Business class travel: Why Oman Air is a big hitter on seat space

There’s a Taoist proverb that says ‘the journey is the reward’, writes Scott Armstrong.

This, back in 1881, inspired author Robert Louis Stevenson to write: “Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” Over the past century and a bit that morphed simply into ‘it’s better to travel than to arrive’.

Though travel in general has improved a touch since Robert Louis’ days there are still many airline passengers who would take issue the Scottish writer’s sentiments.

But I’d guess that those passengers haven’t travelled Oman Air’s business class service yet.

With the Gulf sweating in the sun, thoughts turn to travel to cooler climes, with Europe (despite their claims of a heatwave) a favourite among tourists.

With that in mind, Benchmark (not very reluctantly) stepped on board Oman Air’s service from Muscat, Oman to London’s Heathrow Airport to discover what awaits the passenger.

To date Oman Air has won a host of awards for its Business Class service, most recently in the Business Destinations Travel Awards, winning Best Business Class Airline 2015 in the Middle East category, as it did in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Why? Firstly the 1-2-1 configuration of seating provides comfort whether you travelling alone, or as couples (the 2 has a neat divider too if needed). This is the seating map that many other airlines reserve solely for their first class passengers.

But with every business class flight it’s the seat that counts, and it is here that Oman Air wins many battles in the sky, with one of the largest, most comfortable seats in the world. Don’t believe us? Check out seatguru.com (run by tripadvisor) to compare.

Just hold Oman Air’s offering up against its two (also excellent) neighbours Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines here in the UAE.

There are perhaps four key elements that make a good airline seat, being fully flatbed, bed length, seat width and seat pitch. What is seat pitch? Seat Pitch, explains seatguru.com is the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind it. While it is not the exact equivalent of “legroom”, it does give a very good approximation of how much seat room you should expect.

Fully flat bed (180 degrees)

On Oman Air yes, Etihad is also a yes but on Emirates it depends on what aircraft you are on, working out to be roughly a 50- 50 chance of getting an angle lie flat bed.

Bed Length

Oman Air can be confident with its 77.5-inch offering, 1.96m or 6ft 4ins. Compare that to Etihad’s 73 inches, while on Emirates again you roll the dice with with either 70 inches or possible 79 inches depending on the craft.

Seat Width

Oman Air’s is one of the best in class with a generous 22 inches, with Emirates giving 20.5 inches and Etihad 20 inches.

Seat Pitch

Oman Air in one of the dominators here worldwide on what could be considered legroom with a whopping 82 inches. Here Etihad trails with 73 inches while Emirates offers 60 inches. If it was a boxing match it’s fair to see why the judges would award Oman Air the win for its consistency and quality. A330 previous business classThe journey to London is an eight-hour flight aboard an Airbus 333 widebody twin engine jet, but as most travellers know the journey begins long before stepping onboard.

Arriving at Muscat Airport you’ll enter via the dedicated Business Class check-in entrance. Here there is no battling through the first security check to get to check-in desk, just walk in, present your passport to the smiling staff and let them process your ticket.

Once checked in another layer of stress is removed as you pass through the dedicated immigration desk to emerge with just one luggage scan to go before being airside.

Now you can make your way to Oman Air’s business class lounge. A generous food and beverage service wait for travellers in this newly refurbished relaxation area. Among the highlights are:

  • Shower rooms with bath robes, towels, toiletries, shaving kits and Amouage perfume.
  • Children’s play room, with toys, movies and PSP games.
  • Full free WIFI internet access.
  • Business centre.
  • Male & female prayer rooms.
  • Complimentary 15 minute massage from the lounge Spa.

What is nice is that Oman Air tend to board business class last, so transit to the aircraft is kept to a minimum, and the staff will come to find you and instruct you to head to boarding (keep in mind that if you are going to UK there is a last security check at the gate). Business class loungeOn board as well as ‘that seat’ you also get electrically controlled backrest/seat bottom and leg rest and adjustable seat pan depth a 17-inch screen, a power point and two USB plugs.

While we are talking tech the flight is also mobile-friendly, with paid WiFi available, allowing you to connect your laptops, tablets or smartphone to the web, plus you can send SMS messages and make calls. Perfect for the business traveller who needs to stay in touch.

Food and drink comes with a smile from the attentive staff, served in cut crystal and bespoke chinaware. Once fed and water it’s time to relax, with the in-flight entertainment package offering a host of new blockbusters from around the world.

Or if you simply want to sleep ask the hostess for a sleep suit (yes they’ll give you pyjamas) and ask to be woken at a certain time. As you land you’ll of course be given a fast-track pass to smooth immigration at your destination, which also helps the traveller sleep soundly.

All in all it’s an experience that Robert Louis Stevenson would have thoroughly approved of.