I was in the Qatar over the Christmas holidays having travelled out with my family on British Airways. Unfortunately, British Airways did not have any premium cabin availability between 1st and 5th January from any of the gulf countries and as one my children needed to be back in school on 6th January, I decided to use some of my Etihad Guest miles for two redemption tickets on Oman Air.
Etihad Guest is a rewards partner of American Express and membership rewards points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio. What many people don’t know is that using Etihad Miles on Oman Air offers exceptional value for money. To put this in perspective:
We had arrived in Muscat the night before and stayed at the very pleasant Garden Inn by Hilton. I wanted to make sure my daughter had a good nights rest before school the next day, so we arrived at the airport at 7pm.
Oman have a dedicated check in wing for premium passengers and when we arrived, the place was virtually deserted. It took about 10 minutes to complete the check in process before we were proceeding through the dedicated premium security and passport control. We headed straight to the lounge area so that my daughter could have her supper and then get to sleep.
The lounge is located on the 5th floor with elevators going up there from the main duty free area. The 5th floor is also home to the airport hotel and the Prime Class Lounge which is used by most airlines flying into Muscat International Airport as well as serving members of lounge programmes such as Priority Pass.
When you enter the lounge there is a reception area with the business class lounge to the left and a special door to the right leading into the first class lounge. You are immediately greeted by a large buffet dining area. To the right of the buffet area is a narrow corridor with a bar a small seating area. At the end of this corridor is a second dining area with a another buffet serving a different variety of items to those in the dining area at the entrance of the lounge.
Behind the second dining area is a quiet lounge that has a number of chaise lounge sofas, each fully enclosed by curtains. The quiet lounge also has 4 enclosed rooms each of which have a bed and a small work desk. We asked for a room, but as all were occupied we had our name added to the waiting list.
As my daughter wanted to have a burger at McDonalds (not my preference), we were quite full before we entered the lounge and so we headed to the directly to the enclosed cabanas where my daughter was able to comfortably go to sleep. At about 9pm we were told that a private room was available and we headed there. The private room was extremely comfortable, and we stayed there until it was time to head to our flight.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 0145 and accordingly, we left the lounge at 1am. There was a priority line for reporting business and first-class passengers and this was relatively fast to pass through. After the being accepted for boarding, there was a secondary security check which is conducted on all flights operating on certain routes like London Heathrow. This was also relatively efficient, and we were seated in the departure lounge within 10 minutes of reporting.
Business class passengers are able to board the flight at will and there is a separate airbridge for business and first class passengers to board from. There was no queue to board and we were quickly seated in two of the centre seats. Before take off, drinks were served along with Omani coffee and dates.
Our flight was on one the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft that operates a 3 class configuration- Economy, Business and First.
Oman Air uses the APEX Suite by Collins Aerospace in its 787 business class cabin. These seats may not seem impressive on a cursory look at the seating plan and images as it has 6 seats across the cabin. Unfortunately, the images do not do justice to these incredible seats. Firstly, the window seats offer an incredible amount of privacy which I believe is even better than the enclosed suites on Qatar Airways and British Airways new Club World cabin. In addition, unlike the herringbone or reverse herringbone seat designs which have a narrow footwell, the Apex Suites offer a luxurious amount width from front to back.
Pre-take off drinks of orange juice, water and champagne were offered followed by Omani coffee and dates. Omani coffee is different to the Arabic coffee of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates which are very lightly roasted to retain their green hue and seasoned with cardamom and saffron to give a rich golden colour when served. Omani coffee is made using medium roasted beans and flavoured with saffron, rose water, cardamom and cloves.
Hot towels followed shortly thereafter along with amenity kits and pyjamas.
Dining on Oman Air is on demand, and having not eaten much in the lounge, I was feeling hungry. Accordingly, I opted to dine immediately after take off. I selected the classic Arabic mezze to start. Falafel and kofta served on flights can often be dry – even on the best Gulf airlines and so I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with crisp Falafel and moist, juicy kofta. The hummus was also impressive by airline standards. The texture was silky smooth and rich with the perfect balance of tahina, garlic and lemon.
For the main course I chose the roasted chicken breast. This skin was crisp and the meat was moist and tender. This dish could have been improved with some acidity to balance the sweetness of the dates and pimiento, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless.
For desert, I chose the warm strawberry cake which was light and moist, although I would have preferred some of the aesthetics of the dish being sacrificed for a little bit of extra cream!
After dinner, I was not stuffed, but I was full enough to know that I was going to enjoy my nap.
I changed into the Pyjamas which were delightfully comfortable. In fact the pyjamas are so good that I have continued to use them at home which is not something I generally do with airline pyjamas. The seat reclines into a fully flat bed and crisp white bedding is provided. The blanket in Oman Air brand colours but I would have preferred a crisp white duvet similar to what is provided by White & Co on British Airways club world.
I didn’t get much of a chance to use the inflight entertainment except whilst I was eating. From the little I did experience I could see that there was an extensive range of Hollywood and Bollywood movies, as well as an extensive range of popular current TV shows. ARIA, Oman Air’s inflight entertainment system does not feature quite as much media as Emirates’s ICE but I would say the offering is compatible to Qatar Airways and Etihad.
I slept comfortably until my daughter woke me up about 90 minutes before landing telling me she was hungry! I was half asleep, so didn’t get a chance to take a photo of the breakfast menu. My daughter had the breakfast pastries, quiche, fruit bowl and yogurt with strawberry compote. She is usually a fussy eater, but she managed to finish everything. I am not sure whether this was as a consequence of her being hungry or her actually enjoying the food! Prior to landing, Fast Track cards were handed out.
I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my journey on Oman Air. Although I didn’t eat in the lounge, the quality and variety of food, snacks and beverages on offer looked impressive. The lounge itself was spacious and never felt full throughout the time we were in there. The Oman Air business class cabin was outstanding. I love the Apex Suite, perhaps even more so than the Q-Suite or the new Club Suites. The food and beverage on board was exceptional.
What really stood out above everything else however was the quality of the service. There were Omani nationals working as cabin crew; something which is rare on Gulf Airlines. I say rare, because I did once meet an Emirati cabin attendant working the bar on the top deck of an A380 service from Sydney to Dubai. At the time, he said he was one of 2 Emirati crew across the whole fleet. The Omani nationals were visibly proud of their airline and the jobs they help and the personalised Omani hospitality was obvious. The crew were attentive, efficient and constantly trying to ensure that we were being properly looked after and our needs were being met.
Oman Air has definitely achieved the status of my favourite Gulf Airline.
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