Oman Air, Business Class – Boeing B 787-9: Frankfurt to Muscat

Transfer in Frankfurt – I am never, ever doing this again!

I enter the Schengen area of Terminal 1 in Frankfurt at 09:05. I have an hour before my departure on Oman Air from the D concourse of Terminal 2. I follow the signs to the D gates, and before I know what’s really happening, I’m landside again. Which is of course not so good, because it means that in addition to passport control, I will also have to go through security again.

Is there a strike on or a go slow that nobody has told me about? I follow the sign for the fast track to immigration, where the gentleman supposedly checking boarding passes descides to completely ignore me. I’m standing right in front of him. Well, two can play this game. So I decide to just walk through, which certainly gets his attention, “Sie können nicht einfach davon laufen”. So he scans my boarding pass and allows me access to the e-gates for biometric passports.

On the D concourse the gates are grouped together so that four gates share a security checkpoint with three separate lanes. Two are for Economy Class passengers and one is for priority passengers. Not that anybody has even the littlest of shits to give here. The checkpoint for my flight is an utter mess. Only one of the Economy Class lanes is open, and halfway through the process the staff manning the priority lane decide it’s time for their break, so they literally just close the door and walk off. Behind me people are pushing and shoving. A group of French travellers is full of indignation, because their flight to Muscat has already started boarding. They ask to skip the line to which I tell them that I’m on the same flight and another guy tells them his flight has already closed. In future I am certainly going to make any effort to avoid Frankfut. It’s not just that the process is very unpleasant and tedious. I’m also raising into question just how safe the screen process actually is. Clearly, the staff are too busy complaining and arguing among themselves to actually watch what was going on.

I’ve managed to stay surprisingly calm. It’s 10:15 and my flight has officially departed by the time I’m through security. I help and old Serb heading for the Belgrade flight hold his dog while he collects his belongings, and then I make my way to gate D8.

Boarding

The flight is still there. Apparently they’re still missing 38 passengers in the queue and figured it was easier to wait than have to dig around for 38 suitcases. At the gate I exchange my electronic, Lufthansa-issued boarding pass for an old-fashioned Oman Air branded one. And then I step on the plane. I try to take a photo, but the angle just doesn’t work.

The Cabin

I’m greeted at the L2 door and guided to my seat on 11A, which is the last row in the larger Business Class cabin that is located between the First Class cabin and the L2 galley. I really like the Oman Air seat. It’s elegantly designed, very comfortable and sufficiently long when extended into a bed. The only downside of course, is that you have a passenger sitting next to you – which is particularly problematic on this flight, because I’m stuck next to a gassy Frenchman. He starts before we even get airborne, which kind of has me wondering what will happen as we start climbing. Won’t the gasses start expanding with increased altitude? But I digress, the seat. The beauty of this layout is that the aisle seat is staggered slightly behind the window seat, which means that all passengers have direct aisle access.

There is a partitioning screen, which works sufficiently well in that it is high enough. Although it doesn’t really do anything to protect me from the depraved and gazeous stench that keeps wafting across throughout the flight. What on earth was this guy eating…?

When I reach my seat there is already a pillow, a thick blanket and a comfortable mattress, a bottle of still water, the vanity kit and the earphones. I do not use the earphones, so I don’t know what brand they are.

The Service

As soon as I am settled in my seat, one of the cabin crew comes to ask me if I would like to have either an orange juice or lemon juice with mint.

Shortly after, they bring me a warm wet towel.

And the menus.

Once boarding is completed, the crew pass through the cabin with packaged dates and cardamom coffee.

Eventually, we push back with a delay of one hours.

On our way to the runway we pass this ugly thing. Although, it’s not really ugly. Just perhaps a bit ridiculous.

The Meal – Lunch

The meal service is quite extensive, with an à la carte menu and a broad selection of dishes to choose from.

For the amuse bouche there is a warm, grilled scallop in a sesame crust.

Next, the table is set for lunch, and I am brought a bowl with warm bread as well as butter and olive oil.

I start with a trio of beetroot, tuna and balik salmon on crème fraîche, which is very flavourful and delicious.

For the main course I have the fish, which is served on a lovely, creamy bisque.

And then comes the cheese dish. The description of the cheese on the menu is not very clear, but I think perhaps that’s a cultural thing that the French or the Swiss tend to be a lot more concerned about than others.

And then for dessert, mercy! I shouldn’t, I really shouldn’t. But cinnamon and strawberry bread and butter pudding served warm with custard and pecan crumble are hard to resist. This is just so, so good. That’s what I call grade A1 comfort food!

The friendly male flight attendant working on my aisle comes to clear the table. He asks me there’s anything else I’d like before he looks up at me. He notices the look on my face, smiles and just says “okay, maybe later”. Yes, probably better. Ta!

The flight time to Muscat is just over six hours, so there is no second service. At some point though, I do order a cup of coffee with milk.

Arrival

We land in Muscat with a delay of 45 minutes. The airport is quite busy.

This is my first time back in Oman since the new airport has opened, and I must confess my heart breaks just a little. The old as-Seeb terminal was kind of cool, even if it was way too crowded and hardly big enough to handle half the traffic flying into Muscat these days. But there was just something so typically and endearingly Omani about the old place. As Heraclitus said, you cannot step into the same river twice.

Conclusion

My last trip on Oman Air was a few years ago, when I flew them from Zürich via Muscat to Kuala Lumpur. I remember that the trip had not been so nice, especially the red-eye from Zürich to Muscat. So I’m glad to see that things have improved again at Oman Air. The crew were very friendly and just seemed happy. The service was swift, attentive, and well-paced. And the food was very good. Alas, my return will not be on Oman Air, so it remains to be seen whether the airline has gotten its act together again or if perhaps this was just a flash in the pan, as they say.

As for Frankfurt, that was really scandalous and nothing else.

Oman Air, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Muscat to Kuala Lumpur

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Date: 13. April 2017
Departure: 10:10
Arrival: 20:40
Flight time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Seat: 10A, window

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Transfer in Muscat

Upon entering the terminal building in Muscat, transit passengers turn left and then head up one floor to transit security and the airside area beyond. As in Zürich, the terminal seems very quiet and is certainly calmer than the last time I was here in 2016.

The Lounge

The Oman Air lounge is operated by the same company that runs the Chedi hotel in Muscat and it shows clearly in the design of the lounge. The gentleman at reception informs me that boarding for my flight to Kuala Lumpur will be from inside the lounge.

The lounge is also very quiet, with only a few seats here and there occupied. The lounge has all the amenities one might expect, including toilets and showers on the premises and a spa. Complimentary wifi is also available. Lounge access comes with a 15 minutes complimentary massage.

In theory, the lounge has some excellent views of the apron, but the curtains obstruct the view and I’m not about the make a spectacle of myself by lifting them to take pictures…

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The buffet is excellent!

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Boarding

At 08h20 I go to the boarding desk inside the lounge and the gate agent directs me down the stairs to ground level, where a small mini bus is waiting to take the KL bound passengers to their aircraft.

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Eventually pull up next to an Airbus A 330-300, together with the two regular busses carrying the Economy Class passengers. And then we wait. And we wait. And then we wait some more. Eventually, when our bus does start moving again, it’s to take us back to arrivals. I ask the bus driver what’s up but he’s none the wiser. So I step inside the arrivals hall and ask one of the Oman Air agents there about the status of my flight. To which he tells me to go back upstairs, through security again and then to gate 20 for further information.

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So I do that. At gate 20 nobody really seems to want to be responsible. So I ask some random guy in an Oman Air uniform what’s going on and he tells me that our flight has gone tech. I should return to the lounge and await further instructions. Brilliant! Oh yes, and I’m given the rather funky and very old school Egypt Air transit card. Not quite sure what to do with this though…

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So I return to the lounge and figure I might as well have breakfast. After about thirty minutes in the lounge, the flight to KL is called again and so I head downstairs once more to the waiting bus. This time everything seems to go without a hitch. Eventually we take off form Muscat with a delay of 75 minutes at 10h05.

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The Cabin

The seat on this aircraft is the same as the one on the Boeing B 787-9. Immediately after take-off I change into my running shorts and lie down to have a nap. The seat really is very comfortable and provides ample space, even for a larger person. I am 184cm tall and could stretch out fully. The seat is also wide enough for me not to hit anything or knock something over when I turn.

Every seat is equipped with USB ports and an AC power port.

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The Crew

The crew on this flight are much better than the previous lot. You can tell by the ease with which they interact with the passengers and the efficiency with which they complete their pre-departure tasks. To be fair, they’re probably also in a good mood because there are only eight passengers in the Business Class cabin on this flight.

Amenities

The vanity kit is identical to the one I received on the previous flight from Zürich. I think I forgot to mention in my previous post that the kit for men also includes a one-way shaver with shaving cream.

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Once I wake up again, I make a closer inspection of the inflight entertainment system. The selection is sufficiently large, but even so, I think there isn’t a single thing I would actually want to watch. Then again, perhaps there are people who actually do enjoy watching the untalented Mr Gosling trying to make his mind up whether he wants to talk or sing his way through an entire movie…

The First Service

On this flight the service makes a lot more sense than it did on the previous flight and follows the same sequence as my morning flight from Dubai to Amsterdam the week before. Just after departure a small breakfast is served, which I pass on, and then the proper of full meal service takes place before landing in KL.

The Meal

About two and a half hours out of KL passengers are starting to stir from sleep so it’s time for the crew to begin their main service. As on the previous flight, there are four options for the first course, main course and dessert.

Amuse Bouche

Cream cheese and smoked salmon canapés.

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The Soup

Cream of asparagus. It’s served with a cheese stick and lemon, which goes surprisingly well with the fine taste. There’s also something spicy in there to give the soup a bit of a zing.

The Salad

Seasonal salad with vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

Linguine pasta with a creamy pesto and parmesan shavings. The main course is tasty, although the pasta is definitely overcooked, which is normally the case when you have pasta on a plane.

Dessert

Ice cream selection with pistachios and chocolate sauce.

Arrival

We land in KL at around 20h40, more than an hour later than our scheduled arrival time. The approach is pretty spectacular. There are storm cells in the vicinity of the airport and with the darkness around us, the bursts of lighting look pretty impressive!

Conclusion

Okay. On this flight Oman Air definitely managed to redeem themselves after last night’s rather unpleasant flight from Zürich to Muscat. The delay was not such a major issue for me and we were only a bit more than an hour late arriving in KL. However, I do think the staff on the ground could have handled the situation much better. No information was given at any time unless you explicitly asked for it, which is obviously not the way to do it in case of an irregularity. All in all, Oman Air is a nice little airline but they lack polish and professionalism in my opinion.

Oman Air, Business Class – A 330-200: Muscat to Zürich

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Introduction

I just arrived in Muscat on an Oman Air flight from Dubai. In a few hours time I shall continue my journey to Zürich.

Transfer in Muscat

The transfer in Muscat is easy, convenient and quick. The bus from the aircraft drops me off at arrivals. Straight ahead is the counter for visas on arrival and immigration beyond that.

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Transit passengers however, turn left and then take the escalators one floor up to security and the transfer area. There are quite a few flights leaving around this time of day, even so, the line for security can hardly be described as being busy.

The Lounge

Location: The Oman Air lounge is located behind the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge: Dedicated Oman Air lounge.
Facilities: Toilets, showers in the lounge.
Internet: Free wifi, the password is available at reception.

The lounge is a good size. It is not really very big, but then again there do not seem to be that many passengers using it either. The facility is currently undergoing construction and extension.

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The selection of food and drinks is very good, with a wide choice of Arabic and Western dishes, both hot and cold.

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Boarding

Priority Boarding: There is a separate shuttle bus for passengers travelling in Business Class. In Muscat Oman Air boards Economy Class passengers first. Business Class passengers are boarded last. Theoretically you could try boarding one of the Economy Class busses, but the gate dragons are certainly not amused if you try to pull that one on them.

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More than anything, I am just delighted by the opportunities the ramp boarding gives me to get up close and personal with the aircraft.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 x 2 x 1.
Pitch: 88 inches.
Length as a bed: 5 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Facilities: One AC port, two USB ports, Ethernet socket and audio video assumption (RCA) socket per passenger in Business Class. There is also wifi available on board, provided by onair, which is the same provider Emirates uses. So if you have an account already, you will be able to use it on Oman Air as well. However, passengers in Business Class also have to pay for wifi connectivity.
Audio and Video: The selection is limited and the choice of films is somewhat strange.
Seat: There are twenty seats in the Business Class cabin, which is divided in two separate cabins. The larger cabin is located between the front galley and the second galley and has a total of twelve seats on three rows. The rear Business Class cabin is behind the second galley and has another eight seats on two rows.

The Oman Air seat is really very nice for a Business Class product. In actual fact, it is more akin to the First Class seat on many other carriers. The cabin is kept in shades of brown and beige. Upon entering the cabin, the first thing you notice is the smell. I do not know where it comes from, but I think it is quite obvious that it is a smell that is intentionally fed into the air conditioning system. It is very subtle and instantly gives you the sensation of having stepped on board a carrier from the Middle East.

I am seated on row 10, which is the bulkhead row in the forward Business Class cabin. Today’s flight has a good load in both classes. In the forward Business Class cabin only two seats remain empty. In the rear cabin there are also only few empty seats.

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The Crew

The Business Class crew on today’s flight is made up predominantly of females of southeast Asian descent. They are much friendlier than the crew on the previous flight and interact with the crew in a very pleasant manner.

The Meal

Welcome drink: There is a choice of water, orange juice or lemon and mint juice. I have the orange juice.

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Hot Towel: Hot towels are served before the doors close. And they really are very hot towels!

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Choice: There are five choices for the first course and four choices for the main course, with at least one vegetarian option for the first and main course. For dessert there are three options plus cheese.

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Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal: Late lunch.

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The Soup

Arabic red lentil soup with pita bread croûtons.

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The Cheese

A selection of cheese with fig bread, served with dried apricot and walnuts.

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Dessert

Selection of ice cream.

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To be honest, I am not really that hungry yet. I am still rather full from the meal I had on the short hop from Dubai to Muscat. So instead of indulging in another full meal, I go for the red lentil soup and some cheese after that.

The soup is excellent. It is flavourful and quite spicy for an airline meal. The cheese platter which follows is good, although it is way too much cheese for just one person.

For dessert I have the ice cream, which is described in the menu as ‘a selection of ice creams’, which I take to mean that there are different choices. But in actual fact, when it arrives the dessert consists of three scoops of ice cream in one plate, with chocolate sauce drizzled over them and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts.

The Second Service

Towel: Hot scented towel.
Choice: No.
Delivery: Individual tray service.
Type of meal: Light snack.
Meal:

  1. Mixed salad with chicken.
  2. Crumbed chicken goujons with sweet chilli dip.
  3. Grilled vegetable and cream cheese panini.
  4. Frosted mini chocolate muffin.
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A bit more than two hours out of Zürich I start to get hungry. I ask one of the flight attendants if perhaps there might be something to eat before the second snack service. A few minutes she returns and sets the table for me. She then brings me a very tasty salad with marinated chicken breast.

By the time I am finished, it is time for the second service and I figure I might as well have that too.

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Arrival

Eventually the flight draws to an end. The aircraft gently dips its nose and we start our initial descent over Austria. Along the way, we pass the Alps, which look beautiful still covered in their coat of white. They are quite a contrast to the landscapes we left behind just a few hours previously.

Like most of the long-haul flights, Oman Air uses the E dock in Zürich.

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Getting into Town

Transport: Train
Departs from: The railway station is located under the central terminal facility. The station is connected to the Swiss national and international rail network and offers services to many parts of Switzerland.
Journey time: One hour and twenty minutes, there is a direct train to Basel at 4 minutes past the hour. The last train leaves for Basel at 21h04.
Fare: CHF35 one way.

Conclusion

I last flew with Oman Air three years ago on the same routing. I think what impresses me most about the carrier is the consistency of their product. In fact, the flights I took with them on this trip were an exact replica of the previous trip, save perhaps that horribly flashy vanity kit they used to have which has since been replace by something a little more subtle.

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The new airport in Muscat is quickly taking shape and will probably open not too long from now. With this new facility, Oman Air will have a hub that will be comparable to the products in neighbouring Dubai or Doha, at least in terms of comfort if not in size. Having said that, I do think it is a pity the old airport at Seeb will be closing down. One of the things I have always liked about Oman is that it is a very traditional country. And to me, to a certain extent, the old airport exemplifies that very well. But I guess you cannot stop progress.

And now what? Now I have the luxury of being able to spend an entire week in the office in Switzerland without travel. And then the week after that I will be going to Luxembourg, the week after that to Bucharest, the week after that to Tokyo and the week after that to Luxembourg again.