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

Oman Air Logo

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 – Boeing B 787-9: Zürich to Muscat

Oman Air Logo

Date: 12. April 2017
Departure: 21:50
Arrival: 05:57
Flight time: 6 hours 7 minutes
Seat: 15A, window

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Introduction

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. In Switzerland Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays so all public services and most offices and shops will be closed. Many people take advantage of the long weekend to go away. And so I’m expecting Zürich Airport to be rather busy when I arrive by train. Much to my surprise though, the place is really quiet. In fact, it’s a lot quieter than usual.

Check-in

Oman Air has its check-in counters on row 1 of terminal 2 at Zürich Airport. There is one counter for Business Class passengers and four counters for Economy Class passengers. And there’s loads of staff milling about. What on earth do they need all these people for? Some of them are check-in agents from Swissport that are just wearing an Oman Air tie or a scarf. Others however, look as though they’re employed by Oman Air and are wearing the airline’s full uniform.

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I step onto the plush, soft carpet in front of the Business Class counter. The young lady behind the desk issues my boarding passes straight away and has already prepared for me the lounge invitation for my transit in Muscat. If you’ve already checked in online, Oman Air will hand you a ‘proper’ boarding pass at the gate and will hand you your lounge invitation for Muscat at the gate.

The young lady informs me that an Oman Air rep will come to the lounge to collect me once boarding begins. So far I’m quite impressed by the operation here in Zürich.

The Lounge

Oman Air uses the Swissport Aspire Lounge in the E dock. My flight will be departing form gate E46.

The stairs leading up to the Aspire lounge are located right in front of the Starbucks Café on the E concourse. The selection of food and beverages in the lounge is limited to small cold and warm snacks, things like greasy spring rolls and very sweet cakes.

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The design of the lounge is nice, bright and airy. However, there are no toilets or showers on the premises. Despite all this, I very much like this lounge for its one redeeming feature which really is a major selling point in my view: it has an outdoor deck. It’s a good thing it’s already getting dark, otherwise I think I’d seriously be at risk of missing my flight for all the plane spotting you can do here. As it happens, runway 28 is in use for arrivals this evening, which means I get to see Emirates’ evening A 380 service to Zürich applying some pretty serious braking action on the relatively short runway.

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Boarding

Boarding is from gate E46 and start about forty minutes before departure. I’m guessing that with the very strict curfew in place at Zürich Airport the airline is keen the make sure to get away without any major delays.

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Business Class passengers are invited to board the aircraft first.

The Cabin

Today’s flight is being operated by a brand spanking new Boeing B 787-9 which has only been in revenue service for six weeks. After the short hop last month from Heathrow to Paris CDG on Air Frances’ B 787-9, this will be my second journey on this type. Yes, I know I’m a nerd but that’s still no reason to be sloppy with the details. Yeah?

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Seat numbering is rather strange on Oman Air. The airline is in the process of abolishing its First Class product and refitting all aircraft with a Business Class/Economy Class seating configuration. Even so, Business Class has retained the original numbering, so that the first row in this cabin is row 11. On the Boeing B 787-9 the main Business Class cabin is located between the L/R1 and L/R2 doors. In addition, there is a single row in a mini cabin located behind the galley before the Economy Class cabin starts. This is row 15 and is where I am sitting today.

I really like the colours in the Oman Air cabin. Everything is kept in earthy tones, with light and dark brown colours and a bit of turquoise thrown in for good measure.

The configuration in Business Class is 2 + 2 + 2. The seat is based on a similar principle as the Japan Airlines seat in that the two seats on every pair are staggered. There is also a privacy screen that can be raised after take-off in case you don’t fancy staring at your neighbour’s ugly mug for six hours. The best feature though, is that the staggered seating configuration enables that passengers seated by the window to also have aisle access without the embarrassment of having to climb over the person sitting on the aisle seat. Storage space is good. Being a night flight, a blanket and pillow have already been placed at every seat.

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The Crew

The crew are the usual mix of nationalities that you find on all the Middle East carriers. I’m guessing some of the crew are form the Philippines, some from Thailand and a few from India.

The service starts with a welcome drink, hot towel and the distributions of the menus and vanity kits. Once boarding is completed, the crew pass through the cabin with the traditional Omani welcome of dates and saffron scented Arabic coffee.

Amenities

The vanity kit has a good toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste, eye shades, earplugs and a range of cosmetics from Oman’s Amouage perfume, which is, admittedly, an acquired taste and very strong.

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The IFE screen is fairly big and can be operated either using the remote control or via touchscreen, although the latter is somewhat inconvenient given the distance between the seat and the screen.

The Meal

There is a choice of four options to choose from for the first course, main course and dessert and there is usually a vegetarian option included on the menu. Given that it’s already late and the flight is not that long, I decide to go with just the Arabic mezze.

The meal service does not start until more than an hour after take-off and it is quite obvious that the crew are unprepared for passengers like me that just want a light meal in order to give them some time to sleep. So instead of dishing out the food straight away, the crew go all out and start serving the aperitifs and an amuse bouche. By this time it’s become quite apparent that it’ll be a while longer until they finally start serving the meal. So the next time a member of the crew walks by, I tell them I’m tired and that I’ve decided not to have dinner after all.

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The Second Service

I awake about eighty minutes out of Muscat. As soon as the crew notice I’m awake, they bring me the breakfast, which consists of:

  1. coffee
  2. a bowl with different rolls and pastries
  3. a bowl of yoghurt with some green unidentifiable fruity stuff in it
  4. a bowl of fruit salad
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According to the menu there should also have been some cheese, but none of the passengers seem to get any of that. What’s more, there is no jam and if you want a juice you have to request it specifically.

Arrival

The new terminal in Muscat has yet to open. But I ain’t complaining because as long as the old facility is still in use, all passengers will need to deplane via stairs and journey to arrivals by bus.

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There is a separate, dedicated Business Class bus to bring passengers to the terminal.

Conclusion

All in all, I think Oman Air’s performance can only be described as an epic fail. First of all, I think their service concept on this flight is highly unsuitable for the flight time and schedule. On a flight that leaves fairly late in the evening, it should be expected that many passengers will want to get to sleep as quickly as possible and there should be an appropriate meal option for them.

Other than that though, I also found today’s crew somewhat unprofessional and inattentive. For example, my coffee cup was not collected prior to take-off and the passenger seated next to me did not eat one of the canapés that was served as an amuse bouche. When I woke up for breakfast a few hours later, the small plate had still not been removed and the amuse bouche looked decidedly unappealing.

Oman Air, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Muscat to Zürich

Oman Air Logo

Date: 23. December 2016
Departure: 14:30
Arrival: 18:10
Flight time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Seat: 5A, window

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Transfer in Muscat

I have two hours to make my connection to Zürich. From arrivals I head one floor up to the transit and departures area, which is also where the security checkpoint is located. In Oman laptops and liquids do not need to be removed from your bag at security.

The Lounge

Location: Behind the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge:
Oman Air First and Business Class lounge.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge.
Showers:
Available in the lounge.
Food & Beverages: The lounge has a large buffet with hot and cold food, with a selection of Western, Indian and Omani dishes. Seeing as I have only just had lunch and will probably be eating again on the next flight, I do not have anything to eat in the lounge.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available, password required.
Comment:
With the increase of traffic to Oman and the expansion of Oman Air, the lounge in Muscat is seriously at the limit of its capacity. Since I was last here, the area has been extended, but even so, the lounge was simply never designed to handle so much traffic.

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Boarding

On my previous flights with Oman Air there was always a dedicated bus service to the aircraft for Business Class passengers in Muscat. This may or may not still be the case, because today by the time I arrive at the gate, most of the passengers have already boarded, so I just step on the first bus that comes along.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2.
Seat Layout: Much to my surprise, the Boeing 787 has a different cabin layout to the Airbus A 330-200 I just arrived in Muscat with. This aircraft has a more traditional, if not to say old fashioned, configuration. I believe it is the same seat that LOT Polish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines have installed on the Boeing 787. The cabin definitely looks more spacious than that of the Airbus, but it is also a lot less private. Later on the cabin crew tells me that this particular aircraft in on a long-term lease from Kenya Airways. From what I know, as part of the same deal that saw Oman Air taking over this aircraft from Kenya Airways, they also source a further slot pair in Heathrow from Kenya Airways – allowing Oman Air to operate a second daily flight.
Capacity:

  1. Business Class – 30 seats.
  2. Economy Class – 204.

Pitch: 74 inches.
Width: 31 inches.
AC Power: There is a AC 110V power port and a USB port at every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: The aircraft has the same IFE system as the Airbus A 330-200 on the previous flight, which is very responsive and fast.
Connectivity: Wifi is also available on the Boeing 787-8, with the same price plan as on the Airbus A 330.
Comment:
The one thing I really do not like at all on the Boeing 787 are those bloody electric window shades. In particular, what I dislike is the fact that it allows the crew to dictate what you do with your window shades. When I enter the aircraft, the shades are fully dark and I cannot see anything outside. For take-off, the shades are then brightened. However, after take-off I have the sun shining fully in my face and on the video screen, but I have no means of making the shades any darker until the crew release the shade controls.

Other than that, I find the cabin very noisy.

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Configuration of Oman Air’s own Dreamliner
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Configuration of the aircraft leased from Kenya Airways
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The Crew

The crew on this flight are friendly. More over, it is interesting that there are even a few females in the crew too. On the previous flight from KL there was only one female cabin attendant.

The process is the same. I take my seat and then receive the hot towel, the menu, the earphones and a welcome drink. This time I go with the lemon and lime juice, which is very refreshing.

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Amenities

  1. Shaver with shaving cream.
  2. Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste.
  3. Eye shades.
  4. Earplugs.
  5. A comb.
  6. More useless Amouage cosmetics…

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Lemon and lime juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served while still on the ground.
Pre-meal drink:
Diet Coke.
Choice: There are three choices each for the starter, main course and dessert.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Beverages:
Diet Coke and still water.
Comment:
The quality and quantity of the food is good. The crew’s timing and pace of the meal is excellent. There are no long waits in between courses and drinks are constantly replenished.

Amuse Bouche

A canapé with cream cheese and another with smoked salmon.

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The First Course

Selection of Arabic mezze – chicken ball skewer, labneh with a lot of garlic, something with puréed aubergine and parsley, black and green olives, lemon.

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The Main Course

Penne pasta with vegetables and parmesan.

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Dessert

Buttermilk panna cotta with poached dates and caramel sauce.

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The Second Service

Choice: There are two choices for the savoury item.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Light snack.
Main course:
Grilled vegetable sandwich, served warm.
Dessert:
Chocolate fudge cake.
Beverages:
Diet Coke.
Comment:
The meal hits the spot nicely. To be honest I am still full from the lunch, so I just have half of the sandwich and the chocolate cake, which is very rich and sticky.

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent into Zürich. When we departed Muscat earlier in the day, the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees Celsius. By the time we land in Zürich it is dark, the notorious fog is already starting to gather on the ground and the temperature is a mere chilly 4 degrees Celsius. The flight arrives 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

It is nice to be home.

Conclusion

On The Airbus A 330 from KL to Muscat I was surprised in a good way with the new seat. I was kind of expecting it to be a sort of anti-climax in comparison to the old First Class type seat. All in all though, I think Oman Air has done a good job refurbishing the A 330.

As for the Boeing 787, I really have to say I do not like this plane. I found it rather noisy and the cabin design and layout is old fashioned and drab.

As far as the service is concerned, I found the crew to be very professional, friendly and competent, although perhaps not quite as polished as the Qatar Airways crews.

The transfer in Muscat is always an experience I enjoy. It is not just the deplaning via stairs, which is very cool, but the old terminal, which reminds me a lot of the old facility there used to be in Malta. I am curious to see what things will be like once the new airport opens.

Without a doubt there is a lot to be said for a nonstop connection between Europe and Asia, like the Cathay Pacific flight I took from Frankfurt to Hong Kong at the start of the week. However, I am starting to appreciate the benefits of a stop on the way, either in Muscat, Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha. It is kind of nice to be able to get off the plane after a few hours, if only just to stretch your legs a bit.

All that is left now, is for me to wish everyone…

Merry Christmas!

Oman Air, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Kuala Lumpur to Muscat

Oman Air Logo

Date: 23. December 2016
Departure: 09:40
Arrival: 13:10
Flight time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Seat: 10A

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Getting to the Airport

In Kuala Lumpur I am staying at the Sama Sama hotel that is connected to the airport terminal building via footbridge. It takes you about five minutes on foot from the hotel lobby to the departures concourse on level 4 of the terminal building.

Check-in

Terminal: 1.
Row: M
Airport check-in:

  1. Business Class – two counters.
  2. Web check-in – one counter.
  3. Economy Class – four counters.

Web check-in: I receive an e-mail from Oman Air the evening before the flight, inviting me to check in online for the flight from Muscat to Zürich, but not for the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Muscat. So I am not quite sure what that e-mail was about and what the web check-in counter is supposed to be for.
Comment: The airport is crawling with people when I arrive for check-in. There are long queues for all airlines and outside, most of the aircraft stands appear to be occupied.

The Lounge

Location: In the satellite terminal, above the station of the shuttle to the main building.
Name of Lounge:
Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge.
Type of Lounge:
Malaysia Airlines Business Class lounge.
Toilets:
Toilets are available in the lounge, but they are pretty old and smelly.
Showers:
Also available, but in equally bad shape as the toilets.
Food & Beverages: There is a selection of hot and cold dishes, with a mix of traditional Malaysian and Western breakfast dishes.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available in the lounge, password required.
Comment:
The lounge is used by all passengers travelling on Malaysia Airlines and a few others, like Oman Air. As a result, the place is completely full and there is hardly a place to sit. Once I do find a place to sit down, I go and get myself a drink, only to find that they have run out of clean glasses.

I think this is a really nicely designed lounge, but I also think it is starting to show its age, it looks tired and worn.

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Boarding

Priority Boarding: Kind of…
Number of Airbridges:
2.
Comment:
My flight is boarding from gate C1, which shares a security checkpoint with gate C3. There are two queues for the security checkpoint. There is no dedicated lane for Business Class passengers but at least the queue moves fairly quickly. Once you are inside the holding pen, there are two separate exits to the aircraft. Business Class passengers use the L1 door, all other passengers use the L2.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2.
Seat Layout: Oman Air has started to renew the Business Class cabin of its Airbus aircraft. Where previously the A 330s had a seat that was more akin to what other airlines have in First Class, the new Business Class definitely makes better use of the available space. Oman Air has installed the same seat that Japan Airlines has on the Boeing B777-300 on long-haul flights. On a pair of two, the seats are slightly staggered, with the aisle seat is slightly behind the window seat to allow the person sitting by the window easy access to the aisle without having to climb over another person.

Apart from the fact that the seat and cabin are obviously still very new, I like the colours Oman Air uses, a combination of light and dark browns with a dash of turquoise to liven things up.
Capacity:

  1. Business Class – 30 seats.
  2. Economy Class – 196 seats.

Pitch: 82 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Length as a Bed: 77.5 inches.
AC Power:
Every seat in Business Class has its own AC power port and two USB ports.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand. The IFE system is operated via remote control. The control reacts very well and is very fast.
Earphones: No name branded earphones.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available on board and there are different price plans for mobile devices and laptops. You can choose between 30 minutes/10 MB for USD7; 60 minutes/25 MB for USD13; or 3 hours/100 MB for USD20.
Comment:
Of course the new seat is not as luxurious and spacious as the old Business Class seat that used to be installed on the A 330. However, having said that, the new seat certainly makes more sense commercially. I like this seat. It offers a lot of storage space and if you raise the privacy screen between you and the person on the aisle, the window seat really is quite private. Besides, on this particular flight only 10 out of 30 seats are occupied anyway.

I was unable to find a seat map with the new cabin layout.

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The Crew

The crew are friendly enough. As soon as I am seated, I am brought a scented hot towel that is so hot it actually has steam rising from it. In short succession I am also brought the earphones, the vanity kit, the menu and an orange juice.

Once the doors close, the service begins with the traditional Omani welcome, which consists of a fresh date and a cup of Arabic coffee.

Amenities

  1. Shaver with shaving cream.
  2. Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste.
  3. Eye shades.
  4. Earplugs.
  5. A comb.
  6. A lot of useless Amouage cosmetics (lip balm, eye cream, hand cream…)

The First Service

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served while still on the ground.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
First course:
Natural yoghurt with honey.
Main course:
Bowl of fruit (mango, pineapple, grape, kiwi, melon, nectarine)
Breadbasket:
A selection of warm breads, including Arabic bread, a Danish roll, a croissant and a bun, served with butter.
Beverages:
Coffee with cream, orange juice.
Comment:
On the morning flight from Kuala Lumpur Oman Air changes the service order around. Just after take-off the small meal is served, while the main meal is served prior to arrival in Muscat.

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The Meal

Choice: There are three options each for the starter, the main course and the dessert.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Breadbasket: A selection of bread, including Arabic flat bread.
Beverages:
A Diet Coke and still water, coffee after the meal.
Comment:
Ninety minutes out of Muscat the main meal service begins. For the starter I have the Arabic mezze, which are quite tasty. I have to say, this dish is not on the same level as Qatar Airways’ mezze platter, for example. But the food is good enough and the presentation is nice.

For the main course I have the beef curry and this really is quite tasty – the beef is so tender! The meal is served with cucumber and a chilli in case you like your food a bit spicier.

I decide to skip dessert and have the cheese plate instead. As the flight attendant comes to remove the plate from the main course, he notices that I have already demolished all the bread, so with the cheese plate he also brings me some more bread.

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First Course

Arabic hot and cold mezze (labneh, olives, samosa and something red with a tasty, strong flavour of roasted bell peppers.

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The Main Course

Oriental beef curry with a spiced gravy and fragrant steamed rice.

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The Cheese

A selection of cheese with pineapple chutney and poached pears.

Arrival

Our arrival into Muscat is very spectacular and leads us along the cost past Mutrah and the city of Muscat to land in a westerly direction.

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From the outside, the new terminal in Muscat looks nearly finished. However, I ask one of the cabin crew and he tells me the facility will not be opening before the end of 2017 because there is still quite a lot of work to be completed on the inside of the building.

But of course this is all good news for me because it means we will be deplaning via stairs and ferried to the terminal by bus. I always enjoy taking a good look at the aircraft I fly with from the outside. Business Class passengers are bussed across to the terminal in their own, dedicated bus.

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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.

Oman Air, Business Class – B 737-700: Dubai to Muscat

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Introduction

This has been an interesting stay in the United Arab Emirates. On Friday we completed a course in Al Ain, which is in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and lies about ninety minutes by car due east of Dubai, close to the boarder with the Sultanate of Oman.

Al Ain is very different from the hustle and bustle of hectic Dubai. The entire region is much greener, it is less densely populated and the sand dunes have a spectacular red hue that the sand is the area around Dubai does not have. Al Ain is not really a tourist destination, mainly due to the fact that it is nowhere near the sea and there are not really that many things to do.

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In Al Ain I stayed at the Hilton. It is not a bad place to stay, although it is somewhat disconcerting how empty the place is. The hotel also functions as the city’s local recreational facility, and thus boasts a fully equipped gym and a lap pool of 25 metres.

On Saturday morning, my colleague – the valiant and intrepid M. – and I decide to head for Dubai. Our flight will be leaving from Dubai on Sunday morning at 10h00. Originally we had planned to stay in Al Ain until Sunday and leave the hotel at around 05h30 in the morning to be at the airport with enough time to spare to bring back the car. But then the course participants told us all sorts of stories about the horrific traffic in the Dubai area, until eventually we decided to spend our last night a bit closer to Dubai airport.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Rented car.
Journey time: 30 minutes.
First we need to fill the tank before we return the car. We pay AED75 for 43 litres, which is roughly CHF20. Just in case you were wondering, in Switzerland you would have to pay something to the tune of CHF68 for the same amount of petrol…

The journey to the airport is pleasant enough. The traffic is still light, but I suspect it will be picking up shortly. We drop off the rented car at Parking A2, on the departures level opposite the terminal.

Check-in

Location: Oman Air operates out of Terminal 1 at Dubai airport, which is the facility most carriers use. Terminal 2 is used by Flydubai and a few others.
Counters: The Oman Air counters are located on row E. There are four Economy Class counters and two Business Class counters.
Check-in for all flights opens three hours before departure, which means we are still a few minutes early, thanks to the expert driving skills of the valiant M (Let me just say it was one of those moments when you see your entire life flashing by….).

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At 07h00 sharp two young ladies appear to start check-in for the flight. I am quickly issued my boarding passes and an invitation to the Gulf Air lounge. My suitcase has been tagged all the way to Zürich.

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The Lounge

Location: Just past gate C22.
Type of Lounge: Gulf Air lounge.
Facilities: Toilets and showers in the lounge.
Internet: Free wifi available in the lounge. The password is signposted throughout the lounge.

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Boarding

Dubai airport uses a closed gate system. Subsequently, my boarding pass states that boarding for the flight will begin at 09h00, one hour before departure. But in actual fact, 09h00 is just the time the gate opens.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 x 2.
Pitch:
40 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities:
None.
Audio and Video: Not available.
Seat: There are twelve seats on three rows in Business Class on the Boeing B 737-700. It is nice to travel on a narrow-body with a dedicated Business Class cabin and seat, even if the flight time from Dubai to Muscat is only a short forty minutes.

The seats are in leather, or probably plastic that looks and feels like leather. Given the hot temperatures in this part of the world, this is not necessarily the best idea, seeing as leather does not really ‘breathe’ and has a tendency to leave you hot and sticky.

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The Crew

There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin today. Their manner is what I would call business friendly. But in a way, you cannot really blame them for that. With a flight time of only 45 minutes, they are all too busy trying to serve a full cabin of twelve passengers in time.

It is very hazy here in Dubai today. In fact, the visibility already started deteriorating the previous evening. As a result, there is a bit of a queue for departure and we are number nine in line. It is really interesting to see how ATC sets up the aircraft for departure in Dubai. Aircraft are lined up simultaneously on four taxiways in parallel on both sides of the active runway.

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Eventually, after waiting in queue for about twenty minutes, we take-off in an easterly direction with a delay of one hour.

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The Meal

Welcome drink:

A selection of water and juices. I have the lemon and mint juice, which is very refreshing.

Once the doors close, the crew pass through the cabin offering fresh dates and Arabic coffee.
Hot Towel: There is a choice of hot or cold towels. Both of which are very lightly scented.
Meal: There is a choice of two main dishes.
Delivery: Individual tray service.
Type of meal: Lunch.
Meal:

  1. Mixed salad with feta, cucumber and bell peppers.
  2. Tortellini filled with meat on a cheese sauce with tomatoes, broccoli and pumpkin.
  3. Cheesecake for dessert.
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The meal is very tasty. More than anything though, I am amazed that Oman Air not only provide a choice of main course on a sector of only 45 minutes, but that they also offer a hot meal as one of the choices!

Halfway into demolishing the cheesecake, the seatbelt sign goes on again and the pilots informs us that we have started out initial descent into Muscat.

The weather in Muscat is pretty much the same as in Dubai. It is a balmy 25 degrees Celsius with low visibility due to the haze. In Muscat, the new terminal infrastructure is quickly taking shape. The construction of the terminal appears to be finished, it is now only a question of putting in the fittings. We land on the newly built runway, which runs in parallel to the existing one but on the other side of the newly built apron. Out taxi time to the old apron, which is still in use is about 5 minutes.

Transfer in Muscat

In Muscat there are no air bridges, so all passengers have to be transported to the terminal by bus. There is a dedicated shuttle bus for Business Class passengers only. I always find it a tad uncomfortable on Oman Air to watch one of the flight attendants rush to block the Economy Class passengers from disembarking before all the Business Class passengers have left the aircraft.

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Air France, Economy Class – CRJ1000 / A 319: To the lavender fields of Provence

Introduction

A while back Air France came up with the bright idea of setting up secondary, low-cost hubs in Toulouse and Marseille. Among the newly opened routes was Marseille to Basel, where I live. I’ve always wanted to visit the Provence region of France, so once the flights were released for sale, I booked myself on a flight from Basel to Marseille in the evening of Friday, 29. June 2012. The return would be the next evening, on Saturday, 30. June 2012. This gave me nearly 24 hours to drive out of the city to see if I could find the famous lavender fields of Provence, which are in bloom in June.

And then along came Air France and made a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing. Quite a while after I had booked the flights, I received a mail from Air France informing me that due to the bad performance of the route, the Saturday flight had been cancelled. I would need to be rebooked. The easiest thing of course, would have been to rebook me for the flight the next evening, Sunday, 01. July 2012. But private affairs required me to be back in Basel on Sunday morning, so instead of taking the direct service, I opted for a 06h15 departure from Marseille to Roissy and then on to Basel. That would get me into Basel at 09h45. 06h15 is very early and yes, transferring in Roissy is not my idea of fun either. But it cannot be helped.

Then a while later I needed to be in Dubai for a week, until 28. June 2012. I subsequently booked flights with Oman Air to get me from Zürich via Muscat to Dubai and back. The Oman Air flight back to Zürich would be on Friday, 29. June 2012 and would arrive back in Zürich at 18h40. This gave me enough time to get back to Basel, grab my rucksack and head for Basel airport for the flight to Marseille at 23h00.

And then along came Air France and made a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing. After I had booked the trip to Oman, I received another mail from Air France informing me that the flight from Basel to Marseille had been rescheduled and would now already be leaving at 20h00. There was no way I would make it from Zürich by that time. And so it came that the outbound flight had to be changed as well. Eventually I was rebooked to leave Basel at 10h00 on Saturday, 30. June 2012. I would fly to Marseille via Orly.

But one must look at the positive side. At least this meant that I would be flying on the Britair CRK to Orly.

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Date: 30. June 2012
From: Basel
To: Paris Orly
Airline: Brit Air for Air France
Aircraft: Bombardier Canadair Regonal Jet CRJ-1000
Cabin:
Economy Class
Seat: 1A

Getting to the Airport

The journey begins, yet again, outside the main railway station in Basel. It is here that I catch the line 50 to the airport.

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The airport is looking good. Following the completion of the exterior, the interior has now also been revamped.

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This here is actually what used to be the oldest part of the original construction from the 1970s.

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I cross over into the French side. I’ve already done OLCI, so I head upstairs for security.

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Airside

The French side of the departure lounge is empty.

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At around 09h30, my bird finally makes an appearance. This will be my first trip with the CRK!

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Boarding

A short while later, boarding is called. The load on today’s flight is rather light and boarding is quickly completed.

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The Cabin

Platinum members get seats at the front of the plane, hence I am on 1A. There are about 8 empty rows in between me and the rest of the passengers. The cabin on this bird is in mint condition and has that lovely crisp new plane smell about it. I suspect it hasn’t been in service very long.

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The cabin crew make a quick welcome announcement in French and English and then we’re off.

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Take-off is to the south towards Switzerland and Basel. After take-off we do a steep right turn and set course for Paris.

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The Crew

Once the seat belt sign goes off, the curtains close and the crew start to prepare for the service. The cabin crew on this flight consists of two very chirpy and friendly French young ladies. Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps it’s the light load or perhaps a combination of both but they appear to be in a really good mood.

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The Meal

For the meal I have a cup of hot chocolate and sweet biscuits. The flight attendant tells me that the hot chocolate is made with water. But If I add two creamers I won’t be able to tell the difference. I try and must admit, not bad at all.

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The weather en route is overcast.

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Arrival

On the approach the weather clears up. But alas I am sitting on the wrong side to be able to see the city.

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We arrive in Orly on time and taxi past a huge variety of different airlines and aircraft types. A short and pleasant flight comes to an end.

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Transfer in Paris Orly

Domestic flights arrive and depart from Orly Ouest. The terminal is quite old and evidently not geared for transfer passengers. This means that although I’m on an intra-Schengen flight, I will still have to go through security again. There is a separate area for SkyPriority passengers to check-in, but alas no fast track through security.

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The Lounge

Even so, once I’m through security I still have enough time to visit ‘Le Salon Air France’. Air France operates a shuttle, called ‘La Navette’, to a number of French cities. These flights all leave from the same area in Hall 2 and the lounge is only available to these flights. The lounge is not very well stocked and not exactly fancy. But it gets the job done and it offers some excellent views of the apron.

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Date: 30. June 2012
From:
Paris Orly
To:
Marseille
Airline:
Air France
Aircraft:
Airbus A319
Cabin:
Economy Class
Seat:
10D, aisle

Boarding

Boarding is called a few minutes late. It’s an orderly affair and Air France take their boarding by seat rows very seriously.

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Originally I’m on 10E, the middle seat on the emergency exit. Fortunately the guy on the aisle recognises some pal of his just as the doors close and decides to move. I shift across to the aisle seat, leaving the middle seat empty for the rest of the flight.

The Cabin

The cabin on this aircraft has a very modern and spacious feel to it. The seats are not exactly comfy but sufficient for a short flight of only one hour.

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The Crew

Service on this flight is pretty much the same as on the previous flight. The crew are friendly and chatty.

The Meal

The meal on this flight is as frugal as that on the previous one too. This appears to be the standard on Air France domestic flights. I have a Perrier and more of the biscuits.

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Arrival

The approach takes us over water and eventually a set of large salt pans. It’s quite spectacular.

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After we land we taxi past a huge fleet of fire protection aircraft.

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I deplane and head outside. It’s a nice day but very hot. But it still feels nice. Just like a summer holiday. As for Air France, I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan. But I must say, these two flights were not bad – not bad at all.

Epilogue

The Provence region of France is very beautiful and offers some quite dramatic landscapes. Softly rolling lush green hills will suddenly give way to ragged cliffs with quaint little villages perched dangerously on the promontory. The lavender season, when the flowers are in bloom, is relatively short. I think I was quite lucky in that everything was still in full bloom when I visited.

I think I shall have to return some day and maybe spend some more time here.

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

Introduction

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
From: Dubai
To: Muscat
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.

The Lounge

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.

Boarding

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?

The Cabin

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.

The Meal

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 coffee is served on its own, separate tray.

Arrival

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
From: Muscat
To: Zürich
Airline: Oman Air (WY)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 14E, first row of the second Business Class cabin, aisle seat

The Lounge

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.

Boarding

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

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!

The Meal

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.

Amuse Bouche

We begin with an amuse bouche of chicken in a pistachio and garlic pesto with a spicy chutney.

The First Course

Next I have the centre cut smoked salmon with grilled vegetable timbale, homemade grissini and a creamy pesto sauce.

The Soup

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.

Dessert

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!

Oman Air, Business Class – A 330-200 / E-175: Zürich to Dubai via Muscat

Part I: Heading for Muscat

Introduction

I’m on the airport train. I’m heading for Zürich again. I’m off on a business trip to Dubai, where I will spend nearly a week. It’s nearly the end of June and the temperature has picked up, the clouds have subsided – finally. And something else is different. The light. My train departs Basel’s main station at 19h40 when the low evening light casts a lovely warm glow, brilliant shades of gold across the land.

Date: 22. June 2012
From:
Zürich
To:
Muscat
Airline:
Oman Air (WY)
Aircraft:
Airbus A330-200
Cabin:
Business
Seat:
10K, first row of Business Class, window

‘Are there really no direct flights between Zürich and Dubai?’ I hear you ask. Of course there are. Swiss operates a daily A330-300. The last time I was on that flight, we had a ratio of one flight attendant to every passenger in First Class.

And then of course there’s Emirates, operating two daily flights to Zürich. Both of which I believe, are operated with a Boeing B777.  I chose Oman Air out of simple curiosity. That, and because I want to try their new Embraer E-175.

Getting to the Airport

Here are some pictures of the train journey to Zürich Airport. Everything is a lush green and so different from the landscapes I am heading for.

Loads of leg space.

This here is the original castle Habsburg, from where the Habsburgs set out to become the most dominant political power of their day. It’s near Brugg.

A regional train in Brugg station.

Check-in

I arrive at Zurich Airport just before 21h00. The place is fairly quiet. I reach check-in and here too, there are not many people. There is one couple checking in at an Economy Class counter and another, elderly couple checking in at the Business Class counter. There is a thick, lush carpet spread out before the check-in counter. As I arrive, an agent from DNATA, the handling agent, welcomes me to the flight and tags my luggage. Very friendly and polite.

The Lounge

From there I head through security and then on to the DNATA lounge. The lounge is located one floor up from the transit area, next to the Skyteam lounge. The offerings are more or less the same too, perhaps with the only difference is that the DNATA lounge is even smaller.

Boarding

My stay is a short one. The flight will be leaving from the E dock, like most of the wide-bodies, so I assume there will be a long queue at immigration. And indeed, when I arrive, there are six lanes open and all of them look very busy. But I’m lucky and the queue of passengers moves quickly. After passport control I head downstairs to catch the Skymetro to the E dock.

A quick phone call to my mum later and I’m at my departure gate E46, where boarding for the flight has already started. Although there are two airbridges at the gate, only one is in use today. Even so, I do not have to queue and can go straight on board.

At the door I am welcomed by a friendly Asian female flight attendant and an oriental looking male. He takes my boarding pass and guides me to my seat in the first row of the cabin.

The Cabin

The first impression of the cabin is very good. First of all, I can’t but notice that the seat and stowage space are more like what many other airlines have on offer in First Class. The central bulkhead has two integrated small vitrines showcasing Omani craftsmanship and jewellery.

The Crew

I stow away my things and sit down. Nick, the cabin manager arrives and introduces herself. She brings me a scented refreshing towel and a glass of Elder juice. While we’re chatting, one of her colleagues arrives with the vanity kit and the drinks and food menu. The vanity kit is an opulent affair in gold. Inside there are the famous Amouage cosmetics, as well as the usual shaving kit, toothbrush and tooth paste, a comb and socks. A nice big white pillow and a thick blanket are already at my seat.

Amenities

The Meal

The experience begins shortly before the doors close, I am served a tasty, sweet date and a cup of Arabic coffee. A nice touch, me thinks!

Departure is to the north and very smooth. As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, the cabin crew start taking orders for dinner. I ask for mineral water and receive a glass of San Pellegrino with warm nuts. Something tells me I’m going to enjoy this…

Dining is à la carte and there is a rich and interesting selection of dishes.

Amuse Bouche

First there is a vol-au-vent filled with a mousse of grilled aubergine, together with a shaving of Tête de Moine cheese and chives. ‘Tête de Moine’ literally translates into ‘Monk’s Head’. It’s a typically Swiss cheese. It gets its name from the fact that each serving is shaved off the top of the slab of cheese, making it look like the bald head of a monk.

The Soup

After that, I have the creamy spring vegetable soup with garlic croutons and fine herbs. And it is outstanding. The taste is simply amazing, an interesting combination of pea and asparagus. The soup is served with a slice of lemon. The flight attendant explains that the idea is to squeeze the lemon in the soup. It proves an excellent combination!

The First Course

After the soup I have the tart of red pepper, goats cheese and caramelized onions with a balsamic reduction. This is served on a bed of fresh herbs: coriander, dill, estragon and mint. I am still in two minds if this or the main course was my favourite. The taste is simply outstanding and the pastry is not in the least soggy!

The Main Course

And then comes the main course: pan fried sea bass fillet with lemon-caper butter, braised Mediterranean vegetables and steamed rice with herbs. The lemon-caper butter in particular is exquisite. It is a finely balanced combination of ingredients that complement each other beautifully.

Dessert

To finish off this outstanding meal, I attempt to tackle the home baked chocolate cake with whipped cream and fresh berries. It’s wicked, but in the end the chocolate cake is invincible. After getting through half of it I must admit defeat and capitulate to its sweetness and richness. A battle I tremendously enjoy losing.

After this epic meal, the flight attendant brings me a pair of slippers and pjs. I head for one of the very clean toilets to change. When I return to my seat, it has already been extended into a bed. Over and out!

The Second Service

My only grippe with this flight is really that it is too short for a good night’s sleep. You depart Zürich at 22h30 and arrive in Muscat at 06h30, which is two hours ahead of Zürich. About 80 minutes before we arrive, I awake and immediately one of the attendants asks me if I’d like breakfast. I say yes, but in actual fact I am still full from dinner. I just have the fruit, a brioche, coffee and orange juice. It is worth pointing out that the milk for the coffee is warmed.

Arrival

And then all too soon we start our descent through the heat haze for our arrival into Muscat.

There is a separate coach bus ready to take the 14 Business Class passengers to the terminal. There are no airbridges yet in Muscat, although construction of the new airport is already quite advanced.

Deplaning via the stairs gives me some excellent photo opportunities. But in actual fact I am too close to capture all of the mighty A330 in one shot.

Part II: Connecting to Dubai

Transfer in Muscat

Transfer in Muscat is an efficient and painless affair. The lounge is very full when I arrive. But a short while later, the Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Frankfurt flights are called and the place quickly empties.

Date: 23. June 2012
From: Muscat
To: Dubai
Airline: Oman Air (WY)
Aircraft: Embraer 175
Cabin: Business
Seat: 2A, first row of Business Class, window

The Lounge

By the time the lounge empties, I’m starting to feel hungry again. The food selection in the lounge is an absolute delight. As they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do. So I treat myself to an Arabic breakfast to revive the spirits. I have a hard time choosing from all the lovely dishes there are.

Boarding

After the meal I decide to leave the lounge and have a walk about around the terminal. There has been a recent extension to the facility with additional gates. It has a modern feel to it, with an Arabic twist. And the effect is rather nice, with a reoccurring intricate mashrabiya theme.

On my way to my gate I stop at a shop selling Amouage perfume. It is one of the most expensive perfumes that exist today. The young lady there strikes up a conversation with me. Out of curiosity I ask her which is the famous ‘original’ scent. Before I know it she grabs my arm and sprays some of the stuff on my wrist. The smell is, I must confess, quite exquisite. It smells expensive. It also gives me a headache straight away and I am somewhat alarmed when the young lady assures me that it lasts up to two weeks on the skin. As it turns out, that is perhaps a tad overstated. I head downstairs to the ground level of the building extension, where the gates are.

First all Economy Class passengers are boarded, again with a bus, while the Business Class passengers are boarded last, using their own dedicated bus. And again I’m too close for any decent pictures of the whole aircraft, even if it’s a little mini like the E-175.

The Cabin

The cabin of the aircraft seems new and has a dedicated and very spacious Business Class cabin in a 1 + 2 configuration. I am on 2A, the bulkhead row, which is on the row of single seats.

Service begins while we are still on the ground with the distribution of the very welcome and very refreshing cold towels. Right after this, the male cabin attendant makes a drinks round. I choose a glass of fresh lemonade with mint.

Everything is cleared away as we start our taxi to the runway. The ramp is quite busy at this time of the day. We stop at the holding point for a company E-175 to make its arrival. I can’t help noticing just how dry it looks outside, a vast expanse of desert.

The Meal

We take off in an easterly direction. Shortly after departure we make a wide left 180 degree turn over a beautiful green blue sea. Our flight time is announced as 45 minutes. As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the cabin crew spring in to action. The cabin is full, with 12 passengers in Business Class. Even so, the cabin crew ask every passenger individually what they would like to eat and drink.

I order a Perrier and a coffee. A short while later, the cabin attendant returns with this. Quite impressive for such a short flight:

A mixed platter of (from left to right) pumpernickel with cheese, grilled apple, smoked salmon on a brioche filled with cream cheese, falafel with humus and garlic.

Grilled peppers and olives drizzled in pesto and olive oil.

And for dessert a slice of tasty carrot cake. The size of the meal is perfectly adequate for the duration of the flight and the quality of the food is excellent. Just as I wash down the last of the carrot cake with the coffee, the fasten seatbelt sign comes on again and we start our approach to Dubai.

Arrival

The approach is quite bumpy. It’s very hazy outside so I can’t really see anything much until we are only a few hundred metres above the ground. Fortunately the airport is deserted at this time of the day, unlike the evenings when most of the European carriers arrive in the city. I make my way to immigration and there is next to no queue at all. The immigration officer is a friendly, chatty guy. He checks my visa and passport, and I’m good to go. I pass through customs and then from there head outside to grab a taxi. And I nearly keel over with the heat!

Conclusion

So what did I think of Oman Air? From what I understand, Oman Air does and always has run at a loss. To be honest, I’m really not surprised. Their product is outstanding in terms of hardware, the quality of the food and the friendliness of their crews. Basically they offer a First Class product at Business Class prices. Would I fly them again? Certainly! I just hope they will last long enough at Zürich for me to try them again.