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Oman Air - London to Bangkok (via Muscat)

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  • T5
    T5
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Jan 2000
    • 6822

    Oman Air - London to Bangkok (via Muscat)

    Date: Monday 2 April 2012
    Departing: London Heathrow (LHR), 22:05hrs
    Arriving: Muscat (MCT), 08:30hrs (+1)
    Aircraft: Airbus A330-300, A4O-DB

    Choosing to travel over the busy Easter period, I wasn't surprised to be paying 650.86 for a return economy class ticket to Bangkok with Oman Air. And a further 132.00 was spent on changing the flight date - bringing the departure date forward by 48 hours. Still, this relatively small carrier impressed me a lot, and I am convinced that I got great value for money.

    Arriving at Heathrow at around 6.45pm for my 10.05pm flight, there was no need to wait in a long line. The check-in desks were free of passengers and I walked straight over to a desk, dropped my bags and received my boarding cards for both flights - Heathrow to Muscat, and Muscat to Bangkok - within about a minute. It was a really swift operation! And my 25kg suitcase was well within the airline's very generous 30kg baggage allowance.

    Sitting in the packed departure lounge, I regularly checked the status of the inbound flight from Muscat, just to give me some idea of whether or not we would be on time. The flight from Muscat was running around 90 minutes late, which meant a little over an hour to turn the Airbus A330-300 aircraft around. I was expecting a short delay.

    On reaching the gate, the cabin crew were sat and waiting to board the aircraft, further confirming that a delay was likely. They eventually boarded at around 9.45pm, with boarding of passengers commencing around 15 minutes later.

    For the first flight, I was sat in seat 31A. The seats were arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration in economy, and I was soon joined by another passenger in the seat next to me. The aircraft was completely full this evening, and the crew worked hard to get everybody seated and baggage stowed as quickly as possible, trying to the get the flight on its way with minimal delay. As boarding continued, there were no shortage of announcements from the crew, and they were very apologetic for the delay. The captain also made an announcement, and assured us that despite our later departure, we would arrive on-time in Muscat - providing peace of mind for the many passengers travelling on from Muscat.

    Once airborne, the service got under way, beginning first with the bar service. Like any good airline, all beverages are included in the cost of the ticket, and they were served with a generous sized portion of peanuts and raisins. At the same time, the entertainment system was switched on. The huge screen provided superb picture quality and no end of television programmes, movies, audio and games, all of which were available on-demand. It was great to also have the option to watch live television (including BBC World) during all phases of the flight!

    Menu cards were handed out during the flight, letting passengers know what their three meal choices were (two meat dishes and one vegetarian). Being a full flight, the red curry option that I was after was popular, and soon ran out. I chose the vegetarian option (beetroot stuffed tortellini) and it was excellent, served with the usual bread roll, feta cheese salad, berry pudding and crackers with cheese.

    With the cabin lights dimmed, allowing us all to get some sleep on the 7 hour flight, I reclined my seat and took advantage of the foot rest. With 34" of seat pitch in economy, I was very comfortable and had no trouble getting some sleep. In what seemed like an instant, the mood lighting lit up the cabin and breakfast was served. Still quite full from the earlier meal, I didn't need it, but had it anyway! The offering was as impressive as our dinner just a few hours before; a substantial serving of food, great flavour and great presentation.

    Soon enough, our descent into Muscat was under way, and we all enjoyed the scenic approach with towns and villages spread amongst the desert and mountain terrain. Looking out of my window and seeing the pilot's view on the screen in front of me was quite special.

    As promised by the captain, we arrived in Muscat right on time and began taxiing to our parking stand. Muscat doesn't have gates and jetties common with other airports, and the only way between the aircraft and the terminal is by bus, which means that disembarkation takes a little while longer than it might normally - especially when sat at the back of the aircraft!


    Date: Tuesday 3 April 2012
    Departing: Muscat (MCT), 10:20hrs
    Arriving: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK), 19:15hrs
    Aircraft: Airbus A330-300, A4O-DB

    I had 1 hour 45 minutes before my next flight departed to Bangkok, and that proved to be just the right amount of time. After finally getting into the terminal and clearing security, I found myself back in departures. My flight was already showing as 'go to gate', so that's what I did. After about 30 minutes of sitting around, we were again put onto buses and driven the short distance to our waiting aircraft. It was the very same Airbus A330-300 that had brought me from London. I took my seat - 38A this time.

    The flight was again great, and despite being only 5 hours 30 minutes, we were again served two meals. The snack before landing was an Arabian chicken wrap, which was especially good! With the entertainment being on-demand, the same selection of audio and video programming was available.

    Oman Air is a fantastic airline, and one that I will continue to use in the future. Their inflight service is top class, their crew are warm, welcoming and very professional, the catering is superb, and the airline offers those little extras that others don't - complimentary amenity kits on every flight, live television at no additional cost, and an inflight communication service, where passengers can use their mobile telephones and laptops to converse with people on the ground.

    Having flown with a number of international airlines, including Emirates and Etihad Airways in the Middle East, there is no competition when you experience Oman Air.


    Date: Monday 16 April 2012
    Departing: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK), 10:10hrs
    Arriving: Muscat (MCT), 13:00hrs
    Aircraft: Airbus A330-200, A4O-DC

    After my first flights from London to Bangkok (via Muscat), I had nothing but praise for Oman Air, but the return flights had some flaws, which I will address in this review.

    Before setting off for Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, I checked the status of the inbound flight, again to get an indication as to the status of my flight - WY814 - and to see if I could expect an on-time or late departure. With that flight arriving 45 minutes late, it meant only 30 minutes to turn the aircraft around, so a delay was inevitable.

    On arrival at the airport, Oman Air had two lots of desks in use; one set for WY820 (departing at 9.05am) and one set for WY814 (departing at 10.10am) in two different zones of the airport. I went along to zone U and joined a short queue, which took about 5 minutes to get through, and then ended up at the business class counter. The process was quick, and I was assigned boarding cards for both this flight and my onward flight to London Heathrow.

    On reaching the departures area, the information screens showed a 15 minute delay to the flight, which ate into the very short 60-minute connection time in Muscat. A short while afterwards, the message 'go to gate' was displayed, which I did, but there was no sign of the aircraft. At about 9.35am, the Airbus A330-200 pulled onto the stand.

    By 10.30am, the doors were closed and we were welcomed aboard by the captain and the crew, and given a flight time of 6 hours 20 minutes - 30 minutes more than the flight is scheduled for. This, along with my delayed departure meant getting dangerously close to missing the onward flight from Muscat!

    Once airborne, the inflight service got under way fairly quickly, and the crew offered complimentary beverages and snacks, whilst also distributing menu cards to passengers. There were again three choices on offer; chicken curry, seafood stir fry and vegetable biryani.

    When it came to the meal service, the stewardess explained that only the vegetarian option remained, and I could not help but express some dissatisfaction. This was my third of four flights with the airline, and the second time that I had no meal choice - instead being expected to accept a vegetarian meal. Offering a vegetarian meal to a meat eater is like offering a meaty dish to a vegetarian. I explained that I not once received my first choice of meal since flying with Oman Air, and that I was not happy to accept the vegetarian option. Despite only flying economy, I felt that having paid 780 in total for my flight gave me the right to make this reasonable demand.

    The Thai crew member repeatedly apologised for lack of choice, but the apologies didn't change the fact that I was stuck with a meal that I did not want. Eventually, a male colleague appeared and he asked that I "allow him to explain". His explanation was pretty poor - "the menu says 'we apologise if your meal choice is not available', so there is nothing we can do". Further irritated by this chap's response, I told him I would not eat the vegetarian meal and I told him that it had to be replaced. Both the steward and stewardess disappeared for a moment, before returning with a chicken curry dish. I was made to feel awkward when the stewardess explained that the meal was hers, but I accepted it anyway. I feel that the airline has a duty to feed the paying passengers, before it starts to feed sought-after meal choices to its staff!

    The flight continued uneventfully except for a minor glitch with the entertainment system, which a 15-minute reset resolved for all on board. And being an on-demand system, it was easy to pick up where we had left off after the reset.

    Prior to landing in Muscat, we were served a snack and given a sweet choice of blueberry or the savoury chicken. This snack is called a 'puff', but is more of a pasty with one of the two fillings. Oman Air served one on each of the four flights I made with them.

    The information screen on the flight showed our estimated arrival time as 2.01pm - 61 minutes late - and 1 minute after the departure of my onward flight to London. I feel that the bi-lingual staff should be criticised for not keeping passengers informed and for putting their minds at ease, when it was clear that connections might be missed. On the flight from Bangkok, passengers were connecting to Oman Air services to London, Munich and Zurich, all departing within 40 minutes of our arrival. Not a single announcement was made to let us know what was happening, so we arrived in Muscat almost blind, not knowing what to expect.

    Staff at the airport were slightly more switched on to the situation though, and as connecting passengers approached the security checkpoint, airport staff were holding back those passengers who did not have the need to rush, but who would slow the rest of us down.


    Date: Monday 16 April 2012
    Departing: Muscat (MCT), 14:00hrs
    Arriving: London Heathrow (LHR), 19:05hrs
    Aircraft: Airbus A330-300, A4O-DB

    It was only on reaching gate 17 that I saw the hour-long delay to the flight, WY101 to London, but passengers were being bussed immediately to the aircraft, an Airbus A330-300 parked alongside the same A330 that had just brought me from Bangkok.

    As one of the last to board, it was clear that this was a very full flight. Almost every seat was taken and the spare ones were sure to be taken by the few passengers boarding behind me. My seat was 35K (a window) and I found it was occupied by a man (a Sri Lankan) so I asked him to move, which he did reluctantly. In the aisle seat next to him was his wife and he obviously wanted to be with her for the flight. A stewardess approached me and said, "the thing is, this man is travelling with his wife", to which I replied, "the thing is, I selected this seat on your website two months ago", implying that the gentleman could have done the same thing. As a lone traveller, I did not think it was fair for the crew member to make such a suggestion. There was no chance that I was going to give up my window seat for a seat in the middle of the aircraft with people either side of me.

    The service during the flight began again with the drinks, before being followed shortly afterwards by the meal service and the meal card told us again what to expect. I opted for the lamb koftas in spicy tomato sauce with rice, and it was very tasty - just like all of the other meals I had enjoyed with Oman Air. Also on the tray was a dessert that looked like a carrot cake, but with a bit of spice to it, a full size bread roll, a salad, crackers and cheese, and a tub of water.

    After some sleep, we were soon over Europe and tucking into another meal (you will never go hungry on Oman Air), this time another puff - Mediterranean cheese and tomato - although with little in the way of cheese inside. The service items were cleared away, and the aircraft began to the descend into London.

    After some holding prior to landing, we eventually touched down at 7.37pm - a little over 30 minutes late, but the journey through the airport was surprisingly quick, and it took about 45 minutes to get from the aircraft to the arrivals hall, having cleared immigration, collected baggage and passed through customs.

    Having made four flights with Oman Air now, there is some room for improvement, I feel. The airline's time-keeping needs to be addressed as not one of the flights departed on time. Granted, the majority of the airline's customers connect from one flight to another in Muscat, but their schedules clearly do not allowing sufficient time for passengers to arrive, clear security, and then depart on their next flight. Each of my four flights departed late - one by a little over an hour. And for those passengers with connections to make, the crew need to make an effort to keep them informed, especially when a flight is arriving late. For me, it was unsettling to find out that my flight was due to arrive AFTER the scheduled departure time of my connecting flight.

    In addition, the meal service should be improved. The quality of the food is great, but the three options offered in economy do not work, and a lot of passengers are left feeling disappointed. The airline is trying to stand out from the crowd by offering three choices, when it should instead stick to two - both meat dishes. Vegetarian passengers can pre-order vegetarian meals at the time of booking, as they would with any other airline. Doing this would ensure that the right amount of vegetarian meals are carried, and that meat-eating passengers get the offer of a dish containing meat.

    Muscat airport is set to undergo major improvement works in the next couple of years, which are much-needed. The current set-up means that disembarking and boarding of aircraft (always by bus) takes three times longer than it needs to - not great, especially in the situation explained above, when you have literally no time at all to get from one aircraft to another.


    Photos - A small selection of photos (Flickr)
    Video 1 - Departure from Muscat (YouTube)
    Video 2 - Arrival at Heathrow (YouTube)
    Michael
  • Craigston_Tom
    Paint the skies LittleRed
    • May 2004
    • 631

    #2
    Originally posted by T5 View Post
    [B]

    Arriving at Heathrow at around 6.45pm for my 10.05pm flight, there was no *I feel that the airline has a duty to feed the paying passengers, before it starts to feed sought-after meal choices to its staff!

    In addition, the meal service should be improved. The quality of the food is great, but the three options offered in economy do not work, and a lot of passengers are left feeling disappointed. The airline is trying to stand out from the crowd by offering three choices, when it should instead stick to two - both meat dishes. Vegetarian passengers can pre-order vegetarian meals at the time of booking, as they would with any other airline. Doing this would ensure that the right amount of vegetarian meals are carried, and that meat-eating passengers get the offer of a dish containing meat.
    Well first of all I would like to say what a fantastic report, great to read. Sounds like you had a good trip.

    However, I had to comment on a few things.*
    Firstly you say that the airline needs to think about it's passengers before feeding well sort after meal choices to the crew...from personal experience as crew, this is never the case. We get totally different meals from the passengers (sometimes they are the same or very similar to the pax meals but usually they are totally different)

    The second point about having three choices in economy...I can see the argument both for an against. At the airline I fly for, we also offer 3 choices in economy; 2 meat and 1 vegetarian. Your right in the sense that passengers are left feeling disappointed, however ALL passengers - if they they so wish - can pre-order there meal choice when making their booking, whether it's vegetarian or a meat choice. Since I started working onboard, I was surprised at how many different types of meal that passengers can pre-order.*

    One point I would like to make, and this isn't aimed at you, is that sometimes passengers forget their on a plane...if we run out of something, we cant just pop to the local supermarket.*
    With Best Wishes ... Tom

    Comment

    • mrtotty
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • Mar 2008
      • 1062

      #3
      A very informative report - well done and many thanks.

      Oman Air doesn't seem like a very good airline to me. True, some things it appears to do well but the meal choices were a mess and to be told by a stewardess that you could not sit in your allotted seat because some person decided he needed to sit by his wife would mean that I would never, for that reason alone, fly the airline again.

      Comment

      • Mr Creosote
        Better get a bucket...
        • Aug 2005
        • 1399

        #4
        Thanks for taking the time to post such an informatve report. Been looking at flights to BKK, and Oman Air always seem to come out at a good price, so this has been quite useful to me. Cheers.
        Terms & Conditions Apply.

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        • T5
          T5
          Rank 5 Registered User
          • Jan 2000
          • 6822

          #5
          Thanks all for the comments. I just wanted to reply to some of the points raised.

          Originally posted by Craigston_Tom View Post
          Firstly you say that the airline needs to think about it's passengers before feeding well sort after meal choices to the crew...from personal experience as crew, this is never the case. We get totally different meals from the passengers (sometimes they are the same or very similar to the pax meals but usually they are totally different)
          I am aware that crew are served different meals to the passengers but the meal finally offered to me had a 'chicken' label on top, an identical coloured foil lid to other passengers eating the same dish and it looked identical too. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that the meal given up by this member of crew was actually intended for a fare-paying passenger. I can only assume that the crew meal wasn't up to much on that occasion and a spicy chicken curry dish had much more appeal.

          Originally posted by Craigston_Tom View Post
          The second point about having three choices in economy...I can see the argument both for an against. At the airline I fly for, we also offer 3 choices in economy; 2 meat and 1 vegetarian. Your right in the sense that passengers are left feeling disappointed, however ALL passengers - if they they so wish - can pre-order there meal choice when making their booking, whether it's vegetarian or a meat choice. Since I started working onboard, I was surprised at how many different types of meal that passengers can pre-order.*
          Few, if any, airlines will not ask about a passenger dietary requirements during the online booking process. The same is the case with travel providers like Ebookers, Expedia etc. And as you point out, there are a surprisingly high number of special meals available - British Airways appear to offer 18, for example.

          When the crew reached me and again explained that my preferred choice of meal had run out, I was left feeling disappointed, but this was becoming a regular occurrence. Behind me, there were still at least 8 rows of passengers in need of feeding, so as many as 45-50 passengers were offered vegetarian meals or nothing at all. If this many passengers do not get a choice of meal, then it suggests problems with the airline's catering calculations. If passengers with dietary requirements order a special meal at the time they book their flight, the third option of meal could be eliminated altogether, allowing meat-eating passengers their choice of a meaty dish.

          With all vegetarians getting a meal to suit their needs and all meat-eating passengers getting a meal containing meat, it is a win-win situation. It would surely mean less 'aggro' for the crew to deal with as well.

          Originally posted by Craigston_Tom View Post
          One point I would like to make, and this isn't aimed at you, is that sometimes passengers forget their on a plane...if we run out of something, we cant just pop to the local supermarket.*
          I think that all travellers accept that at 35,000ft, little can be done to please them if their preferred choice of meal is not available, but the airline should surely set off with an adequate number of each type of meal? Based on my comments above, approximately 25% of the economy passengers did not receive any choice of meal, despite having been offered a menu with three meal choices at the beginning of the flight. If this situation had occurred on only one of my four flights with the airline, then fine, but it was a regular occurrence. Only on the fourth and final flight (Muscat to Heathrow) could I choose between all three meal options.

          Originally posted by mrtotty View Post
          Oman Air doesn't seem like a very good airline to me. True, some things it appears to do well but the meal choices were a mess and to be told by a stewardess that you could not sit in your allotted seat because some person decided he needed to sit by his wife would mean that I would never, for that reason alone, fly the airline again.
          Thanks for the comments.

          I suppose that the crew member saw little harm in asking the question. The worst I could do was to answer "no" and she had at least tried to work something out for the man and his wife. I simply made the point that I had selected my seat at the time of booking the flight, knowing that the Easter period would almost certainly see full loads on the once-daily service. Had the gentleman not have made my seat his upon boarding, I might have been a little more accommodating! But the minor criticisms aside, Oman Air were excellent, and I would highly recommend them.

          Originally posted by Mr Creosote View Post
          Thanks for taking the time to post such an informatve report. Been looking at flights to BKK, and Oman Air always seem to come out at a good price, so this has been quite useful to me. Cheers.
          At the time of booking (mid-January), Thai Airways were available at the slightly cheaper price of 635.00 and it was a tempting offer as they are another carrier that I am very fond of. The service is consistently of a high standard and the catering is unbeatable but the absence of a personal TV screen on an 11-12 hour flight is something I can no longer do without. It's great to see that the Airbus A340-600s are gradually being utilised on the Heathrow route and, judging by an advertisement I saw only a few days ago, all passengers travelling to Thailand with them now benefit from a personal 9" screen. I can only assume that a number of the 747s have also been refitted.

          In the low season, however, Oman Air are more often than not one of the cheapest carriers (usually beaten only marginally by Air India and Jet Airways). If you can get a cheap flight with them, then be sure to give them a go. You will not be disappointed - assuming you get your first choice of meal and that you are not asked to give up your seat for another passenger!
          Michael

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