Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Some of you who may follow my irregular Instagram account may have noticed over the last year and a bit that I find myself in Salalah every month. I'd love to say it's because I am just silly about Salalah, or delirious about Dhofar, etc etc.

Alas no, I find myself in Salalah for work, which is not the topic of this post but I felt I had to explain why I am in Salalah so much.

All of 2013, I must say, Oman Air were great - flights always left more or less on time - we always landed on time, and everything was great.

Then, 2014 came along. It started out just like 2013, and I had now completed enough sectors to get a silver Sindbad card which is thoroughly useless save for one tiny thing - it gets you lounge access - not to any particularly great lounges, but still, better than nothing. I've flown on Oman Air twice this month (well, two return trips, so 4 flights) and both trips have had nasty delays.

Back on the 2nd April, I was on a 8:30am flight to Salalah which actually left closer to 10am, then the return flight which was supposed to go at 5:55pm but ended up leaving at around 9pm - not very good, but then again, shit happens.

So yesterday I find myself once again heading down to Salalah, and on a later flight in the morning - and it left on time, more or less - great. Last night, however, was ridiculous - once again the people on the 5:55pm flight were delayed, and my flight, supposed to leave at 7:50pm ended up leaving once again, around 10pm - again - not very good, but shit happens.

The reason for my gripe? We were boarded onto the plane, which was chaotic because there were two flights leaving SLL, both Oman Air, and both heading to Muscat. But not one single TV screen or display in the entire departures hall at the airport had any information at all on which gate you should go to (there are only 3 after all) - or what was the expected departure time for the flights. We were boarded onto the plane at 8pm, and sat there for 2 hours - no water, and no explanation until people started getting restless and finally the captain (or was it the co-pilot, I forget) came on and made up some rubbish about waiting for 4 more passengers. And so we waited, and waited, and waited. Still no water offered, the AC wasn't working too well because the plane doors were open. I wasn't a happy bunny.

Now, once upon a time, a few years ago.... I was a little bit late in getting to the airport for a flight to Toronto (via Abu Dhabi). It was an Oman Air service to Abu Dhabi then Etihad over to Toronto - code share with Oman Air. I got to the airport at sometime around 5am - 55 minutes before my flight departed to Abu Dhabi. The asshole nice man in the Oman Air uniform at the checkin told me that I had missed checkin because they closed it an hour before (this was a NEW thing that they just started doing with no warning) and as a result, I missed my flight to Toronto - which wasn't a daily flight, so I had to wait 2 days to take it - and I was only going home for a week to begin with. ugh!! So why the hell did we have to sit on the runway last night for 2 hours?!?! ESPECIALLY when there were other flights to Muscat later that night?! It seems Oman Air like to have 1 rule for most of us, and another rule for some of us. Nice.

Then, to put the cherry on top, when we landed in Muscat, it was a full hour before I got my luggage, and then, the parking lot. But the parking lot is not Oman Air's fault, it's OAMC's fault, and yes, they are deserving of being called muppets.

We all know the parking situation at the airport isn't great, and we know that OAMC prefer to have their staff park nice and close to the airport buildings and have their paying customers park further away - but hey, we'll survive. What really pissed me off last night, after all those damn delays was my parking bill - RO 15.500 for a day trip to Salalah - the amount - whatever, company pays it not me, but this, this one thing really took my breath away: The payment machines don't accept bills any larger than RO 10. Imagine if you'd gone on a 2 week holiday and had a few hundred rials bill to pay for parking (it could happen) - you'd have to pay in denominations of RO 10!!!! Muppets, absolute bloody muppets.

Anyway, I feel better now. Have you had a crap time with Oman Air lately? Care to share?!

More soon.

le fin.


Ian said...

Well you've put me off a weekend in Salalah now, Which hotel would you recommend there for a short break, in case I bite the bullet and go.

muscati said...

Oman Air has been following a policy of stopping passenger check-in 60 minutes before a flight time since at least 1998. I know that the hard way because I was denied checkin for a flight to Dubai for the very same reason that year.

Anonymous said...

I recently travelled to Mumbai in business class by Oman air flight. When I was waiting in the business class lounge, I was told to report to the departure gate 45 minutes before the flight takes off. I found it weird since it's generally not the case for business class traveller. Anyway, I walked a long distance to the departure gate only to find it unattended. The guys were not even there to check you in ! I waited in that huge crowd for some official to come and check me in. Finally the attendants arrived after 15 odd minutes and I found myself way back in the queue. I requested for a priority check in since I was paying for business class and more so because I am 6 months pregnant!
They politely refused!!!!
Finally the plane took off after 15 minutes delay. The service inside the flight was BAD. I had to ask for water at least 3 times each time!

if this is how you get treated when you pay premium and even on humanitarian ground when you are pregnant, I don't know what defines their world class service.

( I have travelled in Oman air business class even in 2012, and they definitely were way better than this then)

Anonymous said...

My friend was flying to Dubai this weekend only for a day. His Oman Air flight scheduled for 5:15 PM ended up leaving Muscat at 7 PM.
There was another Oman Air flight leaving to dubai at 6:05 PM. That flight departed as scheduled, while the 5:15 PM passengers had to wait another 55 minutes till 7 PM to depart.
Logic says that the 5:15 PM passengers should have been given priority over the 6:05 PM passengers, no?

Anonymous said...

After reading these, I consider myself lucky getting away within 20 minutes of the departure time. I am very unhappy with the double standards - closing the gate for some people and keeping them open forever for others. What is that?

Anonymous said...

Try Flydubai next time.. Great service, on time performance!

Anonymous said...

After 3-years in Oman, there are two simple equations to contend with:-
1. Any company using the word Oman in its title, be aware! The inconsistencies and incompetence will be spectacular! Sorry, those companies just appear worse, but what is the choice?
2. If everybody is unhappy, why are you still here? The money of course, silly me!! Can I suggest a new ministry? The Ministry of Moaning Abatement!!!

Anonymous said...

To the above anonymous- if only it was money that was keeping many of here!
Your shallowness is not a reflection of mine so please don't pull me down into your little puddle of insecurity.

Sythe said...

Ian - I've not been to the new Rotana yet, but I would say try and stay there - it's a resort. The Crowne Plaza is dated, same with the Hilton, and the Mariott out by Mirbat is miles away, a few years old, and has quite a lot of build quality issues.

Theres a hotel at the Salalah Gardens Mall - its not a resort hotel but it is clean and functional and acts as a good base if that's something you're looking for.

Muscati - Always nice to see you comment! I didnt know this - all I know is that I'd taken a number of flights where I'd turned up just under an hour before the flight and had no problems. Perhaps they had decided to tighten up or something.

To the Anon who flew business class to India - congratulations on your pregnancy, and thanks for sharing your experience in business class!

To the Anon who's friends flight was delayed, I don't agree - by delaying both flights you'd delay more customers - and the planes don't just fly back and forward on the same route, many will go to Salalah and back, and then go to Kuwait, or somewhere else - so by avoiding delays where possible on planes, thats good business so I don't agree with your friends delay!

Anonymous said...

The solution to this is long and boring, but first of all you have to look at this as not an Oman Air problem but a combination of Oman Air, OAMC and the Public Authority for Civil Aviation.

This year has seen more disruption due to the new airports being built in both Muscat and Salalah, and while 2013 was a trouble-free year for you, this year, all three entities are fast outgrowing each other in the construction sandboxes at MCT and SLL.

From the OAMC side, the place is over-run with incompetence. The car-park is a classic example of "Just do something!". No proper signage. New traffic flow arrows painted beside old ones that go in the opposite direction. A specific few not giving a damn about arrows anyway, and just driving or parking wherever they want.

Oman Air has a huge upheaval of management going on after that generally-agreed catastrophe that was Wayne Pierce. I have never met the man, but, when the stories from many different people who are totally unconnected by department or indeed airline, match then one has to draw the conclusion that the man was a bully and was out of his depth. They are now scrambling to organise their own new procedures for the airport, so while the boilerplate "Passengers come first" replies are all over the media, their focus is somewhere else right now.

Then we have the Public Authority for Civil Aviation, who are in charge of building the airport and its runways and taxiways.
The politics involved in that area are complex and drawn out over many years. The new infrastructure there means that the numerous chairs for the big-wigs have been drastically reduced and so the war is on while folks try and grab a new position of director or chief.
While this "chair grab" is going on, the airport development project is seeing more and more delays as decisions are delayed and wrong decisions are made without risk assessment or care for anything other than having the airport ready on time.

(I bet no one has mentioned the extraordinarily long delays that are coming for every flight over the next few months when the taxiway systems change and you will have, so I have been told, up to a 40 minute wait from runway to terminal.)

Between now and 2016, it is only going to get worse. Delays and God only knows what else.
I came back for a visit a few weeks ago and could already see from the aircraft window where things were about to go awry.

Enjoy! It is what it is…….


Nadia said...


That's What I said...

MJD- great insight, but what made you specify 2016 near the end?
Anyone i have spoken to near the new airport project reckons 2018 is optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Having spoken with the powers that be over there, I was told that the new runway will be open come hell or high water by the end of this year. That is what the Minister has been told and that is the line he is sticking to.
It may be a case of just landing a plane on it and having some big dishdashas there for the photo opportunity.
A lot of the expatriates working on the technical side of the airport have said that within the project, no one really knows what each department is doing and that this is leading to considerable delays on one side, and corner-cutting (surprise, surprise) on the other in order to get everyone in at the right time.
The industry is supposed to be centred on safety, but a lot of people will tell you that this is presently being sacrificed for the sake of saving face on the timeline.
I left a long time ago now. But I know that the same chaos merchants are involved now as were there when I was, so I would have no real reason to doubt the things that I am hearing about no research being done into the safety of logistics or procedures in relation to new airports and new runways.
There are also rumours of investigations in airport personnel and mismanagement of funds but how true that is, is anyones guess.
What I do know is, once that new runway is open and there are still construction vehicles around, then certain procedures will have to be in place when aircraft are taxiing to and from the old terminal. Chaos is what they do best over there. Watch them excel!

Anonymous said...

Salalah presents some unique challenges... It is a small local airport where a lot of people check in for their flight then go home.. For dinner or siesta or who knows what.
The check in staff invariably know these people personally and therefore do not close the flight at departure -10 mins as is normal hence we end up waiting for joe sleepy who has had his staff check in for him and who is still in his bed at departure time..
Change this mentality and on time departure performance will improve dramatically.
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Flew with Oman Air for a romantic 4 nights to Maldives direct. They sent our luggage to Bangalore. Luggage arrived on the evening of the fourth night. Pestered and pestered them for months for compensation and they finally gave us a weekend at Al Nhada resort.
Another time, when travelling from Nimr back to Muscat, I was lucky enough to get food poisoning from their "fresh" tuna roll. Needless to say, not my favourite airline.

lopezadair12 said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Oman air. Bit I have never tried them. I have always used to travel a lot due to mu business work out there. so always book lowest airfare to Toronto and their services are also awesome for traveling.

Anonymous said...

Flew in from Tehran courtesy of OA last Wednesday. OK it is only a hop but everything was great and the food was....manageable!I will be going back regularly so let's see....

Anonymous said...

Rubbish Airline with a crap loyalty programme. I had enough points for a Samsung S6 Edge but I had to go to Muscat duty free for it. They won't deliver ! I complained on Facebook and they blocked me. They claim they value feedback....a load of codswallop!!! So they let you collect miles you can't use. I flew business class 4 times with them for those useless points.

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