Flight Review: Oman Air (787-9) Business Class From Paris to Muscat
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To The Point
Oman Air offers one of the best-outfitted 787-9 Dreamliners in the world, with loads of privacy in business class. The Pros: a fantastic seat, an empty mini-cabin, excellent service and food. The Cons: Wi-Fi was incredibly slow and unavailable for most of the flight.
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Following a fantastic few days at the 2017 Paris Air Show, I had to make my way from Paris (CDG) to Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) in order to (eventually) catch the first Qatar Airways Qsuite flight from Doha to London. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that there aren’t any nonstop flights from CDG to CMB, but there are plenty of very interesting one-stop options, with excellent fares in business class.
The most affordable itineraries came in at just around $1,200:
- Ukraine International Airlines from Paris to Kiev (KBP) on a Boeing 737 (3 hours), followed by KBP to CMB on a 767 with recliner seats (8 hours)
- Oman Air from Paris to Muscat (MCT) on a Boeing 787-9 (7 hours) with lie-flat seats, followed by MCT to CMB on a 737 (4 hours)
For an extra $300-500, I could have flown Kuwait Airways (A330s with angle-flat seats) or British Airways to London followed by a nonstop on SriLankan’s A330 with brand-new reverse-herringbone lie-flat seats. For a bit more than that I could have had my pick of many other interesting carriers, ranging from China Eastern to Air India (no thanks!).
As you can probably guess from the title of this review (and the photo above), I decided to go for Oman Air. I’m a big fan of the Dreamliner (especially the 787-9), and Oman Air just took delivery of two — the airline currently flies them to Bangkok, Frankfurt and Paris. All of Oman’s 787s also feature one of my favorite business-class seats, the Apex Suite, which I loved on Japan Airlines’ 777 and had a chance to check out on Korean Air’s Dreamliner. Oman Air is also a partner of Etihad, which opens up some interesting redemption opportunities (more on that below).
As I mentioned, Oman Air partners with Etihad, and you can use Etihad Guest miles to book flights operated by Oman. Business-class awards on this route will run you just 42,000 Etihad miles + €216 each way, and considering that the program partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou for 1:1 transfers, there’s a very good chance you have more than enough credit card points to book a round-trip flight right now.
Note that you’ll need to call Etihad at 1-877-690-0767 to check award availability and book a flight. There were two business-class award seats available on two dates I checked throughout the year and one award seat open on another, so as of now it seems fairly likely that you’ll be able to travel when you’d like — and with a companion to boot. Unfortunately, Etihad requires Oman Air award flights to be ticketed at least seven days in advance so this isn’t an option for last-minute travel (as I needed to book for this trip). See this post for more details on how to book Oman Air awards with Etihad Guest miles.
I ended up booking my flight with cash, paying $1,185 for the one-way ticket in business class, with a two-hour connection in Muscat. A couple days before departure, however, I decided that I wanted to spend a day in Oman to help break up the travel — pricing the stopover out on Oman Air’s site resulted in a similar fare, so I called up American Express Travel (where I’d booked the flight originally) to handle the change.
After an hour or so on the phone with an incredibly helpful Amex rep, she was unable to book the stopover, even after calling an Oman Air support desk to inquire about the change. I wasn’t ready to give up, though, given that I could have purchased a new ticket on Oman Air’s site — with the stopover — for the same price. Typically all changes need to be handled by the booking agent (Amex, in this case), but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give Oman Air a call directly to see if an agent could assist. After a few minutes on hold, the agent returned for my credit card info and $100 later, I was rebooked with a 24-hour stop in Oman. Success!
I was able to use the same confirmation number to select my seat for the following evening, at which point I noticed that the rear mini-cabin (with just six seats) appeared to be entirely empty, given that seats 15D and G were blocked for families with small children (there weren’t any in business class on my flight).
I decided to credit my flight to Etihad Guest, and ended up earning about 8,000 miles for my Oman Air flights, plus a 500-mile enrollment bonus. We value Etihad Guest miles at 1.4 cents each, so this netted me about $120 return.
Additionally, TPG booked my flight with The Platinum Card from American Express, earning about 6,000 Membership Rewards points on the $1,185 purchase, worth some $114. In total, that meant we earned more than $230 in points and miles, bringing the net cost of the flight down to about $950. Not bad at all for such a long trip in business class, including a fantastic leg on the 787-9.
Airport and Lounge
Given that Uber was surging in Paris, I took a taxi to the airport around 6:30pm for my 9:35pm departure. Traffic was a bit nuts, so I arrived at CDG’s Terminal 2 around 7:30pm.
After a few minutes at the desk, I was on my way. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that I’d have access to Cathay Pacific’s lounge. I also received an expedited security/immigration card, which helped me get through the screening process in just a few minutes.
After that, it was a short walk to the Cathay Pacific lounge, located on the second level of the terminal.
The lounge was fairly crowded, though there was still plenty of seating available.
Knowing that I’d be getting two full meals on my Oman Air flight, I didn’t go too crazy at the buffet.
There was a small self-serve bar, with a selection of liquor and wine, along with juices and soft drinks.
Snacks ranged from mixed nuts…
…to a decently appointed salad bar…
… to hot items that included salmon and sweet and sour chicken.
My favorite F&B component was the noodle bar, of course — I enjoyed a small bowl of wonton noodle soup.
I also ended up taking a quick shower, since I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to check into my hotel upon our early-morning arrival in Muscat.
After that, it was a long (15-minute) walk to the satellite terminal and our gate.
Boarding was scheduled for a full hour before departure, which seemed excessive. I imagine that early boarding time was simply intended to give passengers plenty of time to make it all the way to the gate — we ended up boarding closer to the departure time of 9:35pm.
Our 787-9 Dreamliner, registration A4O-SC, was delivered in February 2017 and began flying for Oman Air in April, so it was brand-spanking-new. Ain’t she a beaut!
We entered through Door 2, walking through the galley between the two business-class cabins.
The forward cabin consists of 24 business-class seats that are spread between four rows and arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration.
Center seats are arranged side-by-side, while window seats are staggered for added privacy (and to enable easy access from the aisle).
Meanwhile, the small mini-cabin just behind Door 2 consists of just six seats.
Just as I had hoped, the rear cabin was entirely empty — it was all mine for the seven-hour flight to Muscat!
That also meant I had my very own lavatory, located just behind the middle galley, however passengers ended up coming up from the economy cabin to use “my” lav throughout the flight.
The lavatory was kept clean throughout the flight though, and I appreciated the small touches, such as a motion-activated sink, pedal-operated trash can and the fresh(ish) flowers below.
Just after closing the door, the purser came by to suggest that I move to a seat in the forward cabin, saying that it would be “quieter” there. He pushed a bit, but I declined — I didn’t want to give up the novelty of having yet another cabin all to myself!
After Qatar’s Qsuite, my favorite business-class seat is the Apex suite installed on Oman Air’s 787-9 (and 787-8).
In fact, this seat is so private that Korean Air even decided to install it in the first-class cabin on its 787-9 — not that I’d be quite as thrilled to find it in first class.
I decided to stick with my window-facing seat even though the cabin was empty, raising the side partition to block out some of the noise during boarding.
The seat has a fair amount of storage below the ottoman, and just in front of the seat.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of space to store rolling bags and backpacks in the overhead bins just above the window seats.
The seat had two sets of controls — the first is used to raise and lower the partition wall and adjust the brightness of ambient lighting.
The other control panel is for the seat itself — I found it fairly intuitive, but note that due to the design of the seat, you’ll need to move it forward in order to recline a fair amount.
The seat was comfortable in both the upright and lie-flat modes — window-facing seats are a bit narrow, but it wasn’t an issue for me.
The tray table isn’t quite large enough to accommodate the full meal and a computer, but since I had the cabin all to myself, I was able to rest my laptop on the seat to my left.
I found a well-stocked amenity kit at my seat, with all the necessities, including the highest-quality disposable toothbrush I’ve ever seen.
There was also some perfume and lotion in each lavatory.
I received a sleepwear kit that included comfy pajamas, slippers and a second (and softer) eye mask.
There was a comforter at each seat — Oman Air didn’t have a mattress cover on hand, but I used the comforter from the open seat next to me to provide a bit more padding, and grabbed that seat’s pillow as well.
As for aircraft-wide amenities, Oman Air offers satellite internet provided by OnAir, but it’s pricey and super slow. I opted for the $30 plan, which included 100 megabytes of data to use over three hours — which, since you can pause the Wi-Fi whenever you’d like, could have lasted me for the full flight.
Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi was incredibly slow, and only worked for the first few minutes. After the flight, I simply replied to my email receipt asking for a refund and an agent processed it right away. While I would have preferred to have functioning Wi-Fi, at least I didn’t have to pay.
Each seat offers a state-of-the-art HD in-flight entertainment system, with a large touchscreen display.
You can also control content with the wired remote, which I found to be a bit buggy — my remote froze a couple of times and a flight attendant had to reset the entire system once. The picture quality was very good, though.
The remote also worked well as a second screen, with a flight “agenda” readout available throughout our journey. The system even appeared to support food and beverage ordering, just like on JAL’s 777-300ER, though this was disabled for my flight.
The noise-canceling headphones were decent enough that I decided to use them for the flight instead of digging through my bag for my Bose earbuds.
Food and Beverage
Oman Air’s catering is decent out of Paris — there wasn’t a ton of food, but that was fine given the late hour and that I had already eaten in the lounge. However, since this trip was during Ramadan and other passengers may have been fasting before and after the flight, they would have been quite a bit hungrier than I was at boarding.
Just before departure a flight attendant appeared with dates and Arabic coffee. She apologized for the delay, explaining that the crew hadn’t realized anyone was seated in the business-class cabin.
I was then offered my choice of beverage — I went with a glass of Champagne. Oman Air serves Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee Speciale Vintage (about $70 a bottle on the ground).
Other wine options included:
- Domaine Laroche Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2013 ($65)
- Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($19)
- Yalumba The Strapper GSM Barossa 2012 ($18)
- Gerard Bertrand Cigalus Rouge 2013 ($46)
- Castello di Pomino ($13)
After takeoff, a flight attendant came by with a small plate of appetizers, which tasted fine but not outstanding. I also ordered a glass of Sauvignon blanc.
A few minutes later, another flight attendant came by to set my table for the main meal.
For my appetizer, I went with the traditional Arabic mezze, which consisted of a mix of hot and cold dishes, with pita bread on the side. The hot items were deep fried and didn’t reheat all that well, but the cold dishes were fine.
Then, for my main course, I ordered something called “Omani hospitality flavours from the sultanate,” which included chicken kofta, rice, pumpkin and grilled peppers. It was pretty flavorful and a fine business-class dish.
Finally, for dessert, I ordered the cheese plate, which, as you’d expect for a flight departing France, was outstanding.
Then, about 90 minutes before landing, I was served breakfast (all at once). I had actually asked to be woken for breakfast an hour before landing, but that didn’t end up happening. Breakfast was very good, though — while I wasn’t really hungry at the time, I should have had much more to eat given how difficult it can be to find food during daylight hours during Ramadan (in Oman, at least).
Arrival and Transit
About an hour after I finished breakfast, we were on the ground in Muscat. MCT is working to build a brand-new terminal, but in the meantime the airport only operates bus gates, which means taking a bus to and from the plane and using air stairs, even in a 787-9. While that gave me an opportunity to get some shots of the plane, it’s hardly ideal after a long-haul flight.
Given that I was entering Oman, I had to purchase a visa on arrival for 20 Omani Rial (about $52). After paying the fee at the Travelex booth with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, I made it through immigration in less than a minute — almost every other passenger on my 787 was just connecting in Oman. (Note that this purchase did not code as travel, so I only earned a total of 52 points.)
I had a great 24-hour layover in Muscat, including some quality time at the Sheraton Oman Hotel about 30 minutes from the airport.
The next morning, I left the hotel around 6:30am for my 8:35am departure to Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB). That gave me about 30 minutes to check out Oman Air’s business-class lounge at MCT.
As seems to be the norm in the Middle East, Arabic coffee and dates were available just after check-in.
The first lounge room was entirely empty, though that certainly wasn’t the case once I continued.
Notably, the bar was closed — apparently it’s not available at all during Ramadan, not that I needed alcohol at 7:30 in the morning.
There was plenty of food available, though.
Breakfast options ranged from fruit and yogurt to cheese and breads. It wasn’t the most exciting spread, but it certainly seemed to be popular with the other lounge guests.
After a few minutes in the lounge, I headed down to my next bus gate. My four-hour flight to Colombo, on a dated Oman Air 737-800, wasn’t so great…
While Oman Air’s 737 leaves much to be desired, I really enjoyed my flight on the 787-9 Dreamliner. It certainly didn’t hurt to have the cabin all to myself, but even with a full flight I think I would have managed to sleep just fine, thanks to the extra-private seat design and partition.
Would I go out of my way to fly Oman Air again? Probably not, at least not until the new terminal opens at Muscat, or until the airline begins flying to the US (if that ever happens). But I have no question that this was my best option for getting from Paris to Colombo, especially given the price.
Have you flown on Oman Air’s 787-9? Tell us about your experience, below.