Archive | May 2012

Time for a summer break?

It’s time for a summer break and an African safari beckons.  But why now?  Well from June to October it’s the dry season and the best time for seeing the big game. So which country appeals?

Tanzania comes to mind as it is the largest country in East Africa and over 35% of its land is allocated to national parks, big game and forest reserves.  And, what’s more, to date it is relatively unspoilt.

But does Oman Air fly there?  Yes, easy. Oman Air has flights from Muscat four times a week (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday) to Julius Nyerere airport in Dar es Salaam, and the flying time is 5 hours 30 minutes.  From Dar es Salaam road transport is frequent, or if funds allow you could charter a small plane!

OK, so is there a choice of safaris?  Yes, park names like Arusha , Lake Eyasi, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Tarangire spring to mind.  If you want to see the big game Tarangire National Park in Tanzania is the place to go in June.

Tarangire National Park is named after the river that carves through it.  It is situated about 120 km (75 miles) southwest of Arusha and covers an area of 2900sq.km (1100 square miles).  The landscape is gently rolling with a scattering of baobab trees and abandoned termite mounds.    During the dry season nearly all the usual water sources have dried up thus forcing the animals to congregate around the remaining available rivers, marshes and swamps.

There is ample wildlife in Tarangire year round with a particular abundance of elephants as this national park is now used as a refuge for these once over-hunted and poached animals.  Herds of up to 300 elephants scratch the dry river bed for underground streams, while migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the shrinking lagoons.  In addition, its swamps attract some 550 bird varieties, the most breeding species in one habitat anywhere in the world.

Some tips:

  • Visa can be obtained on arrival: cost between US $ 13 to US $ 60 (depending upon nationality)
  • Credit cards:  Use mainly limited to the large towns. Best to take cash too in a money belt
  • Binoculars for the safari:  – 7×21 compact will be OK, but bird watchers will find a large magnification useful.
  • Photography:  Ideally a 300mm lens or larger for the wildlife, but when taking pictures of people remember that they’ll ask you to give a donation.  Tempting as it may be: don’t try to sneak a picture of the Maasai.
  • Vaccinations and malaria:  Check with your Doctor, and start taking malaria pills well before the start of your visit.  Oh, and don’t forget to take insect repellant with you.
  • Communications:  Internet access is almost non-existent in the game reserves and national parks, so best to tell the folks back at home to sms or telephone instead
  • Hello:   Say ‘jambo’ or ‘habari’ (a courteous Swahili greeting)

Keen to go?  Why not have a look at http://Holidays.OmanAir.com , particularly if you are a 4 or 5-star traveller.  They’re great value!

The business class seat

Business Class Seat

Business Class Seat

For most passengers flying, seat comfort remains a priority whether in Economy, Business or First class, after all who wants to sit in a cramped seat or get a back ache if there’s a choice.

It was in June 2011 that it was announced, at a ceremony held in the French Air and Space Museum at the Paris Air Show, that Oman Air was the winner of the World’s Best Business Class Airline Seat.

So what’s special about Business Class Seats? Well for starters nowadays Business Class Seats which offer more comfort and amenities than economy class are standard on long-haul flights and flights to international destinations – some of us can remember when passengers travelled in one class… But beware that there is variation depending on the type of plane and the airline flown.  All offer electronic seat controls and built-in massagers.  However, some are true lie-flat beds whilst others are flat bed seats which recline 180 degrees.  Those which lie parallel to the plane’s floor and are true beds.  Lie-flat beds also recline flat, but the seats are tilted at an angle.  Recliners are different again, yes they recline but they are not lie-flat beds. If you’re a bit on the large size best to check the basics with the airline for example the width from armrest to armrest and the pitch which is the distance from one point on a seat to the exact same point on the seat behind, especially relevant if you’re over 6 ft tall!

At Oman Air we have just 4 seats across, i.e. a configuration of 1:2:1 so just like First class on many airlines. Each comes with a pillow, cushion and duvet which the cabin staff will make up for you when you’re ready to sleep.  The high sides give plenty of privacy, and the 20-inch personal TV has an excellent range of programmes.  A tip – choose one of the window seats if you’re looking for more storage say for your laptop, shoes, and/or smaller bags.

What are the World Airline Awards? Well Skytrax introduced the World Airline Star Rating programme in 2000.  It is the Quality Analysis system that ranks airline product and service standards, based on professional evaluation conducted by in-house airline audit specialists.  It carries out a detailed analysis across more than 800 different areas of product and service delivery.

Voted by over 18.8 million airline passengers from 100 different nationalities, the World Airline Awards are the most prestigious quality recognition of front-line produce and service standards for the world airline industry, with 200 airlines featured.

As Edward Plaisted, Chairman and CEO of Skytrax said last year:  Oman Air has made great strides in recent times and its inclusion in the list of the top Business Class airline seats is well-deserved.

Pursuing a place on the list of top airports in the world

It was in February when the Airport Council International (ACI) announced the results of the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) passenger survey of the top airports in the world.   Oman’s Muscat International Airport wasn’t one of the winners but watch this space as we’re aiming to be there in the future.

Why do we say this?  Well here in Muscat there has been an increase in passenger numbers, together with Oman Air’s fleet and route expansion. Tourism is growing and developing too and we’re also seeing increases in capacity and frequency of other existing carriers.

So what are Muscat International Airport’s expansion projects which are scheduled to be operational in late 2014?   From the passenger’s viewpoint the Oman Airports Management Company has already increased the size of the departures terminal building to 17,000 sqm of passenger circulation and retail space across two levels.   Additional check-in counters have already been installed and once you’re through Passport control there is plenty of seating combined with an excellent view of the apron for those waiting for their planes to touch down.  On the landside  the departures hall,  hold baggage screening facility and queuing area have also been expanded by some 700 sqm of floor space, thus giving much more passenger circulation space here too.

As for passenger vehicle parking, well it used to be a nightmare but it’s improving by the month – there are now 1,542 spaces.  Parking fees vary, as in other international airports but, for example, you can pay just 500 baizas/$1.30 for 30 minutes whilst you wait for your friends in Arrivals.

What does the year-long Airport Service Quality (ASQ) passenger survey aim to cover?  Well it measures the improvement made by airports every year and also gives a platform for airports worldwide to compete with their peers. The results help to demonstrate that airports have continued to invest and focus on customer service despite falling traffic numbers.

So which were the top five in this passenger survey?   We wouldn’t mind betting that you’ll be surprised?   Well we’ll give you a clue – they all belong to the Asia-Pacific Region.   OK, you’ve thought about this but did you guess correctly?   The five are Seoul Incheon International Airport, Singapore’s Changi Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Beijing’s Capital International Airport and India’s Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi’s International Airport.

Advice to the winners, don’t rest on your laurels – Muscat will be pursuing a place in the top 5 very soon!

Offers – Sindbad Frequent Flyer programme

Wow, how the time flies and we find ourselves into May with sadly some great offers having come to an end, but nevertheless some are  still available courtesy of Oman Air’s Sindbad Frequent Flyer Programme, so let’s take a look at 3 or 4 of them.  But first of all a reminder of the 3 Sindbad Frequent Flyer cards:

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Blue Card – membership is automatic on completion of a form, and validity is ‘unlimited’

Silver Card – 20 flights or 25,000 miles, but validity is one calendar year

Gold Card – 40 flights/50,000 miles, but validity is one calendar year.

If you’re a Blue Sindbad then American Express Middle East is offering 4,000 Sindbad miles upon successful application and approval for the American Express Gold Credit Card –just think, these are enough points to redeem for a free return Oman Air ticket within the GCC.  Hurry though, as this offer is only valid until 16th May 2012.

Then how about staying at one of the Rotana properties across the Middle East and Africa for 2 or more nights?  Fancy it, then you can claim double Sindbad miles – do it now before the deadline of 31st  May.  Sorry folks the deal doesn’t cover the 3rd and 4th June concert with Madonna in Abu Dhabi but for which accommodation and tickets are still available we’re told.

Looking forward to travelling around Oman a bit before the summer heat sets in, then why not hire a vehicle from Budget – you’ll get 10% discount and earn double miles on Sindbad on every rental with Budget in Oman.   Or are you looking forward to a long weekend away – then don’t forget car hire with Hertz.   Here you have an incredible opportunity to earn 3 times as many points with this rental which must be for a minimum of 5 days with pick-up taking place before the 31st May.  When booking quote Promotion Code 169632.

Finally, spend a moment or two to check out Oman Air’s ‘Partners’ for year-round additional Sindbad miles.  You won’t regret it!

Brazilian Embraer 175

Well, it’s already a year now since Oman Air unveiled the delivery of the first Embraer 175 E-Jet at Muscat International Airport.  So, how’s it going?

The background is that it was announced on 17th November 2009 that five of these E-jets   – one of them destined for the Royal Oman Police – had been purchased at the Dubai Air Show. Then on 12th April 2011 the other 2 arrived at Muscat International Airport to join Oman Air’s fleet.

So who are Embraer?  Well a quick research shows that it is a Brazilian aerospace conglomerate that produces commercial, military and executive aircraft and provides aeronautical services too.  It is based in Sao Jose dos Campos, Sao Paulo in Brazil and is the third largest commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world.

It’s interesting to note that Embraer started out as a government-owned enterprise in 1969 manufacturing small military aircraft, but in 1994 it was privatized and sold, although the government retains an interest through possession of ‘golden shares’ which allow it veto power.

So, what do we know about the Embraer 175 aircraft itself –   Well, the E-Jets are a series of narrow-bodied, twin-engined, medium-range, jet airliners.  They were announced at the Paris Air Show in 1999 and entered production in 2002.  The first flight of the stretched E-175 took place in June 2003, and the first E-175 was delivered to Air Canada in July 2005.   For the techies amongst you the E-175 is powered with General Electric CF34-8e engines of 14,200 pounds (62.28Kn) thrust each.   Of interest to the passenger though is that it has just 71 comfortable seats, in a dual-class layout, with 11 seats in Business class and 60 in economy.

Oman Air, as you know, flies to 41 destinations (the latest being Zanzibar and Zurich) but this aircraft is deployed on the regional routes.   As the Chairman said recently – the Embraer 175 has helped to increase flexibility and efficiency on short haul routes, yet at the same time it has offered similar high levels of style and comfort to those experienced by passengers on other aircraft such as the A330.

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