As a relatively young carrier, Oman Air’s challenge in recent years has been to create an airline that reflects the Sultanate of Oman’s culture of warm hospitality and attracts visitors to this dramatically beautiful destination. It has also needed to project a unique personality which differentiates it from the many other airlines that operate across the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia. Focusing on details has been a vital part of achieving these aims and, when combined with both luxury and value, it is easy to see why Oman Air’s star shines as bright as it now does.
The launch in October 2009 of Oman Air’s new fleet of Airbus A330 wide-body aircraft enabled it to operate many more long haul flights than before, from its base in the Omani capital of Muscat. It also offered the opportunity to unveil new first class, business class and economy class cabins which feature the highest standards of comfort and space, and which provide the perfect setting for a demonstration of Oman Air’s attention to detail.
In business class, the clearest demonstration of this is the award-winning seat. Originally designed as a first class seat (and often still mistaken for one), it is fitted in a 1-2-1 configuration that ensures every business class passenger has direct aisle access. Not only is it wide and comfortably upholstered, but it converts to become a fully lie-flat bed that can comfortably accommodate the tallest of passengers. Indeed, when Sarah McKay, the Great Britain international basketball player, tried the seat, she described it as: “Great – I have never been able to stretch out in an airline seat before.” And, at more than two metres tall, she is in a good position to judge.
The seat’s size and comfort set it apart from the competition, but it delivers the knock-out punch with the range of additional amenities that it offers. The 44cm personal monitor screens an impressive range of the latest movies, music and games, as well as a choice of live TV channels, recorded TV shows and flight information – and the rapid rise of personal communications devices means that in-flight entertainment can now be truly personalised. To that end, Oman Air has fitted iPod and Ethernet sockets to the seat, so that passengers can plug in their own technology and watch their favourite movies, play their favourite games or even review their holiday photos on the extra-large monitor.
Surfing the internet or checking emails is also now possible, thanks to Oman Air’s pioneering of complete connectivity – in-flight Wi-Fi and mobile phone connectivity which ensures that staying in touch at 40,000 feet is as easy as it is on the ground. Mini hand-held keyboards are installed in the seat’s arms, but many travellers choose to plug in their laptops or tablet PCs and use the controls with which they are most familiar. This is clearly a boon for many business travellers, who are now able to arrive at their destination without having to face a backlog of emails and phone messages, and for those who would rather use their flights as ‘down-time’, passengers are requested on take-off to ensure that their ring-tones are turned down or phones switched to vibrate.
Rachael Simpson, a lawyer who regularly travels with Oman Air from the UK to the Middle East and Asia, is one of the many who have welcomed the airline’s innovation. “Working across different time zones means I get phone calls and emails at all times of the day and night,” she says. “Being able to deal with them uninterrupted as I fly means that I can arrive at my destination in control, fully prepared and ready for my first appointment – it’s invaluable.”
Hospitality in the sky
As invaluable, perhaps, as the cabin service, which sees Oman Air’s flight attendants, each attired in Balenciaga-designed uniforms, serving everything from snacks and coffee to a la carte meals and champagne. With menus specially designed to suit the tastes of travellers from around the globe and changed four times a year, full-size china place settings and drinks served in crystal glasses, Oman Air’s premium service is returning fine dining to the skies.
Of course, flight attendants offer much more than just table service and Oman Air’s intensive training programme underpins an approach that is both attentive and discreet, ensuring that every one of the business class cabin’s 20 occupants receives impeccable hospitality.
That hospitality is also reflected on the ground, where Oman Air’s new airport lounges at Muscat International and Bangkok airports provide the ultimate in pre-flight relaxation. Business Class and First Class lounges at Muscat were opened early in 2011 and proved an instant success with passengers, including Rachael Simpson. “The old Business Class lounge at Muscat was fine, but the new one is on a different level altogether,” she says. “It is calm, relaxing, comfortable and very elegant, and its facilities are outstanding. I am particularly fond of the Chedi Spa treatments and, of course, the food, which is delicious. I am slightly jealous of the lounge-to-aircraft limo service that First Class passengers can enjoy, but the only real problem with the lounge is that it is so calming that I find it difficult to motivate myself to do some work. When I do get going, though, I can avoid balancing my laptop on my knees by using one of the computers in the lounge’s business centre.” The Muscat lounges have provided a blueprint for Oman Air’s lounges elsewhere, the latest of which opened in Bangkok in late 2011 – to rave reviews.
Commitment to detail
Whilst he is new to the post of Chief Executive Officer at Oman Air, Wayne Pearce is committed to continuing the airline’s focus on getting the details right, insisting that: “Taking care of every aspect of the passenger experience is crucial to our success, from web booking and online check-in to the quality of our wine list – even our amenity kits have won awards for two years running”, he says.
“And that approach applies not just to our A330 long haul fleet, but on all our aircraft and on every one of our 41 international routes. In fact, we have launched Embraer 175 regional jets on our Middle East routes and they offer extraordinary levels of comfort on flights that may well last less than an hour.
“Oman Air is all about quality. We have no intention of going head-to-head with the airline giants in terms of size, but where we can – and do – make our presence felt is where we combine luxury and value to offer a unique experience. Our fares are highly competitive and our levels of comfort, service and attention remain, I believe, unbeaten by any other airline.”
Oman Air’s customers appear to agree – passenger numbers increased by 16 percent last year and 38 percent the year before, leading Wayne Pearce to conclude, “Oman Air is not trying to keep up with the competition; we are leading the way and I am convinced that we are heralding a new age of air travel.”
For more information please contact: Tel: +968 2453 1111, www.omanair.com