I’m on to the bus. It’s much more humid here in Muscat and my glasses and camera immediately steam up.
Part II: And then Home to Zürich
Date: 29. June 2012
Airline: Oman Air (WY)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 14E, first row of the second Business Class cabin, aisle seat
Once I’m in the terminal building I head straight for the lounge again. All four passengers in Business on this flight do the same. As it turns out later on, they’re also all heading to Zürich on the same flight as me.
This time round the lounge is empty when I arrive. I help myself to some of the lovely Mezze and then find a nice spot to sit and answer my e-mails.
Gradually the lounge begins to fill up. Even so, I’m so engrossed in answering office mails that I barely notice. In fact I’m so concentrated that I completely miss the last call for my flight and nearly end up missing the flight. But only nearly and when I arrive the last Economy bus has just left. The Business Class bus is being held up – by me. I hate it when that happens. Worse still when I’m the cause.
We arrive at the bottom of the stairs of our plane and I get my camera ready. But it is to no avail and I surrender to the fact that my camera is having a seriously bad time coping with the humidity in the air and the heat.
The cabin is nice and clean, quite similar to the outbound flight a week previously from Zürich to Muscat. Again there are no overhead bins in the middle, which gives the cabin even more semblance of a First Class rather than a Business Class cabin.
Service begins on the ground with the distribution of scented hot towels – very hot towels – and another glass of that tasty lime juice.
Next come the newspapers, the totally camp vanity kit and the menus.
Once the doors close, two attendants come by offering Arabic coffee and fresh dates. It’s the first time I’ve tried a fresh date and it tastes lovely!
Once the seatbelt sign goes off, the meal service begins. While I wait for the food to arrive I have another glass of the excellent lime juice and some warm nuts.
Then the table is set.
We begin with an amuse bouche of chicken in a pistachio and garlic pesto with a spicy chutney.
The First Course
After that I have the Arabic red lentil soup with pita bread croutons and a slice of fresh lemon.
The Main Course
For the main course I have the Omani spiced fish (hamour) with zaatar butter with sautéed vegetables and coriander rice.
And to finish off the meal, a chocolate mouse cake with a chocolate fondant sauce and mixed berries.
And to conclude the meal, some fresh mint tea.
After the meal I decide to explore the IFE. The first movie I watch is John Carter. It’s about some guy who accidentally finds himself transported from the America of the Civil war to planet Mars, which is inhabited. This must be, without a doubt, the worst movie I have ever seen in my entire life! Hands down, really! Don’t ask me about the plot, I didn’t get it because it didn’t have one. The next film I watch is the Adventures of Tintin. And this is, I have to say, rather entertaining.
The Second Service
By the time Tintin comes to a heroic end, it’s already time for the afternoon snack before we make our arrival into Zürich. Once again I am brought a refreshing towel, this time a cold one.
Followed by some canapés and a cup of Earl Grey. There were more options, but I was still rather full from lunch.
Another toilet with a view, like SAS.
And this brings to an end my adventure. It was, I think, a successful week, but it was also very tiring. And the heat certainly takes getting used to. I leave you with the last image I took on the approach into Zürich. I am glad to be back, everything is just so green here!