November 8th, 2009
Last month I was lucky enough to be a passenger on board the very first flight on Oman Air’s brand new A330-300.
The idea was for the Muscat-based carrier to showcase the aircraft featuring its brand new first-, business- and economy-class products to the region’s media.
I have to say, I was impressed. We started the journey in economy class where the most noticeable selling points were space and comfort — it was certainly one of roomiest, if not the roomiest economy class cabin I have experienced.
The seats were comfortable; there was plenty of legroom; and the entertainment screen was one of the biggest I have seen in this class of cabin.
Moving into the business class cabin and this was arguably comparable to the first-class cabin on many competing airlines in terms of space, length of seat and in-seat facilities and amenities. A standout feature was the meal seat-up — no more mini crockery fit for Barbie and Ken only, but life-sized plates, cups and cutlery in tasteful colours that would not look amiss at an upmarket dinner party.
In fact, this business-class product was so good that I actually wondered why you would need to pay any extra to travel in first class.
Of course, the front of the plane offered yet more space again - the First Class Suite features a 82-inch long, fully-flat bed within a pitch of 85.5 inches, a seat width of 25.5 inches and in-seat gadgets such as an eight-point massage system, a 23-inch in-flight entertainment monitor with wireless handset and various USB, Ethernet and power plugs.
There’s also a cosy-looking sofa where first-class passengers can chill out and chat to fellow travellers. However, the feature that really caught my attention — and hit the headlines as a result — was the first-class toilet!
Apparently, it’s the first aircraft loo to feature a bidet, plus the luxury flooring is custom made, designed to imitate a sandy beach.
Well, this was something worth writing about and as soon as my ‘Lid lifted on poshest plane toilet in the world’ was posted on ATN’s current online hub — www.hoteliermiddleeast.com — the story was immediately picked up by news websites all over the world. It proved two things — firstly, people love a ‘posh loo’ story, particularly when it relates to an aircraft and the call of nature one mile high, and secondly, consumers never cease to be amazed at the constant improvements to aircraft and air travel in general.
However, having seen Oman Air’s new product — one to definitely rival the likes of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — it does leave you thinking, what next?
We’ve seen showers on Emirates’ A380s, now a bidet on Oman Air, while Virgin Atlantic first brought the ‘spa treatment in the skies’ concept some time ago.
How will the airline industry keep pushing the boundaries?
Airlines are already offering WiFi and mobile phone services on board, as well as live satellite TV, so what else can they do to make sure we have all the facilities in the sky that we have at home or in the workplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Whatever comes next, one thing is for sure, these innovations provide travel agents with some great products to sell.