Oman Air Plane Swap & Downgrade: No Couch For Me!

Oman Air Plane Swap & Downgrade: No Couch For Me!

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You know how I’m currently on a review trip to Oman to sit on a couch? Well, I’m still enroute to Oman, but unfortunately my trip just took a bit of a turn, which I feared could happen…

Oman Air has swapped planes and downgraded me

On Saturday, I’m supposed to fly from Muscat to Frankfurt on Oman Air in first class. That segment was what motivated me to book this entire trip, because Oman Air has a ridiculously cool Airbus A330 with the awesomest retro interior ever. It has a first class cabin with six seats, as well as a couch in the middle of the cabin.

Sure, Emirates may have showers, and Singapore Airlines may have double beds, but this product just looks like such a charming throwback, and it’s the single product that I’ve most been wanting to fly.

When I wrote about having booked this itinerary, some readers warned me that Oman Air does sometimes swap planes, so I knew there was a risk of that. I tend to manage my reservations very closely, and while the airline hasn’t informed me of any changes to my itinerary, I do notice on ExpertFlyer that my flight now shows as being operated by an A330-200 rather than an A330-300, and the latter doesn’t feature first class.

To think that less than 24 hours ago I was the only person to be booked in first class, and now I’m not even booked in first class… or at least I’d assume I’m not?

Obviously this is disappointing, though one consolation is that the A330-200 operating the flight appears to be one of the “ancient” ones, also featuring a very cool business class interior that’s a throwback. I love Oman Air’s retro interiors!

The product I’ll be flying in, I think

I understand aircraft swaps happen for operational reasons, but the way that Oman Air is going about this is more than a little shady, in my opinion. The airline sells first class tickets, and then with quite some regularity swaps out the plane. That’s not cool. Either don’t sell first class, or operate reliably.

Sure, once in a while swaps happen, but it looks like the airline has now swapped planes for four of the past seven days. That just reflects careless scheduling, and not an acceptable level of operational disruptions.

I’m curious to see how Oman Air handles this

Oman Air is a boutique airline, and only has four jets that have first class cabins. I was the only person booked in first class on this flight. Despite that, the airline hasn’t reached out or informed me of the downgrade, which you’d think would be a common courtesy in such a situation. I only know about this because I constantly monitor my reservations.

I’m only passing through Muscat for several hours, so I’m curious to see what happens when I get there. Anyone want to place their bet as to how this plays out? This kind of situation is a new one for me (specifically, a downgrade on a smaller airline where I’m not familiar with policies), which is kind of exciting, frankly, as I enjoy learning from any new experience.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if I show up at the transit desk in Muscat, and they issue me my business class boarding pass as if nothing happened. Then when I explain I was downgraded, I wouldn’t be surprised if they shrug their shoulders, and that’s that.

My hope — and this should be the bare minimum in a situation like this — is that they proactively advise me of the downgrade, still give me access to the first class lounge with all ground services, and offer some sort of compensation (heck, I’ll take a bottle of Amouage cologne, or partial first class catering!)

It’s too bad that this flight is to the European Union rather than from the European Union, because if it were the latter, EU261 would apply (for non-EU airlines it otherwise only applies when departing the EU).

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about this now rather than waiting to see how this plays out is because I’m curious how OMAAT readers would handle this, or if anyone has experience with this on Oman Air This is my first time being downgraded in such a way on an airline where I don’t know the policy, so I want to be sure to approach this right.

I don’t want to be at all unreasonable, but I also feel like I should push back a little if they don’t want to even let me in the first class lounge, or acknowledge the downgrade.

No Oman Air first class for me, it sounds like!

Bottom line

I had planned a review trip around being able to fly Oman Air’s awesome old A330 first class. Unfortunately the airline seems to swap planes pretty often, and I’m the latest “victim” of that. While I’m of course bummed about this change, I don’t actually care that much, other than being curious how the airline handles this situation. I’m incredibly lucky to do what I do, and business class will be great too.

Let this also be a warning — if you’re also booking an Oman Air A330 first class ticket, be prepared to be disappointed with a swap. For that matter, if you don’t get swapped, enjoy the experience even more, knowing how lucky you are!

Anyone want to guess how this will play out? What would you expect from the airline (in terms of treatment and acknowledgement)?

Conversations (53)
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  1. matthewsoft New Member

    It looks like Oman might be leasing some of the A333s to Qatar, seeing a lot of them go in/out of DOH to other places besides MCT. Wikipedia says they have six, which I believe are these. Sometimes flightaware doesn't always get the aircraft code right, especially this one for whatever reason https://www.flightradar24.com/data/aircraft/a4o-dd#
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODB
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODD
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODE
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODH
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODI
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODJ
    Keep an eye on where these go and hopefully...

    It looks like Oman might be leasing some of the A333s to Qatar, seeing a lot of them go in/out of DOH to other places besides MCT. Wikipedia says they have six, which I believe are these. Sometimes flightaware doesn't always get the aircraft code right, especially this one for whatever reason https://www.flightradar24.com/data/aircraft/a4o-dd#
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODB
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODD
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODE
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODH
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODI
    https://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A4ODJ
    Keep an eye on where these go and hopefully Lucky or someone else can fly this interesting plane! I hope Aeroplan makes it right too since you didn't get to fly F. It does make me wonder if Oman overschedules the A333 so they can sell more F than what they can provide...

  2. iamhere Guest

    I would handle it after the fact and provide a reasonable request. The problem though is for some of these boutique airlines getting in touch with the airline with your complaint and getting a reasonable outcome may be difficult. If you handle it in the airport you need to request something that is (1) in the person's control and (2) with a decision maker.

  3. Heinrich Sch. Guest

    Ich bin ein einziges Mal mit denen nach Thailand geflogen (Business). Das hat mir gereicht. Nie wieder!
    Beim Hinflug schon über 4 Stunden Verspätung beim Umsteigen in Muscat.
    In Bangkok angekommen erkannte ich unsere Koffer nicht wieder. Diese sind in Muscat stundenlang neben der Landebahn in der Wüste gelegen und waren total verdreckt. Im Hotel musste der Portier diese erst einer Grundreinigung unterziehen, bevor wir sie öffnen konnten.

    Im Hotel erhielt ich...

    Ich bin ein einziges Mal mit denen nach Thailand geflogen (Business). Das hat mir gereicht. Nie wieder!
    Beim Hinflug schon über 4 Stunden Verspätung beim Umsteigen in Muscat.
    In Bangkok angekommen erkannte ich unsere Koffer nicht wieder. Diese sind in Muscat stundenlang neben der Landebahn in der Wüste gelegen und waren total verdreckt. Im Hotel musste der Portier diese erst einer Grundreinigung unterziehen, bevor wir sie öffnen konnten.

    Im Hotel erhielt ich dann eine Nachricht, dass der Rückflug gecancelt wird, weil ich meine Kreditkartenzahlung zurückgehen ließ. Was nicht gestimmt hat. Ich habe dann während meines Urlaubs eine Woche lang mit der Airline, mit dem Reiseveranstalter, mit dem Kreditkartenunternehmen und mit meiner Bank kommuniziert und Kontoauszüge an diese Airline weiter geschickt. Mein Urlaub war dadurch völlig ruiniert.
    Kurz vor Abflug teilte man mir mit, dass man mich gnädigerweise nach Deutschland mitnehmen würde, und das Problem mit der Bezahlung wollte man dann in Deutschland klären.
    In Deutschland habe ich mich dann sofort an Omanair gewandt. Die Antwort war: "Dies war ein administratives Problem unseres Buchhalters. Der Fall ist erledigt".
    Keine Entschuldigung, nichts! Gar nichts!

  4. Michael Guest

    Just a heads up that on some routes Oman Air have downgraded the aircraft type from a A330/B787 to a B737 MAX8 with only recliner seats. I have seen this on MCT/MUC and MCT/KUL routes for flights towards the end of the year.

    1. Evita Guest

      This has just happened to me for my flights in July, I had flat beds on all my flights and now all of them have been changed to the B737-8 MAX - I am livid and not sure what to do about it as they are just saying "provide feedback online"

  5. Billiken Guest

    I bet they do not view this as a cabin downgrade.

  6. Levi Diamond

    Note that not all flight segments from the EU would qualify for EC261, as the EU courts have ruled that merely connecting in the EU doesn't trigger EC261.

    Even a JFK-FRA-CAI itinerary on LH (EU carrier, connecting in the EU) would not get EC261, even though someone next to you on JFK-FRA-BER or DUS-FRA-CAI would get EC261.

  7. Egbert Guest

    I don't know how they handle this now but when the planes where new I drove down from the Netherlands to take this flight all the way to bkk. The sofa I never used and the old business class was not to much different.
    What I realy liked about the business then when I was with my kids and wife we had always 1 whole row . The difference with first class was 8...

    I don't know how they handle this now but when the planes where new I drove down from the Netherlands to take this flight all the way to bkk. The sofa I never used and the old business class was not to much different.
    What I realy liked about the business then when I was with my kids and wife we had always 1 whole row . The difference with first class was 8 inches difference in the length.
    I was flying this route monthly and find the first class lounge ok, the good Parr was the drive in the audi a 8 from and to the airplane.

  8. Mark Guest

    Ben, the same thing happened to me.

    Aircraft swap, no first class, downgraded to biz.

    I demanded to be rebooked on Emirates in First Class under EU 261 re-protection agreement.
    You need to organise this with the airline BEFORE you start your journey.
    If you're in Muscat - it's too late.

    Don't let the airline profit at your expense.

    1. Evita Guest

      Where you able to get rebooked onto Emirates?? Did you manage to get that done? I have been downgraded from Airbus 330-200 or B737-9 (with flat beds in Business) to B737-8 MAX which only has reclining seats for all 4 of our Oman Air flights and we have 2 night flights in there. If you can please let me know how you managed to do it I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks (My flights are in July/August)

  9. Jude Oman Guest

    After living in Muscat from 2008 I can almost guarantee that your comment “ I wouldn’t be surprised if I show up at the transit desk in Muscat, and they issue me my business class boarding pass as if nothing happened. Then when I explain I was downgraded, I wouldn’t be surprised if they shrug their shoulders, and that’s that.” will be entirely accurate.
    Nicest people in the world but they don’t get customer...

    After living in Muscat from 2008 I can almost guarantee that your comment “ I wouldn’t be surprised if I show up at the transit desk in Muscat, and they issue me my business class boarding pass as if nothing happened. Then when I explain I was downgraded, I wouldn’t be surprised if they shrug their shoulders, and that’s that.” will be entirely accurate.
    Nicest people in the world but they don’t get customer service or any urgency. This is across the board industry wise and not just Oman air.
    Take a day or two in Muscat until they operate the plane. It’s an amazing little place

    1. John Guest

      I totally agree. Muscat is awesome, spend a couple of days there and wait for the plane you want. I highly recommend the Kempinski hotel.

  10. Nathan Guest

    This is honestly not any worse than what QR does on their 777 routes. They market and sell them as QSuite routes and then you get stuck in their god awful old seat with no recourse. Swaps obviously have to happen sometimes (case in point is the 7379Max issue currently) but for premium product swaps it is ridiculous.

    1. Evita Guest

      Have they had to remove the 797-9 Dreamliner too because of the safety concerns?

  11. Shane Guest

    I was in a similar situation last year on a downgraded Oman Air ticket booked through Aeroplan BKK-MCT-FRA. I watched alternative availability pretty closely and called in when an Emirates first class award opened up. No problem from the agent being reaccommodated on Emirates with no charge, despite the flight costing ~3x the miles.

  12. Rob Guest

    I would cancel the trip. To be honest swapping aircrafts is very annoying - I can understand last moment swap - but my flight and aircraft from Rio ( June ) with LH was changed 4 times since I bought the ticket ( November ) - obviously for worse. Sadly changing aircraft months in advance is not a reason for a refund - but it should be as it is completely misleading and completely different quality of flight.

    1. Evita Guest

      I agree, they have changed all my aircrafts for my flights in July to the 737-8 MAX, I am booked in BC and had flat beds on all my flights, now in none of them!

  13. Pierre Diamond

    Ben, has it occured to you that the downgrade is because you are the only 1st Class passenger and they'd rather not do the whole show and catering for ONE passenger?

    What will be interesting is whether you'll get a proactive refund and compensation... I bet you won't or whether they'll need a cesarean section to deliver.

  14. McCaron Guest

    I recently have customers traveling to Jordan with Oman Air.
    Onboard, nothing to declare, everything was fine.
    But upon arrival, no luggage, nobody from the company to care about locating the luggage and sending it to a determined destination.
    Our agency had to take of making the claim, calling many contacts within the company to have it properly delivered.
    Once located the third party courier company was asked for $200 for...

    I recently have customers traveling to Jordan with Oman Air.
    Onboard, nothing to declare, everything was fine.
    But upon arrival, no luggage, nobody from the company to care about locating the luggage and sending it to a determined destination.
    Our agency had to take of making the claim, calling many contacts within the company to have it properly delivered.
    Once located the third party courier company was asked for $200 for the delivery
    After their return, we filed a claim and the person never got any response nor any compensation

    1. UncleRonnie Guest

      Yeah but did they get to sit on that funky couch to make it feel better?

    2. Pierre Diamond

      Remember the time when BOAC was understood as "Better On A Camel"?
      Oman Air didn't exist, then, so they can't have meant them.

  15. Steve Guest

    My best guess is that you may receive advanced notification of the airplane change and your downgrade, but I don't see them doing much by way of compensating you - as that would be an offset to what I believe is an intentional bait and switch on their part. Best of luck - and keep up the great work of keeping us in the loop. I live vicariously through your travel vlogs.

  16. Mark P Gold

    Ben, not sure how flexible your schedule is but if it were me I would absolutely just wait in Muscat until they operate the plane with the couch. That's the whole reason you are there! Check out a couple different hotels in Muscat while you're at it. Hopefully you will then be able to adjust your return flights to the US from Europe.

    1. k1b2637 Diamond

      The Grand Hyatt Muscat looks amazing in a very 90s tacky way. I'd love a OMAAT review!!

  17. Icarus Guest

    You’re entitled to a refund of the fare difference irrespective. If it was ex the EU the only comp you would be entitled to is the same albeit a fixed 75% of the sector as you’ve not been denied boarding. Not sure what it would be ex MCT or whether the local
    authorities have a specific regulation. It’s always worth checking as people are very aware of EC/UK261 however may not be aware for example, Saudi Arabia has strict regulations.

  18. PK Guest

    I was just downgraded last week on that route as well. But they let me use the F lounge and also escorted me to the plane etc It is what it is.

  19. Andy Guest

    I've had a few downgrades in the recent past that ended up being somewhat favorable to me.

    I booked Singapore Suites on the A380 from JFK-FRA-SIN with saver miles and was downgraded to business from FRA-SIN. Singapore Airlines proactively compensated me with a voucher for their KrisFlyer shop and a 75% refund in miles for the entire trip. I assume the 75% refund was per EU261 but that was never clearly stated. I didn't...

    I've had a few downgrades in the recent past that ended up being somewhat favorable to me.

    I booked Singapore Suites on the A380 from JFK-FRA-SIN with saver miles and was downgraded to business from FRA-SIN. Singapore Airlines proactively compensated me with a voucher for their KrisFlyer shop and a 75% refund in miles for the entire trip. I assume the 75% refund was per EU261 but that was never clearly stated. I didn't really have to go through any hoops and hurdles for the compensation which was nice although I was reluctant to get downgraded.

    Recently, I booked Etihad Apartment from LHR-AUH with aeroplan when they had wide open availability. Unfortunately the flight I booked went through an swap with no first class available. When I reached out to Aeroplan all they were able to offer was the difference in miles between business and first class or to cancel the flight for a full refund. I felt that I should have been compensated for the downgrade under EU261 and tried to but none of the representatives were willing to budge or claimed they didn't know what EU261 was/it didn't apply. I ended up canceling that flight for a full refund but a few months later I believe Aeroplan began to compensate passengers for those Etihad bookings since a lot of them ended up not being honored. I also received 50k aeroplan points out of a canceled booking.

    Honestly, I feel like I got pretty lucky with both of these cases and certainly wouldn't expect something like this to happen every time.

  20. Gary X Guest

    I wonder if anyone at Oman Air is reading this blog right now and care enough to be forwarding it to someone who can do something...

  21. Burritomiles Guest

    Last summer I booked a Areoplan reward from SFO-IST with a stopover in MCT via Delhi on Air India first class. Well the plane I was supposed to be on got stuck in Russia the day before. Took me a long time to get a hold of AC on the phone but eventually they put me on Air Canada and Gulf air to MCT in business class. Months after I flew I called AC, explained I booked a first class ticket and didn't fly first class and they refunded me the points difference.

  22. Quinten Guest

    OmanAir downgraded me (J to Y) without telling me. Booked on WY website, so not award ticket/OTA involved. But no way I could reach an agent that understood my 'problem'. Ended up getting a refund and stranded.

  23. hanchicago New Member

    Ben, this happened to me last summer. I was due to fly on their 789 in first MCT-FRA, but they wouldn't even let me board in business class after the late equipment swap, stating they could not communicate with Aeroplan/Air Canada to even issue me a new lower class ticket. Of course, I could not get through to Aeroplan either because they were closed! I eventually reached AC via Twitter DM (after the flight had...

    Ben, this happened to me last summer. I was due to fly on their 789 in first MCT-FRA, but they wouldn't even let me board in business class after the late equipment swap, stating they could not communicate with Aeroplan/Air Canada to even issue me a new lower class ticket. Of course, I could not get through to Aeroplan either because they were closed! I eventually reached AC via Twitter DM (after the flight had departed for FRA) and they gave me back my miles, with the cancellation fee waived (sort of a consolation, I guess). But I had to book last-minute QR Y with AA miles to get back home.

    i would suggest you proactively reach out to Aeroplan. I wouldn't count on Oman Air to do right by you by giving you first class lounge access and a business class ticket without your making sure AC has communicated with WY. Then again, your MCT-FRA segment is part of a larger itinerary, so maybe it will play out much better than what happened to me.

    If I ever try to book WY F again, I'll stick with the MCT-LHR route (hopefully soon bookable with AA miles or BA Avios, once WY joins Oneworld).

  24. Peter Guest

    I’d ask to be rerouted via LHR to enjoy their first class even though it is the Dreamliner.

  25. derek Guest

    Recommend at least some comments and photos of the airport in Seeb Oman other than lounges. Some photos of the ramp, gate area, and check in area, even departure loading area of the road would be nice to see in a review.

  26. Daniel B. Guest

    Had even worse with Avianca. Four years ago booked lie flat seats on A330 to Santiago, Chile and back, a few days before travel, the changed the aircraft to the crappy A320 with terrible "business class" seats. We are avoiding Avianca since then.

    1. Nb Guest

      And they are soooo worried about it lol

    2. Shaun Guest

      Avianca isn't worried about anything but selling people $3,000 worth of LifeMiles points for a partner ticket that they pay $75 for. And even then, don't expect them to answer the phone if you have a problem.

      I love LifeMiles for the bargains, but everything about Avianca is predatory.

  27. Marko Guest

    Oman Air is a decent airline, but as soon as there are issues, you are on your own. Customer support is poor and I am not surprised at all that they didn’t contact you. Your guess that they will just shrug their shoulders and do nothing is exactly what will happen.

    1. henare Diamond

      "as soon as there are issues you are on your own" is not decent.

  28. Michael Guest

    Ben, are you saying that EU261 applies to downgrades? The link you included only mentions delays and cancellations.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Michael -- Yes, it does apply to downgrades, with certain limitations. You can read more about that here (just click on "your flight was upgraded or downgraded"):
      https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm

    2. Michael Guest

      Thanks Ben. Would this also apply somehow to award tickets? I ask since I paid 100K Aeroplan miles for an Oman Air first class ticket on which the Frankfurt - Muscat sector was downgraded to a two-class plane.

    3. Icarus Guest

      75% of the sector for a downgrade on a longhaul. Therefore if you paid 100,000 miles you get 75000 back. Not 75pct of the entire ticket as some people believe as a there flight may not have been affected.

    4. Daniel from Finland Guest

      Yes, with some limitations, you get 75 % back of the price of your ticket. The same applies for award tickets, although I have no experience how that is handled in practice.

    5. Roamingredcoat Gold

      I got rerouted within Europe once when in PE, so the intra-EU flight was in Y (no PE seats and not originally sold any Y legs in my itinerary) and I think I got somewhere around $150 along for the ~ 1hr in Econ, plus delay comp.

  29. Omar Guest

    Your guess that they will shrug their shoulders is probably the right one unfortunately.

  30. JK Guest

    I would do all I can to get the a330 with F. There has to be a way to make it work, you've gone to all this effort!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ JK -- The only route that otherwise has it regularly is Kuala Lumpur. It seems like Oman Air is instead sending this plane to Moscow and back the next few days, without actually selling first class.

    2. Daniel Guest

      Sounds like a nice policy (for the airline): Sell F tickets for a route, then wait until short before the flight. If the number of passengers in F is too low to make good money, swap the plane to another route just to avoid having to provide F.
      Especially if it's a connection flight (with the other segments not being downgraded), they probably have good chances of getting away with it without any reimbursement...

      Sounds like a nice policy (for the airline): Sell F tickets for a route, then wait until short before the flight. If the number of passengers in F is too low to make good money, swap the plane to another route just to avoid having to provide F.
      Especially if it's a connection flight (with the other segments not being downgraded), they probably have good chances of getting away with it without any reimbursement in most cases - still earning the money for the F ticket but providing less. Obviously if somebody just booked this single flight without connection, it would be way harder to get away with it.

    3. SBS Member

      That actually makes some sense. Russia had a week-long holiday period that just ended, lots of people returning from vacations, some of them willing to pay for first class. Emirates are probably flying a bunch of A380s to Moscow this weekend.

    4. Shaun Guest

      @SBS Guess you missed the part about them not selling first class on the flights to Moscow, huh?

      It makes no sense, except as a dodge to cut costs.

  31. pointsnerds Guest

    Really classless to not contact the passenger ASAP. Ben, your scheule doesn't accommodate for an extra night's stay in MCT to take the next flight out in F, right? Some level of compensation is in order given that AC charges more for F obviously.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ pointsnerds -- I could probably move things around if there were an opportunity, but it looks like Oman Air has also just swapped the A333 for the A332 for the next two days on the same route, so that downgrade now applies three days in a row... :-(

    2. Shaun Guest

      @Ben For whatever it's worth, I find this article much more valuable than a review of a product I'll probably never fly (as much as I'd enjoy the experience vicariously).

      It's particularly catastrophic that this is happening on the segment you built the entire itinerary around, but personally I find some reassurance in seeing pros hit the some of the same snags we amateurs run into.

      Most of us would not be able to wait...

      @Ben For whatever it's worth, I find this article much more valuable than a review of a product I'll probably never fly (as much as I'd enjoy the experience vicariously).

      It's particularly catastrophic that this is happening on the segment you built the entire itinerary around, but personally I find some reassurance in seeing pros hit the some of the same snags we amateurs run into.

      Most of us would not be able to wait for the right metal to be put on the route because of limited vacation time, so we'd be stuck taking whatever we could get from the situation.

      And really, I wish travel influencers would make a bigger deal about this stuff. Some highly ranked search engine results about how poorly some airlines treat customers paying premium prices might discourage those customers from paying and encourage those airlines to address the problems.

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Mark P Gold

Ben, not sure how flexible your schedule is but if it were me I would absolutely just wait in Muscat until they operate the plane with the couch. That's the whole reason you are there! Check out a couple different hotels in Muscat while you're at it. Hopefully you will then be able to adjust your return flights to the US from Europe.

2
Marko Guest

Oman Air is a decent airline, but as soon as there are issues, you are on your own. Customer support is poor and I am not surprised at all that they didn’t contact you. Your guess that they will just shrug their shoulders and do nothing is exactly what will happen.

2
John Guest

I totally agree. Muscat is awesome, spend a couple of days there and wait for the plane you want. I highly recommend the Kempinski hotel.

1
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