Terrible online and phone experience tarnish a great onboard product – Oman Air customer service

Your end-to-end experience when traveling does not only include the plane seat or service onboard, but also the online or call center experience to book your flight, check in or manage your itinerary. I have had a number of very pleasant flights with Oman Air, but the customer service online and by phone has, despite a recent website re-design, a long way to go: Limited functionality, and features not working as expected impact the positive onboard experience! And when you can’t do it online, phone service isn’t much better either!

The first thing you’ll notice when using omanair.com is the slow speed – despite having very fast internet access, the site is not very responsive, so you’ll have to be patient to accomplish anything. 
Another issue is an overeager security mechanism – it identified me as a potential “bot” (?), forcing me to request online access via customer service. Security is an important issue, but I’d expect it to be managed on the spot with a “captcha” service or at least customer service to provide access within minutes. In the first case, my account was cleared the next day, allowing me to proceed. On several further occasions, customer service didn’t respond at all, leaving me locked out of my booking. In one case, I was able to side-step the security block by using the mobile app.

Online Booking: While I purchased my most recent tickets old-style at a travel fair (with huge discounts), the online booking process is easy and a pleasant experience. Throughout the process, you have a handy bar to show you where you are, simple yet good user experience.

You can select your destination, dates and travelers for one-way, round-trip or more complex itineraries, paying with miles or money:

With that information, you’ll get an overview of the flights and fares for your selected date, as well as the cheapest fares for the dates before or after – a great tool to find cheaper fares if you are flexible.

It’s easy to get an overview of what the different fare categories include to make an informed choice:

For your chosen flight, you’ll enter your traveler information. It’s pretty standard, although the date entry is needlessly complex. The selection of seats uses a diagram that makes the planes look worse than they are – they display a 2-2-2 layout in Business Class, when they really are staggered with direct aisle access for window seats.

The payment screen is again pretty standard – I can’t vouch for it working as purchased my ticket in person to take advantage of a local sale!

Manage Booking: You should be able to manage your traveler information, assign seats or purchase add-ons and even change flights. Unfortunately, here the online experience breaks down.

I was, after a few tries, able to assign seats online. The interface is similar to the online booking process. But I wasn’t able to add the frequent traveler information for the partner Etihad. I also wasn’t able to change my flight online. Something that takes mere minutes online with other airlines turned into an odyssey stretching over weeks without resulting in success. I contacted customer service by phone and they were willing to make the change, but were not able to charge one of three credit cards I provided. I contacted my bank and no charge was attempted, suggesting problems with Oman Air’s system. Instead of taking responsibility for the issue, Oman Air customer service send me from one office to the other, asking me to call back over and over, as if time heals all (system) wounds! But despite many calls and hours spend, they were not able or willing to make a simple flight change, with different problems on each call. I eventually gave up, and asked to stick with my original flight. To add insult to injury, staff had killed my seat assignment in their attempts to change flights, forcing me to spend even more time trying to get a seat assignment back.

Check-In: Online check-in is possible 24 hours to 90 minutes prior to departure. You can start the process with your booking reference and last name. Oddly, when accessing it via the mobile website, it asks for booking reference and departure station – and can’t find the record, so make sure to use a laptop or the desktop site on your mobile.

I was able to complete the online check-in, but unfortunately it’s rather pointless, as I had to still go to the counter at the airport to get a regular boarding pass. This time of time wasting is one of my pet peeves!

Bottomline: I love Oman Air’s Business Class seats and onboard service, as well as the new airport and Business Class Lounge in Muscat to connect. But the online and phone customer service is not up to par and a serious distraction from an otherwise very good business class experience. Slow performance of the website, limited functionality, overeager security and a hapless customer service tarnish the Oman Air experience. The web site and mobile app need some serious work, beyond the pretty design just to provide a “neutral” impact, not even thinking about a positive impression. For the time being, it’s best to travel “old style” with Oman Air, buy the tickets in person and hope nothing goes wrong, requiring you to interact with customer service!

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