Unlike many carriers, Oman Air is known for offering reasonable paid fares for one-way tickets. I recently travelled with them in business class from Mumbai to London, via Muscat.
Booking Oman Air business class
I needed to travel from London to Mumbai at quite short notice, so paid fares were quite steep. I managed to book a good value miles redemption flight with Virgin Atlantic to Mumbai, and then set about searching for one-way cash fares for the return leg.
I’ve booked one-way tickets with Oman Air before, and this time they were offering an attractive rate of INR 66,200 for my journey back to London. I booked directly on the Oman Air website three weeks before travelling.
I arrived at Mumbai airport just over two hours before my scheduled departure at 4.15pm.
I queued for about five minutes at the business class check in desk and was told there were only four other business class passengers on today’s flight. Note, I took this flight at the beginning of March, when coronavirus was just starting to have an effect on global travel.
The security process was very slow and, as there was no priority line, the whole thing took a good 20 minutes. Finally I got through to the immigration check and was pleased to see there was a fast track lane for premium passengers on the far left hand side.
I’d started to feel unwell (with cold symptoms) so after shopping for some paracetamol and stopping for a while at the GVK lounge, there wasn’t much time left before the flight. In fact, a member of staff approached me in the lounge at 15.20pm and asked to go to the gate as the flight was boarding.
Gate 76 was a five minute walk from the lounge and at 15.25pm they began lining up economy passengers in the airbridge.
I was asked if I would wait to one side by a gate agent who told me the flight was very lightly loaded, due to the worsening impact of coronavirus.
I got chatting to the agent, who told me there were just 110 passengers in economy - less than half the capacity of the 787-9 economy cabin. He also told me that Iranian passengers were being denied boarding as Oman didn’t want to accept Iranian passport holders.
Boarding began at 3.35pm.
Mumbai to Muscat
The flight was on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which Oman Air operates with two different business class configurations.
Some models of the plane have 30 seats spread over two business class cabins, while the alternative layout has just 24 business class seats, as well as a first class cabin (with eight open seats).
There was no first class on this flight and, as the passenger load was very low, I was the only person seated in the “mini” business class cabin, which is separated from the main one by washrooms and a galley, and features just six seats.
It was hot onboard and there were no individual air vents. The window shades were locked to the dark/ night position in order to keep the aircraft cool.
A few minutes after settling into seat 15K (a window seat) I was offered a hot or cold towel, followed by an orange or lemon and mint juice.
Headsets and water bottles were also handed out. At the seat was a pillow, but no blanket. There was no in-flight amenity kit.
While we were still on the ground I used the bathrooms, which are a good size and stocked with Oman Air-branded toiletries.
I was asked several times if I’d like to move up to the main business class cabin and at 15.50pm the light shades came up. The entertainment system said our journey to Muscat would take 2 hours and 15 mins.
Next, passengers were offered dates and Arabic coffee and handed a food menu:
There was no alcohol menu, but I was told they have “Chardonnay white wine and red wine”. I asked whether there was champagne but the hostess didn’t know and went to check (there was only Lanson she reported back).
At 4pm, still before take-off, I moved to 14K (also a window seat) in the main business cabin as babies were crying in the back and a small child was running around the mini business class cabin.
The captain advised of a short delay and we pushed back at 4.22pm before taking off from Mumbai’s runway 32 at 4.35pm.
Mumbai - Muscat service
The seatbelt sign went off at 4.50pm and champagne and nuts were served immediately.
Only after takeoff did the cabin temperature come down a bit.
It wasn’t very long before the meal came out, with all courses presented together on a single tray.
I chose the lamb biryani which was well spiced and had a nice flavour, though the meat was chewy and not so good. I also thought the western-style vegetables served with the biryani were an odd addition.
Unfortunately the banoffee dessert was pretty average - the cream tasted artificial and the pastry cheap and hard.
The white bread was also pretty hard and the salad a bit sad, served plain without any dressing or oil.
I ordered a cappuccino, which wasn’t great (I was warned it was only a Nescafé sachet, not made by machine) which was served with two biscuits.
Seat and entertainment
The seats are the same regardless of the 787-9 you get, and are set up in a 2-2-2 configuration. As you would expect, they turn into fully flat beds and are 22.8 inches wide. The seat pitch is 80 inches.
The good thing about Oman Air’s Apex business class seats is that everybody has access to the aisle. This even applies to those in the window seats, thanks to the walkway.
The whole cabin looks fresh and modern - and that’s a definite plus point for Oman Air. There’s no shortage of personal space either - this is a very generous seat for business class.
All seats have a divider, offering you more privacy if you have a seat mate:
There was a massage function in the chair, as well as charging sockets.
You’ll find two sets of controls - the first allows you to raise or lower the diving wall between you and your seat mate, as well as to adjust the lighting around your seat area.
The second set controls the seat functions.
The TV screen is around six feet away from you in window seats, but the large size means that’s no problem.
There was a good selection of Indian programmes including Tamil and six other regional movies.
As well as TV, there was audio, maps and games selections.
The big problem with the entertainment is that the sound quality coming from the headphones is so poor. You’ll definitely notice that the audio is dull and muffled.
I decided to watch The Founder, which occupied me nearly all the way to Muscat.
Landing in Muscat
By the time my movie was finishing we were descending for Muscat.
The seatbelt sign came on 30 minutes before we landed at 5.20pm Omani time (20 minutes ahead of schedule), though I wasn’t asked to store my luggage or put my bed up for landing.
As we descended, I reflected on the flight and, while the experience was perfectly functional, there was just no wow factor. The food was average and it would have been nice to have a drinks menu, though it was nice to travel in such a quiet cabin.
The service wasn’t very personalised and I wasn’t referred to by name at any point.
Muscat to London
I had a very long connection in the Muscat business class lounge, but there really wasn’t too much report on the next flight - mainly because I was asleep for most of it, but also because the service was almost non-existent.
Boarding began at 1.15am, half an hour before our departure time. This was a 787-9 with the alternative layout and so I walked through first class before making my way to seat 12k (as usual, a window seat) in the second (of two) business class cabins.
The problem with the second business cabin is that all the economy passengers walk through, which means it’s quite difficult to get settled before take off.
This doesn’t happen in the forward business cabin, as boarding for economy normally takes place via door 2L, bypassing first class as well as the forward business class cabin.
I was offered an apricot smoothie or lime juice, as well as a hot towel (no cold towels) at 1.25am and boarding was complete five minutes later.
The load in business class was much better on this leg, with around 80 per cent of seats occupied.
At 1.30am the cabin manager announced that our flight would take around 7 hours and 30 minutes, adding that crew speak French, Serbian, Thai, Farsi and Turkish as well as English.
Once again there were no air vents. Water and headphones were already in the seat area.
Pyjamas and slippers were given out and the menu was already under the screen, in a smart brown folder.
I was also handed an Oman Air-branded amenity kit containing mouthwash, lotions, an eye shade, socks, a comb, ear buds, and a toothbrush.
If for any reason you haven’t eaten before boarding, you’ll want to know that there isn’t a full service after take-off - only a refreshment is served. A larger selection of dishes is available for breakfast, however:
As usual, Arabic coffee and a (delicious) date was offered before departure, and drinks orders taken (another champagne).
Muscat to London service
Here's my big problem with Oman Air’s short, overnight flights.
At 2am, the seat belt sign came off and, as I was feeling under the weather, I fell asleep soon afterwards.
At no point was I asked if I wanted to eat and, as I woke late, I ate nothing on the flight.
I totally understand that airlines want to make the meal service as fast as possible on overnight flights like this, but I don’t think only offering one small “refreshment” as a first meal is good enough.
Not all passengers will have eaten before they board, or had the time to have food in the lounge. Also, the nature of international travel means passengers get hungry at funny times.
There’s also a lack of proactive service around the meals. On other airlines, you are asked early into the flight (before you’ve had a chance to fall asleep) whether you want to eat, if so when, and whether you would like to be woken up for meals.
This is the second overnight flight I’ve taken with Oman Air where I’ve been left with the impression that they just want the passengers to sleep so that they don’t have to deal with the meal service.
The white mattress topper looked good quality but I was too tired to use it and turndown service wasn’t offered at any point. The blanket was reasonable quality but felt a little synthetic.
The seat comfort was fine and I had the divider up all flight, except for take-off and landing.
I woke up a couple of times during the night, owing to another passenger’s Olympic-standard snoring.
Landing in London
I woke as the first officer was announcing our descent into London. Hot towels were handed out, but I was not even offered a drink.
After freshening up in the bathroom I asked for a juice as I passed the galley - the hostess just handed it to me with no interaction, and when I thanked her for the drink there was no acknowledgement.
I’ve found this to be pretty typical for Oman Air - so many (but not all) of the crew show no warm hospitality (or much personality!).
We landed at 5.18am - more than 40 minutes ahead of schedule - and after a fairly long taxi we arrived at our gate at terminal 4 at 5.30am.
I have such mixed feelings about Oman Air. On the one hand, I really appreciate that they offer reasonably priced business class tickets for one-way journeys.
But as nice as the hard product is, the service is really lacking. There is no personal interaction from the crew and the service on short overnight flights is particularly lacking in my opinion.
I really want to love Oman Air, due to its competitive pricing and modern business seats, but I’m always left feeling like something is missing.
How do you rate Oman Air's business class?