All posts by aaronwong

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Oman Air Business Class Lounge MCT Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air B737 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


I had a 4 hour layover before I could board my Oman Air flight to Dubai. I really don’t understand Oman Air’s business model- in the current environment, they could make a killing by operating a DOH-DXB shuttle service with a technical stop in MCT. You wouldn’t even need to disembark or anything in MCT, you’d stay on the plane, paperwork would be done and you’d be off again to DXB. That could at least bring down the overall flight time significantly, rather than having to kill hours in Muscat’s very unimpressive airport.

I’d never flown Oman Air before but Qatar had rebooked me in Business Class so I was going to get a chance to explore their flagship lounge and cabins. I was excited as I always am when trying a new airline for the first time. I imagine I’d have been less excited had I known my bag was in the process of getting misplaced (which will be a separate post unto itself)

The lounge is a good summary of Oman Air. It’s not dumpy, but it’s far from impressive. It’s certainly a nice and quiet place to sit and wait out a transit, but there’s nothing to distract you for a long layover. This model aircraft at the entrance was the sum total of the entertainment options available.

I arrived in the late morning and the place was deserted. Plenty of seats were available with high chairs, sofas and loungers.

There’s a tiny bar area, but all the booze is MIA on account of Ramadan.

The centerpiece of the lounge is a stained glass dome that hovers above the central dining area. It’s impressive when the mid-day sun shines down.

Less impressive was the food selection. It was a mish mash of Western and Middle Eastern options, and the food was predominantly stews and starch. The staff were helpful enough and tried making suggestions though.

There was also some fruit, prunes and nuts

And a small salad bar.

The desert selection was extensive, but most of the cakes and pastries on offer just tasted like reconstituted sugar lumps.

  

There was a full sized Nespresso capsule machine.

I had high hopes for the lounge spa as a means of passing time, but was disappointed to learn that it was closed/under repair/otherwise incapacitated. There were instead recliner chairs with a massage function.

As for showers? Don’t get your hopes up. There is one shower in the entire lounge, in the main loo, and it looks like this.

If you need to get work done, there are two iMac computers with really tiny, weird keyboards. There’s also a printer that didn’t have any paper.

I get the sense that Oman Air is holding out until the new Muscat terminal is built, and then might decide to do a fancier facility there. But in the meantime, the existing lounge is definitely not on par for what you’d expect in the Middle East. I think there’s a reason that Oman Air doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as Etihad, Emirates or Qatar.

So the lounge was mediocre, but it was nothing compared to what awaited me on my flight…

The Krisflyer UOB account has a sign up promotion, but is it worth your time?

The Krisflyer UOB account needs no further introduction for frequent readers of the site (but for those of you who are new here, take a walk down memory lane…).

The account hasn’t changed since it launched- it still offers 0 interest, it still requires you to park a ridiculous amount of money to earn anything more than 1.4 mpd (which you could just as easily earn with a regular miles card), it still caps the bonus miles you earn at a ridiculously low threshold and it’s still shelling out for influencer Instagram ads (which at least are properly tagged with #ad now, with the exception of a certain ferrous female…)

What’s new is that UOB is currently running a sign up offer of 5,000 miles with $500 of spend on the Krisflyer UOB debit card.  You need to open an account and maintain a minimum monthly average balance of $5,000.

Now, don’t get too excited- this is a UOB-style sign up promotion so as you might expect there’s all sorts of caveats. Here are the main conditions (T&C here):

Note that although you have until 31 August to sign up for an account, you need to be among the first 5,000 people to register for the promotion via SMS. The T&C suggest this promotion has been live since 8 August. How many people have registered so far? How many have hit the $500 requirement already? Who knows!

The terms state that if you’re among the first 5,000 to register, keep $5,000 MAB in your account and spend $500 on the debit card by 30 Sept, you get

  • 1,000 miles within 3 months of spending the $500
  • 4,000 miles within 3 months of 30 Sept

But there’s more. Reading the fine print reveals this additional term-

If you close your account within 9 months from the time of opening, UOB reserves the right to claw back the 5,000 miles. There’s nothing stopping you from withdrawing your $5,000 after 30 Sept, but remember that you’ll incur a $2 fall below fee if your MAB is below $1,000 and a $30 fee if you close the account within 6 months.

I value miles at 2 cents each so 5,000 miles is about $100 of value. Is that a decent return for tying up $5,000 for a month and a half (and $1,000 for 7.5 more months, assuming you don’t want to incur $18 worth of fall below fees)? Depends what your alternative is. If that money would have sat in a savings account then you’re not losing much, but that money could obviously be put to much more fruitful purposes. For the record, I’m not a fan of the 3 month timeline given in the T&C either- it seems like a long time for your miles to credit given that one of the professed perks of the account is “faster miles crediting through direct deposit”.

The main problem I have with the promotions that UOB runs is uncertainty. The way they’ve structured this (and other sign up promotions like those for the UOB PRVI Miles card) is that you have no way of knowing ex-ante whether or not the promotion has been exhausted. You have to apply for the account, spend the $500 and pray that you’re still within the first 5,000. If not, the only way you’ll know is when nothing happens. The information asymmetry is not customer-friendly. I understand UOB’s want to cap the liability incurred with each promotion, but surely there’s got to be a better way of doing it than making customers guess in the dark.

Personally I can think of much better and faster ways of earning 5,000 miles, so this one is a pass for me. But if you really need the miles and are willing to bear both the risk (of missing out on the first 5,000 registrations)  and the wait (3 months for miles crediting, 9 months for account closure), well…

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Qatar Airways A330 “First Class” DOH-MCT

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air B737 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


The Al Safwa lounge experienced gave me mixed feelings, but I was hoping that the “First Class” experience from DOH-MCT would be a bit better. I’m calling this “First Class” because Qatar markets inter-Gulf business class as First Class, despite the fact that the hard product is the same as what you’ll find on long haul business. The only true First Class hard product that QR has to offer is on its A380, and that’s another review for another time.

Now that Doha is cut off from Dubai, the “easiest” way of getting to Dubai is to…fly past Dubai to Oman, and then double back via Oman Air. Yeah, try to wrap your head around that. This made what should be a 1 hour flight last about 6 hours, including transit.

map

The boarding gate was a good distance away from the lounge, maybe about a 10 minute walk through an increasingly busy Doha airport.

It was now well past sunrise and the blazing summer desert heat and light was flooding through the windows.

Apparently the crew needed to rebalance the aircraft, because at the gate my boarding pass caused the computer to beep angrily. A new boarding pass was issued that put me on the other side of the aircraft, but it was printed out on economy class cardstock.

That meant that as I exited the terminal to board the bus to the remote stand, the ground staff glanced at my pass and started to direct me towards the economy class bus, but fortunately a second look at the seat number got me on the smaller, more private first class one.

I don’t know if Qatar usually operates a widebody aircraft to Muscat, but with the reroutings that are happening it’s not surprising there was a surge in demand for that route, and maybe that’s why I ended up on a A330 this morning.

This aircraft had Qatar’s newer business class seat. I say “newer” because it’s by no means industry leading, in a 2-2-2 full flat configuration.

Here’s what the old seat used to look like, for comparison’s sake. I believe the old seat was also lie flat, but less private because the smaller privacy divider.

Image result for qatar airways a330 business class
photo credit: airreview.com

I much prefer the darker tones of the newer business class seat, which has noticeably more storage space around the head too.

The downside of the newer seat is that your feet go into a cramped nook infront. It’s equally bad if you have the aisle…

Or the window

Not all the seats are the same, though. You can see that seats in row 1 don’t have any footspace restrictions, and I’d highly recommend these seats if you have big feet.

Where privacy is concerned, each seat has a retractable privacy divider. Here’s the view when it’s pulled back

And when it’s extended.

The seat controls are found in your armrest and are simple enough to figure out.

Also in your armrest is the IFE controller, a USB charging outlet and your headphone jack.

The crew came around with much-needed cold towels and water

And then the safety video was screened. Qatar sponsors Barcelona FC, and they’ve produced a special safety video with the team. Which is more than a little self-indulgent (what, Barcelona, self-indulgent? No way!)

I mean, it is hardly believable that women would need oxygen upon seeing Pique. It is Pique, right?

The menus for the flight were distributed before takeoff. Given that the flight is slightly under 2 hours, as much as possible needs to be done on the ground.

The beverage list was pretty much the same as on my other Qatar flights. The main difference was that they didn’t distribute the menu that had pictures of the wine labels.

For this short flight, a quick breakfast platter would be served.

The platter was delivered shortly after takeoff. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but was still a pretty economical way of serving all the courses at once. You had fruit, bread, some canapes and some cheese with grapes.

The food quality was average (although the warmed Arabic bread, with some liberally applied butter, was always going to be a crowd pleaser) and I’m starting to wonder if it’s just me or whether Qatar’s catering isn’t all that.

For drinks I went with both  champagne and a So Jennie. So Jennie is an interesting one- it’s a non-alcoholic sparkling wine, and no it’s not like that $3.95 Dom Remy crap you buy at NTUC. This is real, proper sparkling grape juice made from good quality grapes and retailing at about $40 a bottle.

I mean it’s even got a fancy website with a hipster photo of the creator infront of the Eiffel Tower. What more could you want?

Well, I wanted orange juice and water, so that’s how I ended up with 4 glasses on my tray table and lots of trips to the loo.

The loos on the A330 are decidedly last gen, with no automatic hand sensor. It was also interesting that Qatar didn’t stock the loo with any fancy amenities as you might expect for First Class.

As I mentioned, the flight is really short so there isn’t much time to explore the IFE or anything. But the selection is the same as what you’d find on any long-haul flight, with a mix of recent movies and classics.

A final word about the service- the flight is marketed as first class, but I think no one in the right mind expects that level of service in a business class cabin which seats many more passengers than what you’d have in regular first class. The crew were completely pleasant, but there was no addressing of passengers by name or any particularly outstanding moments of service. Again, it’s hard to do too much on a short flight, but the level of service is definitely more in line with business than first class.

Before I knew it we were descending into Muscat. I now  along time to kill before heading on to Dubai, so it was off to the Oman Air lounge to see what their flagship lounge had to offer.

And this is where my delightful adventure with Oman Air began.