Aircraft Type: 787-9
Class: First Class
Date: March 2019
Oman Air has long been on our radar to offer a trip report. Its careful positioning as a boutique carrier based in the Middle East doesn’t mean it is one of the big and bold ME3, but it is certainly pushing the envelope when it comes to the passenger experience. After winning last year’s Best New First Class at TheDesignAir Awards, we wanted to give the new product a run for its money, and show why big and beautiful don’t always have to go hand in hand.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to experience the new ‘Elite Suite’ which took inspiration from Oman’s rich heritage and modern hospitality. Seattle-based design studio Teague redefined Oman Air’s First Class passenger experience by paying close attention to the details and bringing a residential feel to the cabin environment matched with subtle hints of Omani landscape and culture.
On the ground
Like Qatar, Etihad and Gulf Air, Oman Air flies from Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Heading there at approximately 6pm, the airport is fairly quiet, as most of the long-haul flights leave later in the evening and just a few short-haul Skyteam flights leaving around this early evening window. That meant for an easy arrival and uncrowded terminal.
Situated in Zone E, Oman Air benefits from 6 check-in desks. They are operated by agents of the airline, with Oman Air being their only client. That made the desk staff incredibly knowledgable, friendly, and passionate about the carrier. First Class check-in was a breeze, with just 8 seats, there was no queue when we arrived.
The service seemed incredibly personal and the First Class approach was definitely in the detail. Our boarding passes had already been pre-printed, before we had arrived, and we were escorted through fast track all the way to the lounge by dedicated personnel.
Oman Air is one of the only ME carriers in Terminal 4 that doesn’t have its own dedicated lounge, but it uses rival’s Gulf Air lounge which offers impressive apron views and genuinely friendly and passionate staff. While we have covered Gulf Air’s lounge multiple times before, what was noticeable was that Oman Air uses the lounge’s private rooms, exclusive to First Class passengers.
While semi-private and quieter, we would actually prefer seats that overlook the runway and Apron. But as Royal Brunei and Gulf Air also have flights operating at similar times, these seats were already taken, so the benefit of a private room was welcome.
Although boarding had started, we were told a few times by our escort in the lounge to relax, and board last, we wanted to head there early and quickly do some shopping on the way to the gate. By the time we had arrived, our escort was guiding the rest of the First Class passengers through the boarding gate and on to the aircraft, clearing a way through the other passengers already on the airbridge. While slightly embarrassing, its touches like this that passengers in First Class are paying for.
Oman Air currently only has First Class on its 787-9 aircraft, meaning that this intimate cabin is perfectly crafted for the aircraft type.
As you walk past the small intimate forward business class cabin ahead of the boarding L2 door, you instantly see the noticeable difference between the all-aisle flat-bed business class and first class product, featuring just 8 seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration. Ordinarily we’d suggest that the business class cabin of Oman Air featuring Apex Suites is perfectly acceptable for any length of flight, these First Class private cabins are remarkable in comparison.
While the cabin itself certainly isn’t ostentatious, it’s perfectly formed, with an intricate monument design at the front of the cabin, with a textured ornate arch design framing the incense logo of the carrier which is backlit. In fact, lighting design plays a large part in creating the cabin ambience against an otherwise, paired back, neutral luxury palette.
Each one of the 8 seats is vast, and should you want privacy we suggest the rear two window seats that aren’t affected by the curve of the fuselage, however, if you are travelling together, the forward centre pair is quite magical, being greeted by the ornate detailing of the cabin bulkhead, and of course, being served first.
The cabin also features two toilets, but the main one, which interestingly sits in the middle of the front galley (a configuration we’ve not seen before) is incredibly spacious, and features fresh orchids and a Toto toilet, with bidet functions, an option that a few carriers have opted for on their 787s.
The airline opted not to offer overhead bins in the cabin, which offers a large amount of space, but means that carry on bags need to be stored in the ottoman, or looked after by the crew, who store it in one of the galley storage areas. The clear advantage to this is the increased cabin height, which makes the cabin feel spacious.
Oman Air won awards for its First Class cabin for good reason. While not as bling as Emirates new 777 First Class, the suite is incredibly practical, spacious and comfortable. We can’t over emphasise the under-stated elements that make this First Class suite a product suitable for 2019 consumer habits.
Every single element has been perfectly thought through. Sliding doors offer privacy, with beautiful ornate lattice work that exudes an Omani design heritage that runs through the overall look and feel of the suite. For those who have had the luck to visit Oman will most likely state that it’s their Country of preference in the Middle East, due to their rich cultural history, more liberal attitude to life, and understated luxury that has less emphasis on bling, and more on creature comforts.
Each seat is a mass of details that are too numerous to list, but suffice to say, there are cocktail tables, neat aqua-coloured storage solutions, including ottomans, side storage and of course a vanity wardrobe for jackets each lined in a soft brushed fabric that exudes luxury.
Of course there is a mini-bar of sorts, featuring still and sparkling water and a couple of soft drinks, which are chilled pre-departure, but aren’t refrigerated.
The seat itself is expansive. And while a fairly flat surface, that makes for an excellent bed. There are no footwells or furniture restricting the body, allowing for a wide, lengthy ‘single-bed’ style product, which is far more than required considering Oman Air’s relatively medium-length route network.
The design of the suite also keeps the (huge) table out of sight and mind, under a wide enough side table to store personal belongings. There are also great design details such as a USB charger situated under the Corian cocktail table and in the side storage, meaning charging your personal devices doesn’t mean cables drape everywhere.
The Suite also offers complete privacy through a raised partition for the middles seats and manually open-and-shut doors to the suite.
But all of these major elements are supported by intricate details like etched metal seat numbers, personal air vents and lights in brushed gold finishes and a seat control system that allows the personalisation of the light levels in the suite as well as the seat position and massage function.
The Food And Drink
Oman Air offers some of the best food and drink we’ve experienced on a flight so far. The dining is made even more special thanks to the very special tableware that the airline has commissioned for the first class product.
On boarding, an option of cold and hot towels is offered along with champagne and juices. We opted for a mixed juice and a glass of champagne, that was hand-poured in front of us and served with warm nuts.
The champagne, Grand Siècle by Laurent Perrier is one of our favourites, and while not the Crystal that the airline advertises on their website, an absolute pleasure to drink. During boarding we were presented by a mountain of amenities, including amenity kit, pyjamas and hard-backed menu that featured a mouth-watering array of dishes.
Naturally wanting to explore as much as we could of the menu, we opted for a 5-course dinner, followed by a 3-course breakfast, a mere 4 hours later. This was hardcore reviewing at its finest.
We were impressed by the boarding process, which seemed effortless, with free-pouring champagne even as we started pushing back, our orders taken – with the friendlier approach to service – by crew lowering themselves when speaking so as not to tower over their guests.
Very quickly after take off, we were surprised by an amuse bouche served by a fresh, chilled glass of champagne. Packed with flavour, this was a fairly large filled pastry and accompanied by a roasted pepper and pimento sauce.
Shortly after this our table was prepared with an ornate (and crisp) linen table cloth, and all the accompaniments including a delightful tableware set with the distinct mountain motif that is synonymous with Oman.
A huge charger was then presented, which was spectacular, even with nothing on it, yet the friendly, professional crew then brought the charger to life with that airline’s famous Caviar service.
Everything was perfect, from the mother of pearl spoon to range of dressings and the caviar portion was large and of course, Beluga.
The taste was perfect, and the champagne pairing made for a filling starter. While that would have been perfect in its own right, we thought we should trial another of the starters, this time a seared crusted tuna, scallops and gravlax.
This dish was out of this world, perfectly plated and full of fresh, vibrant flavour. It wouldn’t be amiss in a Michelin star restaurant, and we don’t say that lightly.
Not to be beaten, we braved the main course, this time, a fillet of beef. Perfectly cooked, beautifully presented and full of flavour due to the addition of a flavoured oil and caramelised onions.
Almost at breaking point, we opted for a lighter green tea and vanilla ice cream desert, which included a fennel white chocolate chard. Sadly the ice cream was so frozen, it was virtually impossible to eat, without fear of breaking the fine glassware it was presented in, but absolutely stuffed, we weren’t that disappointed to leave some of it unfinished.
The cabin crew were so quick to realise that my urgent need was to grab some sleep on a relatively short flight, so no sooner had they taken the ice cream away, they were quickly turning down the seat and creating a well appointed bed for the night.
The IFE system even allows for added functionality, including being worked for meals, although the cabin crew were quick to ask once the bed had been made if I wanted to be worken, at what time, and what I would like to eat to maximise my sleep.
What felt like at least 6 hours, but was sadly only 2 or 3, I was gently woken with another hot towel, and a fresh glass of orange juice.
This was then followed by another food service which even now seems a little over the top. We started with a salad of saffron poached lobster and balik salmon, which was again, out of this world. It can’t go without emphasising how impressive the F&B offering is on Oman Air’s first class.
This was followed by an impressive bread basket and Americano which was above and beyond the usual breads offered onboard aircraft.
But the final course, an omelette with asparagus, sausage and mushrooms was packing a lot of flavour and the perfect end to the dining experience onboard.
Meet Aria, Oman Air’s impressive inflight entertainment system. The selection of entertainment was certainly extensive, but not the most up to date in blockbuster offerings.
The huge HD TV screen is impressive, with great resolution and the perfect size.
It’s all controlled by a phone-style controller which is intuitive and easily accessible next to the seat controls.
The airline also has a duty free catalogue and its main inflight magazine. While the carrier has undergone a huge drive to improve their hard and soft product, the inflight magazine seems to be the only element left that reflects the old brand, and has yet to undergo a rebrand.
The airline also provides First Class passengers with complimentary WiFi and although that it for 3 hours, it only allows for 100mbs which can quickly be swallowed up.
The airline also offers a well-presented pair of noise-cancelling headphones, which are of great quality, but aren’t to the level of the Denon headsets offered by the likes of Turkish Airlines.
That leads us to the range of other extras that Oman Air offers, from First Class pyjama sets, which come in two sizes (large or S/M) and if you are of average size, we recommend a S/M for a fitted set, or L for those wanting comfort.
The sets include slippers, which are the same as those found in Business Class, however, the amenity kit by Amouage is fairly extensive. There are also a range of pillows, duvets and blankets which make sleeping an absolute dream.
And this is all partnered with the soft product additions of hot or cold towels pre and post each service, the cabin crews’ desire to hang any clothes as soon as you’ve changed, and on-ground services such as airport escort and premium fast track lanes at immigration in Oman’s impressive new International Airport.
It’s hard to put in to words how truly special Oman Air’s First Class product is. It runs a very fine line between understated and opulent. It’s certainly not robotic, allowing for personality in the cabin crew to shine through, and the intimate privacy of the cabin exudes what First Class should truly be about.
The biggest compliment to any carrier is when passengers don’t want a flight to end, and we hoped for a much longer journey to enjoy the experience fully. Oman Air have truly managed to create a world-leading product that some of the larger carriers will look to emulate. The airlines size works to its benefit here, providing an intimate more personal service, allowing passengers to feel truly cared for, rather than just another number. There is good reason why Oman Air won the award for its First Class last year, and it seems that its soft product and dining only further cements. This is one airline to look out for when booking. If only the carrier offered a frequent flier program with better cross-airline earning opportunities, it would certainly become an incredibly powerful one-stop player in the Business and First Class world.
The Big Picture
THEDESIGNAIR.NET TRAVELLED AS GUESTS OF OMAN AIR, HOWEVER THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HERE ARE OUR OWN