Oman Air Introduces New (Worse) Business Class Product

Oman is near the top of the list of places I want to visit. While the Middle East in general fascinates me, a lot of the “culture” seems to be list in cities like Doha and Dubai, which are all about building the biggest/newest/most expensive of everything.

Oman, based on what I’ve heard from everyone that has been there, is a gem of the Middle East. Here’s a short tourism video about Oman:

And if that’s not enough to sell you, here’s 10 minutes of video of Oman:

Oman Air fascinates me as well

But what fascinates me almost as much as the country itself is their airline, Oman Air. When we think of premium Middle Eastern Airlines we often think of the “big three” — Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar — which are most well known.

But Oman Air is arguably at least as cutting edge as they are. Their Airbus A330s are configured with a business class product that’s in a 1-2-1 configuration, the same as most airlines have in first class. And they’ve had that product for years.

Oman-Air-Business-Class

Here’s an ad for their A330 business class:

It’s a product I’ve always wanted to try, though unfortunately there’s no practical way to redeem miles on them from any of the “major” programs, which is rather unfortunate. In some cases business class fares are quite reasonable, and I might just have to bite the bullet at some point to try them.

For example, they publish fares of under $1,500 all-in roundtrip between Bangkok and Cairo. That’s not bad at all.

Omanair-Business-Class-Fare

Oman Air is taking delivery of new aircraft

As part of their expansion plans, Oman Air is taking delivery of new Boeing 737-900ER and Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Via The Times of Oman:

This is part of a fleet expansion programme, which will take the total number of Oman Air planes to 55 by 2017, from 31 now, Paul Gregorowitsch, chief executive officer of Oman Air told journalists on the sidelines of the event, which was held under the patronage of Darwish Ismail Al Balushi, minister responsible for Financial Affairs and chairman of Oman Air.

“These aircraft are taking us to the next step of our journey,” added Gregorowitsch. Airbus A330-300 will be used for the newly introduced Muscat-Manila sector.

“Everyone at Oman Air is delighted with these aircraft, which are the first of 24 that we will take delivery of over the next three years.”

Oman Air’s new A330s feature a worse business class product

But here’s what’s fascinating. Oman Air’s new A330s are in a high density configuration, and feature a worse business class product than their current A330s. Oman Air’s current A330-300s feature a total of 230 seats, including six in first class, 20 in business class, and 204 in economy class.

Meanwhile their new A330-300s feature 289 seats, which represents an over 25% increase in capacity:

Oman Air’s new Airbus A330-300 features 289 seats – 265 economy and 24 new business class seats designed by BE Aerospace. Business Class is fitted in a 2-2-2 configuration, each comfortable and spacious 21-inch wide seat converts to a 77-inch long, fully flat bed.

Here’s a picture of Oman Air’s new business class, which looks very similar to Japan Airlines’ new business class.

Japan-Airlines-New-Business-Class

That’s still an excellent hard product and I love the finishes, though I’d argue certainly not as good as their old hard product.

Bottom line

I certainly can’t blame Oman Air for going for a higher density configuration, though there’s something unusual about an airline introducing a new business class product which is inferior to the old one. While service on many airlines is deteriorating, premium cabin hard products are improving almost across the board.

I do have to visit Oman and fly Oman Air sometime soon, though.

Has anyone visited Oman or flown Oman Air? If so, what was your experience?

(Tip of the hat to Simon C)

Comments

  1. I was in Oman in early october, flew in on emirates 1st and back in biz ex -sea, spent a week on the ground. THe place is unreal – camped on the beach, hiked to 10,000 ft and had to come down in a lightning storm, saw a flash flood in their “grand canyon” scuba diving the gulf, real shwarma, and so on. All with 48 hours notice. Far better place to visit than dubai. Visa super easy at the airport. English spoken everywhere. Far safer feeling than elsewhere in the mideast. Met a few women traveling alone or in pairs and they did not seem perturbed by anything / safe place to travel for them.

  2. “including six in first class, 20 in business class, and 2014 in economy class.”

    That’s a very dense economy class!

  3. Would it be weird for me to say that I would much rather have the new product over the old.

    IMO once released, it would be better than most other J products in service, especially with the middle eastern carriers.

  4. Lucky, I’d suggest you get over to Oman sooner rather than later so you can sample the old premium cabins. Perhaps F one way and J return?

  5. Lucky, can you confirm that if you book a J award on Qatar, that the connecting flight to Oman would be in Y, as they only F class on the flights b/w DOH and MCT? I thought I had read that you could fly in F if award space is available, as in the U.S. Thanks!

  6. @ Arcanum — Can’t seem to find any good first class fares, though it’s tempting. Also not sure what the difference between business and first is in practice. They seem very similar.

  7. Is 1-2-1 business-class seating in an A330 that special? Delta and US Airways offer the same configuration.

  8. @ Mark S. — Not in and of itself, though if you look at the seats you’ll see they’re a lot more spacious than reverse herringbone seats. They’re fully forward facing, so aren’t constrained at all. Also, service on Oman is in a different league than US airlines, based on what I’ve heard.

  9. forgot to mention the clear highlight for an av geek. the Muscat airport is under construction. The old, currently operating terminal reminds me most of the old 60s era SJC terminal. The new one is far far far from being done, but there’s a mural in the old termainl showing what it will look like. With several a380s parked at the gate and Oman Air on the side.

    Completely forgot about it for now – but what’s most amusing is that when I saw it I thought “I bet lucky would dig that” I’m pretty sure I took a picture, will look when I get home.

  10. Yup, flew WY FRA MCT BKK rt. Some of the most fun I’ve had. On MCT BKK I was completely alone in business. Such a surreal experience. They had great C dates to BKK for a while but those have disappeared…

  11. Even better. Here’s a rendering of what the terminal was supposed to look like. You can see oman air livery double decker quad engined planes (plus emirates). From what I recall, the mural looked a lot like this. I’d bet the mural was based on architect renderings…

    http://www.koltayfacades.com/mia/

  12. Ryan.

    You will be booked into F. I am flying dps -Amm on qatar using aamiles. When I tried to book they said that no business was available and only first and that if I wanted first I would have to do first the whole way. Anyway, I asked her to humour me and try to price it as a J reward and it went through automatically. Don’t think it’s particularly well known with their staff so make sure you get them to try.

  13. Here are some photos from my Middle East trip I did back in March/April (making use of UA miles before the deval)
    https://picasaweb.google.com/112751626794857762435/MiddleEast2014Public?authuser=0&feat=directlink

    Oman is photos 102 – 224
    Before that is Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai. After Oman is Bahrain and Istanbul.
    I absolutly loved Oman and highly recommend it. I would go back there in a heartbeat. I agree with you on your comments of Doha and UAE – they are just building all the new things. Oman has a lot of history and culture that seems to be lacking in nearby countries.

  14. @ Jerry Mandel — True, and could try them fairly easily with American miles. Though their product doesn’t exactly look good, unlike Oman Air’s.

  15. The market (Middle East-Manila) is a budget market, targeting Filipino overseas workers (seamen, oil industry, maids), hence the high density configuration. For comparison, Cebu Pacific Air is using all-economy A330 with a29in seat pitch and Philippine Air has A330 with Premium Economy instead of their business class on these routes. In comparison, Oman Air is still very high end for the routing and I wouldn’t draw any conclusions on other planes/routes…

  16. QF and VA are both downgrading their business products. The staggered and reverse herringbone are both denser than the current lie-flat-without-sticking-your-feet-in-a-small-box J seats that the carriers previously offered. Hailed as “improvements” by some, these seats offer less space to the pax and are a higher density product than what they replace.

  17. I took advantage of a promo earlier this year ex-India to Europe and flew BLR-MCT-CDG in Oman Air business class. Though the hard product in J was amazing, the soft product was non-existent, especially when compared to the Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.
    Perhaps I just got a lackluster crew in both segments but quite frankly I wasn’t that impressed. One FA messed up my order and when I asked for the dessert, she said they ran out. How in the world can you run out of dessert when the cabin wasn’t even full? The purser then came and miraculously I received a dessert. Odd but hey, at least I got fed. 😉 Perhaps I had high expectations but overall I’d spend my $$$ on one of the big 3 ME carriers, with the exception of Etihad perhaps because it has a history of running out of food. 😉 Either way, you should try OmanAir some time.

    I would fly OmanAir again to try their new 787-9s coming in a few years.

    I did love their inflight magazine. Very modern & very cool. Make sure to read it when you fly it.

  18. @BradR Hope you get a chance to read this — I’m going to the UAE area for about a month in a few months, and had been really tempted to spend a week in Oman. I’m just not which outfit to go with for the activities you mentioned there. I’d basically interested in doing most of them… if there’s any more info you can provide, I’d really appreciate it!

    @OP I think I prefer the staggered for the privacy. Especially when traveling alone, and getting one of the ones closer to the window on either side.

  19. Been to Oman, much more interesting than the UAE. Might even be my favorite place in the middle east, now that Syria is off-limits. Best thing might be that Sultan Qaboos bin Said is widely rumored to be gay 😉 Just don’t say it aloud when in the country, even if everyone seems to know.

  20. @luxventurer I was just winging it. I was visiting a friend who was posted there for the state department. Before you say “oh he knew a quasi local” – realize my friend had moved to the country 4 days before I arrived, had seen almost nothing, and actually had less gear than I did (I flew over with a tent, diving gear etc) and he moved with a month of work clothes while awaiting his “gear”). So we pretty much just figured it out.
    roughly:
    camped on the beach down near sifway (you can pretty much camp anywhere)
    dove with euro divers in al rowdha
    drove out to nizwa then jebal shams for the mountain portion
    the best food i had there was at a roadside/gas station restaurant. tons of locals. both sharma and spicy indian chicken of some kind. “hawsana” should get you there. it’s in muscat.

  21. I flew Oman Air twice – once in 2007 from LHE to KUL via Muscat and I was impressed with the product that I flew it again from LHE to Cairo. On the first trip, I flew on two very nice and very big A-330 (A332). The planes, the service on board, the food, the IFE and the seats were all extremely nice and it was an overall pleasant experience. I would compare the service I received here to what I would normally receive on Emirates.

    Because we had such a good experience, we decided to use them again in 2012. The first flight from LHE to Muscat was nice and pleasant. It was on the A332 and while the service and IFE were good (for a 2+hr flight), they weren’t as great as the previously were — there was a slip in the standard of service. The slip in service was extremely noticeable on the Muscat to Cairo flight which was on a old and not clean Boeing 737. On this plane, the seats were 3-3- and they were extremely tight, there was no IFE for a +hr flight and both the service and the food were unsatisfactory. There were two attendants serving economy and they were unpleasant and unfriendly. They were also extremely rushed (even though it was a 5-hour flight) so the Business Class attendant came to assist them — but then she got into a fight with a passenger so she left mid-service. Both from Muscat to Cairo and on the return it was the same flight, the same bad level of service and the same bad food. Muscat to LHE was better in terms of airplane, service, and overall appearance.

    Oman Air provides a free stopover in Muscat so we took advantage of that when we first flew with them and enjoyed 24-hours in Muscat which was enjoyable — if you are staying in the city then 24 hours is plenty; and when we went in February most businesses were closed between 2-5.

    Another FYI is that Muscat International Airport has an old side and a new side. The old side are gates 1-10 and serve mainly Middle-Eastern flights. This terminal looks, and smells, like a crowded bus station that is WAY past its due date. There are also very little services, or ac, available. The newer terminal is better, are gates 11-20, and serve mainly other international destinations. This terminal is bright, airy, has more food options but they are still limited, and has a souvenir shop of Omani gifts. For both terminals, you still have to take a bus to the plane (something I do not understand in oil-rich countries that have the resources to build a terminal with air-bridges!)

  22. This past summer I flew Oman air’s business class from Heathrow to Muscat, and it really was a treat. Pretty amazing service and for the entire 8+ hour flight I didn’t want it to end. See I’m used to West jet and Air Canada jamming in as many people into their tin cans as possible. It’s a shame they’re taking on a new design but knowing Oman Air I’m sure it too will be superb.

  23. We flew march 2014 Milan Malpensa – Muscat – Bangkok v.v. in business class with Oman Air and it was a great experience. But unfortunately the business class in their new A 330’s is now in a 2-2-2 configuration instead of the 1-2-1 configuration in their “old ” 330’s. So we wont fly Oman Air anymore – the other Gulf carriers have a much better product right now. Pity though.

  24. I travel on oman air frequently and being gold get frequent upgrades and also use points to upgrade and I have to say I love the old product. I used to use Thai in first for my UK to Bangkok flights and although their lounges and food/beverage onboard is far better, in terms of seat comfort Oman is equal for less than half the money.
    I have travel on one of their new configuration A330s MCT-BKK although I was in economy that day and noticed the reduced pitch in economy at the back, down from 34 to 32, luckily I was assigned a bulkhead with 38. I walked through the new business product and it seemed pretty ordinary, just like many other carriers products. I’m flying out of London to Singapore next month in J and I have old product to MCT and new production MCT to SIN so it will be interesting to compare.

  25. This new oman air product that is has been rolled out;by chance is this the new high density layout that oman air was been talking about

  26. Yes, this is the new higher density A330 and Dreamliner. They only have 2 A330s and 1 Dreamliner configured this way so far but they are going to retro-fit the existing fleet at some future date and new planes will be configured this way.
    Economy drops from a seat pitch of 34″-32″ in 2 cabins except for the bulkheads . Basically the second cabin starts at row 38 as opposed to 30/32 as in the old layout.
    Business class now has 24 seats in one cabin at 6 across in pairs on the A330 and 18 seats in one cabin at 6 across on the Dreamliner. There is no first on these new planes.
    The seats are great, all have aisle access. The window seats have great privacy and adequate storage and good screens. The aisle seats have additional storage large enough for small carry on or briefcase at head height in the resess that is created from the staggered seating.
    The seat is very comfortable and also good when in flat bed mode. It is an excellent product and I rather prefer it for solo travel.

  27. Actually I flew on Oman Air from Zurich to Manila and had the chance to test both business class products. Ofcourse the old product looks fancy on pictures and gives the impression of more space and subsequently more comfort. However I liked the new product better – if you manage to get a window seat… i personally found the new product to be very well engineered as well as more comfortable than the old product… And after all you notice the wear on the old product….

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