CHECK-IN I arrived at the airport at 1415 for my 1600 flight to London Gatwick. Check-in was quiet – there were two economy desks open with only one person at each. The process took slightly longer than expected but the check-in staff were friendly and helpful. Flying economy meant I did not have lounge access, but my Priority Pass card gave me access to the Oman Air lounge, which was large and had a good selection of drinks and cold snacks.
BOARDING Boarding the Airbus A310 was swift, helped by the fact that the plane was quite empty. Staff at the gate (where there was no queue) directed me to the waiting bus, which dropped me at the rear steps of the plane. My jacket was taken, I was offered a newspaper and there were also magazines in the racks – this was more than I had expected in economy class.
THE FLIGHT The A310 aircraft was old but the seats and soft furnishings had clearly been refurbished. Economy is fitted over two cabins. The first cabin only has four rows and is just behind business, so if you have a choice it is the best place to be. It is fitted in a 2-4-2 configuration, with a few rows at the back of the second cabin being in a 2-3-2 layout. I was seated in the first row of economy in the first cabin. Seats are in pairs, so even if you are seated in the middle of the centre group of four, you get your own armrest.
The IFE system is basic with old-fashioned screens that drop from the centre of the cabin and play one movie at a time. There is one screen in the first cabin and four in the second. On my flight, the picture was not the greatest quality, so if you are not near the screen it can be hard to see. Shortly after take-off there was a drinks service followed by the main meal. This started with a small Arabic meze, followed by a mix of Middle Eastern and Eastern dishes. I chose the chicken pasta, a chocolate mousse, cheese and crackers. It was as good as most economy class food. After the meal, small bottles of water Ire given out. Three hours before landing, ice creams and snacks (crisps, chocolates etc) Ire served, followed by rolls and fruit one and a half hours later. Throughout the flight there was a good staff presence in the cabin.
ARRIVAL I landed a few minutes late due to circling but was quickly at the gate. It was a long walk to immigration and there was a reasonable wait for bags.
VERDICT A very old plane with the worst in-flight entertainment system I have experienced in years, but the staff and service surpassed what I had anticipated, with many aspects provided that I would only have expected in business. The airline will be getting some new Airbus A330s soon (2009-11), so when the IFE issue is resolved, this will be a first-class airline.
PRICE A typical return economy class fare from London to Muscat costs £335.