Transforming a regional airline into a luxury international carrier, focused on the needs of the 21st Century business passenger, is a massive challenge at the best of times. Doing so in the face of the worst economic conditions in aviation’s history might seem extraordinarily ambitious. But that is exactly what Oman Air has achieved in the industry, much to the satisfaction of the airline’s swiftly-growing legions of loyal customers.
Andrew Brown, a London-based company director who travels extensively across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, has witnessed Oman Air’s rapid evolution close up – often from the comfort of a business class seat. He says: “Ever since I first started doing business in Oman, Oman Air has been the most convenient airline for getting there, but the changes they have introduced over the last couple of years have made flying with them even more of a pleasure. They have incredibly comfortable new aircraft, inflight connectivity, and fly to even more destinations than they used to. The food and inflight entertainment are excellent and the hospitality outstanding. I think Oman Air has done a remarkable job.”
In terms of the dramatic and highly visible changes Oman Air has undergone, Andrew’s comments just scratch the surface.
Since October 2009, 15 new services have been launched across Europe, the Middle East, South and South East Asia and East Africa, including Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Milan, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. A new fleet of luxurious Airbus A330s has also been unveiled, whilst many aircraft within the airline’s existing Boeing 737 fleet have been replaced. In addition, flights within the Middle East are increasingly being operated using brand new Embraer 175 aircraft.
A business class of its own
Acclaimed though Oman Air’s first class and economy cabins are, it is Oman Air’s A330 business class offering that has attracted the most attention. Each of the aircraft’s 20 business class seats has direct aisle access and converts to a fully lie-flat bed. A la carte dining and a superb wine list combine with the genuine warmth of the Balenciaga-uniformed crew’s hospitality are also available to make every business class customer feel at home. In fact, such is the level of comfort and luxury that business class is often mistaken for first class.
And throughout the aircraft, state-of-the-art inflight entertainment offers movies, music, games, live TV and the opportunity to personalise your entertainment options by plugging in your own electronic devices. Meanwhile, Oman Air’s pioneering mobile phone and Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to check your emails, surf the internet, send text messages and use your own phone to make voice calls.
“Being able to deal with things as they come in, even whilst I am in the air, means that I am relaxed and ready to do business as soon as I touch down,” adds Andrew Brown.
Introducing full inflight connectivity in March 2010 – a world first – was an important step for Oman Air. Peter Hill, Oman Air’s CEO says; “Business class travellers are looking not only for space, comfort and outstanding service, they rightly want something more for their money. So, whilst we deliver what I am confident is the best business class cabin available anywhere, we are always looking to add extra value, amenity and convenience.
“With mobile phones and broadband connectivity becoming such integral parts of our everyday lives, it was a question of when we launched the service, rather than if.
“For our leisure customers, it means they can stay in touch with friends and family, arrange airport pick-ups or simply update their social media. For our business customers, however, full connectivity allows them to keep up to date with the latest developments, stay on top of email and provide a seamless service to their stakeholders. Business doesn’t stop just because you board a plane, and having access to our comprehensive connectivity package means you don’t have to be unavailable unless you want to be.”
Recipe for success
Oman Air’s business class travellers can also benefit from limousine transfers, online check-in, fast track clearance through departures and access to some of the world’s best business class airport lounges. Indeed, Oman Air has just unveiled new business and first class lounges at Muscat International Airport.
Peter Hill continues: “We felt that it was important to provide an environment that both delivered the services and hospitality that premium travellers demand, and reflected the very high quality of Oman Air’s inflight experience.
“The environment of our new business class lounge, as with our new first class lounge, is relaxing, very comfortable and the ideal place to unwind before flying on to your final destination. Our chefs have designed delicious menus that are served throughout the day, our bar staff will fix you up with your favourite drink and, for that extra touch, complimentary massages are provided by the Chedi Spa, one of Oman’s most exclusive hotels. If you need to keep your mind on business, we have a dedicated business area, with broadband and all the major news channels available, so whether you want to retreat from the world and be pampered, or engage with it and get as much done as possible, the choice is yours.”
Both the inflight product and the lounges at Muscat have met with approval from customers and plaudits from the industry, with the list of award wins and nominations growing fast. The ultimate proof of success, however, lies with the bottom line: during 2010, Oman Air defied global trends by increasing its revenues by 40 percent, carrying 38 percent more passengers and improving its load factors by 11 percent.
So, the success of Oman Air’s transformation is clear, but the final word goes to Peter Hill:
“Our motivation was to create a niche luxury airline that welcomed premium travellers and acted as an international ambassador for the Sultanate of Oman. It is very satisfying to know that our financial results for the last year show that we are achieving that.
“Furthermore, the fact that many people discover the Sultanate of Oman’s dramatic beauty, wonderful culture and excellent business opportunities as a result of flying with Oman Air means that we are succeeding, not just as an international airline, but as the Sultanate’s national carrier.
“We have accomplished a huge amount in a short space of time and the next two years look set to be equally thrilling.”