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Dreamliner for One, Please: Oman Air in First Class on a 787-9 From London to Muscat

June 21, 2019
18 min read
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[tpg_rating tpg-rating-score="94" ground-experience="9" cabin-seat="25" amens-ife="14" food-bev="21" service="25" pros="Empty cabin, incredibly friendly crew, great amenities, chilled minibar, good food and beverage options, large IFE selection." cons="No caviar on breakfast flights, sluggish Wi-Fi, downgraded on connecting flight." /]

At the end of May, I joined one of the first ANA Airbus A380 flights between Tokyo and Honolulu on board the carrier's themed Flying Honu plane. Positioning to Tokyo would have been fairly straightforward, but I ended up booking the ANA itinerary beginning in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, rather than Narita, saving TPG thousands of dollars on the cost of my business-class ticket.

Making things even more interesting was the fact that I would be beginning my travels in Europe, rather than the US, which opened up even more options — including Oman Air's 787-9 Dreamliner from London and the carrier's exciting new first class.


While you can technically redeem miles for Oman Air first class, it's easier said than done. The most accessible option is to book via the Etihad Guest program — my one-way flight between London Heathrow (LHR) and Muscat (MCT) would have required 80,000 miles, plus another 72,000 onward to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) (though I was later downgraded to business class — more on that below). You can transfer both Citi ThankYou Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 transfer ratio, or from Capital One at a 2:1.5 ratio.

Update: As a TPG reader noted and Etihad confirmed, it's currently not possible to redeem Etihad Guest miles for Oman Air first class, even though it is listed on Etihad's award chart.

In this case, we opted to book with cash, paying $2,540 for both outbound flights in first class, and a return trip in economy for a later date.

We paid with the Platinum Card® from American Express, earning 5x points for air travel — a total of 12,700 Membership Rewards points, worth $254 based on TPG's most recent valuations. I credited the flight to Etihad Guest as well, but the miles have yet to post.

Also, as I mentioned, following an aircraft swap, my onward flight to KUL was downgraded to business class. After some back and forth with Oman Air and American Express, we weren't offered a partial refund for that segment, unless we were willing to downgrade the London-Muscat flight as well. After explaining the situation, I was able to visit the first-class lounge in Muscat, though, and the purser allowed me to sit in the first-class section of our A330 to Malaysia, which was sold as business class on that particular day.

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[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Ground Experience" tpg-rating="9" tpg-rating-max="10" tail="A40-SF" age="1" departure="8" departure-2="17" duration="7" duration-2="11" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]

After a full day of hanging out with our fantastic TPG UK team, I spent the night at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport — a five-minute, covered walk from Terminal 4. I made it to the check-in area around 6:45am, giving me a bit of time to explore the airport and lounge before our scheduled 8:25am departure.

The Oman Air check-in area was nearly empty, with just one passenger checking in at the first-class queue, so I ended up walking over to an economy desk instead. I again asked about a partial refund following the downgrade on the second segment — the agent made a call, and after a few minutes on the phone, he very apologetically informed me that I'd have to follow up with customer service after the flight.

A supervisor overheard the exchange and walked over. Realizing I was the one and only first-class flyer booked on the flight, she handed over my already-printed boarding passes for both flights, along with an invitation to the Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge that had already been filled out. Even better, she offered to walk me to the lounge, and given the bad luck I've had with overlooking small liquids at LHR security in the past, I gladly accepted the escort.

Security was a breeze this time around, and I was through to the terminal in just a couple of minutes.

I didn't have too much time to kill before boarding, so I headed straight to the lounge. The agent offered to fetch me for boarding, but I explained that I'd be doing some shopping and could make my own way to the gate.

Oman Air's contract lounge is accessible to both business- and first-class passengers, along with those flying other contracted airlines. Still, it was fairly empty given the early hour.

There was a wide selection of food and beverage items on offer, along with plenty of places to sit to enjoy a meal or drink.

I could have easily eaten a full meal in the lounge — there were typical English breakfast items on offer ...

... along with chilled Middle Eastern dips and other treats.

I knew I'd be eating on the plane, but I was actually a bit hungry, so I made myself a plate. A waiter appeared almost immediately to offer a drink, and remained very attentive throughout my visit.

After breakfast, I snapped a few shots of the neighborhood — naturally, a Gulf Air Dreamliner was front and center.

As it turns out, that posted 7:10am boarding time was a bit ambitious — after an informal immigration check, I spent about 30 minutes waiting around the gate until we finally boarded 40 minutes before departure, around 7:45am.

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Cabin and Seat" tpg-rating="25" tpg-rating-max="25" configuration="1" configuration-2="2" configuration-3="1" width="23" bed="76" tray="22" tray-2="22" lavs="1" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]

While this was my first time on A40-SF, I'd actually flown Oman Air's 787-9 before, back in 2017 on a two-cabin configuration (with business and economy class).

This version has the exact same Apex Suite product in business class — one of my top picks, even though some flyers find it to be a bit narrow.

But no matter — this time, I was flying up front. And all alone, it seemed!

While business class is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, first is 1-2-1, giving premium flyers a bit more space to stretch out.

Oman's new business class offers excellent privacy, especially at window seats, but first class takes that to the next level — even with the doors open I needed to lean far forward to see across to the next suite.

You can boost your privacy even further by sliding shut the double door.

Because of all that privacy, the center suites would be my pick if traveling with a companion.

Center suites have a large middle partition as well, which you can raise if you end up sitting next to a stranger.

It was clear that Oman Air put a lot of thought into the suite design. The fixtures on my flight were intricately detailed, and the various features were easy to access — the headphone jack and USB charging port were exactly where I would have wanted them to be, but also hidden a bit out of sight.

My favorite feature of all was the dedicated air nozzle, and since it was on the wall of the suite rather than the ceiling, it was especially easy to adjust. Not that I needed it much on this flight, though — since I was the only one flying in first, the crew checked in often to make sure I was pleased with the cabin temperature.

The seat controls were well-positioned and intuitive as well.

Dedicated buttons made it easy to adjust the seat position, while a touchscreen added granular control, which came in handy when I needed to make slight tweaks during the meal service.

You could easily convert your seat to a bed on your own, but you certainly didn't need to — the crew was be more than happy to provide turndown service, and did a far better job than I could have done getting things set up.

Given that I was all alone, I asked the crew to make up another suite into a bed, so I wouldn't need to leave mine during that process.

The crew had a handful of lighting modes at their disposal, making it easy to create a more relaxing environment after the meal.

It was just such a spectacular cabin. This is the life!

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Amenities and IFE" tpg-rating="14" tpg-rating-max="15" screen="21" live-tv="No" tailcam="No" wifi="1" wifi-2="3" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]

First-class passengers walked away with a wide variety of amenities — make sure you leave some room in your bag!

First, a flight attendant handed me a large pouch from Oman-based Amouage, stuffed to the brim with essentials and bonus items, like a hairbrush and perfume.

Not that I needed them, but there were even more amenities in the lavatory.

I was also offered comfortable pajamas and a pair of matching slippers.

Each seat also came stocked with pillows, a mattress pad and blanket.

The menus came in a pristine leather folder, alongside an offer for a special premium-cabin fragrance with an "exclusive price" of $524.

Oman Air also provided noise-canceling headphones, but I wasn't at all impressed with the quality, so I ended up just using my own.

Measuring 21 inches, the high-definition display actually felt a bit small given the distance from the seat — it was more than adequate, though.

I also tried watching content on the wired remote — an unnecessary feature, given that the experience was so much better on the main screen. The remote display was an ideal fit for the moving map, though.

The map itself was detailed and interactive — I really enjoyed zooming in on the various towns as we flew over Iran.

First-class flyers got three hours of complimentary Wi-Fi, though usage was capped at 100 MB, so had I planned to work I would have needed to purchase another package (or two or three). Additional data was available in blocks of 60 minutes (25 MB) for $20, three hours (100 MB) for $30 or the full flight (150 MB) for $40.

Wi-Fi performance was hardly spectacular — I was able to load texts and email, but any pictures I tried to upload never made it past my drafts.

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Food and Beverage" tpg-rating="21" tpg-rating-max="25" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" meals="2" champagne="Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle" dine-on-demand="Yes" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]

My first shot at a drink came moments after sitting down, as I explored the suite and discovered that what I thought was a storage compartment was actually a minibar. And, unlike on Emirates, this minibar was refrigerated, so all of the drinks were cool. Score!

It wasn't long before a flight attendant came by to introduce herself and offer some Champagne, too.

My glass of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle was accompanied by a towel and ramekin of nuts.

Next, I was offered a cup of Arabic coffee.

And there were dates!

Oman Air offers on-demand dining, so you can eat whenever you like. I decided to get started shortly after takeoff.

As she set my table, the flight attendant offered a spectacular bowl of breakfast breads — I'm not exaggerating when I say these could have come from a patisserie on the ground. Easily the best bread I've had on a flight. Must have been a lot of butter.

Next, I started with a marinated prawn, smoked tuna and sous-vide salmon appetizer, which was served with freshly ground pepper.

The presentation was a bit busy, perhaps, but everything tasted pretty fresh, with decent flavor — aside from the tuna, which was a bit too salty.

After another glass of Champagne, I switched to Bordeaux for my main course. The crew poured me a taste so I could make sure it wasn't corked after opening the bottle, which I appreciated.

I went with the Arabic breakfast, which consisted of a bean stew, labneh, olives, tabouleh, a beef kebab, cheese, mixed vegetables and pita bread. Again, the meal tasted fresh, but I wasn't blown away.

I finished things off with a pot of tea — Oman Air offers 10.

Since I was traveling alone, later in the flight I asked if I could sample some of the other items, after confirming that they'd all end up in the garbage otherwise.

The fried egg with hollandaise turned out to be a fine option as well, but I was most happy with my Arabic breakfast.

I also sampled some fresh fruit, which was served with a delicious vanilla panna cotta.

While I found the food to be adequate for first class, I was a bit bummed to miss out on Oman Air's caviar service — it was only available on afternoon and evening flights.

[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Service" tpg-rating="25" tpg-rating-max="25" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="Yes" turndown-service="Yes" /]

Did you notice something different about this review? Yeah, aside from the multisuite setup, there were a number of photos of me — not easy to accomplish when you're flying solo. As it turns out, someone at the airport gave the purser a heads up that a "social media person" was on board — presumably from searching my name before check-in.

Naturally, that made it a bit challenging to fly under the radar, though with two flight attendants and a purser serving a single first-class flyer, I can't imagine my experience would have been much different had they not been warned to give me more attention.

I found the service to be first class through and through. It felt especially formal at first, but increasingly relaxed as the crew and I became acquainted. And, generally, I think that's a recipe for success — with high-fare flyers, you can't go wrong with a structured approach, but the ability to make passengers feel relaxed (if that's what they want) is key.

Muscat First-Class Lounge

The fun wasn't over when we pulled up to the gate. Muscat just opened a new terminal at the end of last year, and it's a huge upgrade overall.

The new lounges are great, too — I was directed to the business-class lounge at first, since access is based on your departing cabin, but after verifying that I had booked a first-class ticket and been downgraded to biz, I was later escorted to the first-class section.

The lounge had several seating areas, a bar and dining section, with a full a la carte menu. There was also a well-stocked shower with plenty of amenities, and I was offered a second full amenity kit (which I politely declined) when I inquired about a toothbrush.

While the lounge was fairly small, the attention to detail was clear — I especially loved the bathrooms.

The food was excellent, though I felt terrible about not being able to finish, given how much I had eaten on the plane.

Best of all, just as on the flight, I was the only passenger in the first-class lounge — the perfect end to a very special day.

Overall Impression

While solo cabins are incredibly rare on US-based carriers, it's entirely possible to land an experience like this on a foreign airline, depending on the route, date and time of day. I had my own business cabin on Cathay Pacific back in 2017, but that experience didn't come anywhere close to this.

Ultimately, what really made the flight special was the crew. I really appreciated how easily they were able to adapt, relaxing their service considerably after we had a few minutes to interact. They went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and taken care of, but did a phenomenal job of giving me space to also simply enjoy the cabin and experience.

All photos by the author.

Featured image by Zach Honig / The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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