I’m currently in the middle of a review trip to Oman, and my primary motivation for taking this journey was flying Oman Air’s unique Airbus A330 first class from Muscat to Frankfurt. As I’ve written about, a day prior to my flight, I noticed that my plane was scheduled to be operated by an Airbus A330 without first class. I was curious how the airline would handle it, so here’s the update…
In this post:
Oman Air swapped my flight to yet another type of A330
Initially, my flight was supposed to be operated by one of Oman Air’s epic retro A330-300s, featuring a six-seat first class cabin with a couch in the middle. It’s such a cool product, and a throwback to a different era.
When I noticed that the flight no longer had first class, the seat map reflected that the airline had swapped the flight to an A330-200 with the carrier’s retro business class, in a 1-2-1 configuration.
I was excited about this, and viewed this as a consolation prize, because this is a unique business class product that’s surprisingly great, and which you won’t find on any other airline.
Well, several hours later, there was another update — the airline swapped the flight to an A330-200 featuring the carrier’s new(ish) Apex Suites, which is in a 2-2-2 configuration.
I was bummed to see this, since I just arrived in Muscat having flown Oman Air’s Boeing 787 business class, also featuring Apex Suites.
Oman Air sure takes an interesting approach to aircraft scheduling. I can’t help but wonder if the carrier’s operations team just plays darts every morning to decide where to send each plane, or…?
My Oman Air ground experience in Muscat
Since Oman Air hadn’t reached out to me regarding being downgraded from first class, I was curious to see how the airline would handle this at the airport. Would the airline acknowledge what happened and try to do something to make it right?
Upon arrival in Muscat, I headed to the Oman Air First & Business Lounge with my business class boarding pass (which I managed to print through online check-in). I explained to the friendly agents that I was booked in first class, but had seemingly been downgraded.
They were totally confused, but after showing them my ticket confirmation, they did indeed acknowledge that I was downgraded. To the carrier’s credit, the lounge staff proactively invited me to use the first class lounge for the duration of my stay, and even offered to escort me to the gate. It seems that this is standard in the case of downgrades, since an OMAAT reader who was recently downgraded on the same route experienced this as well.
I’ll have a full review of the Oman Air First Lounge soon, but it sure is nice and strange. I mean, it has around 75 seats, yet I was the only passenger there for seven hours. I don’t know why Oman Air has first class, but I’m not complaining. Given the size and complete underutilization of the lounge, here’s to hoping the airline allows oneworld Emerald members into the lounge when the airline joins the oneworld alliance soon. Anyway, let’s not get sidetracked…
About four hours into my layover in the lounge, a supervisor came to meet me. I would assume she had been made aware of my post. She was very nice and apologetic, explained that the swap was for “operational reasons,” and encouraged me to reach out to my initial booking source for a refund on the difference in cost between first and business class.
Our interaction was brief. I just thanked her for reaching out, and told her that I was a bit disappointed because I was so looking forward to experiencing that product, and that I enjoy flying with Oman Air. I explained it wasn’t her fault, though, and that I was sure I’d still have a great flight.
Funny enough, she responded to that with “you are very nice, I thought you would be more angry.” Hah. While I share my experiences on the blog (both positive and negative), I’m not going to walk around with a chip on my shoulder or take out any unhappiness with airline staff over what happened.
My takeaway from this aircraft swap…
Obviously I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to experience my “dream couch,” but this doesn’t materially change my opinion of Oman Air. Rather I have three main takeaways from this.
First of all, there’s a lesson for me to learn here as a consumer. Oman Air swaps these planes around way more often than it should, and I need to plan and set my expectations accordingly in the future. Now, I’m still determined to fly this A330 first class product, so I may end up having another “swing and a miss.” But I’ll also try to pad my schedule a bit more next time, so that I can change around my itinerary last minute if need be.
Second of all, even the world’s top airlines don’t regularly provide good service on the ground. During irregular operations, there’s not an airline in the world I can think of that consistently does right by customers. While I do think Oman Air should do better, other airlines would try to get away with the same. Perhaps the takeaway next time is to instead fly a route departing the European Union, where I’d legally be entitled to compensation in a situation like this.
Last but not least, I’m at least pleased that the lounge staff proactively offered me access to the Oman Air First Lounge for the duration of my stay. They obviously didn’t know about my situation, since they were caught off guard by my downgrade, but they provided me access to the lounge without me even having to ask.
That’s how it should be, but I could also see a scenario where the frontline agents aren’t even empowered to do that, and just say “you have a business class boarding pass, too bad.” So it could have been worse, in that sense…
While my Oman Air adventure hasn’t exactly played out as I hoped, that’s life sometimes, and I’ve still had a lot of fun. Oman Air swapped my flight form a retro A330 with first class, to a retro A330 without first class, to a “new” A330 without first class. So unfortunately I just got two back-to-back flights with Apex Suites.