Oman Air | Embraer E175 | MCT-DXB

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Picking up almost immediately where the last part left off, outside Muttrah Souk, It was now time to head back to Muscat international. If you missed the previous part, or indeed any of the others in this series, you can catch up here:

Arabia & Thailand 2013 1: LHR-DXB-BKK EK A380/77W

Arabia & Thailand 2013 2: Two TG Classic’s to Phuket

Arabia & Thailand 2013 3: BKK-DXB-MCT with EK/WY

So I made my way to the taxi rank and agreed a price of 10 Rials – once they had finished lunch. It was a little uncomfortable being left in a car that wasn’t moving, without any windows open in 41 degree heat but once the drivers had sorted out who was taking me and finished the last few bites of their sandwich we were off.

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The taxi driver was good enough to throw in a brief tour of the other sights around Muscat too, so there was a bit of a detour along the way – I had plenty of time according to the driver, so was quite glad of this bonus tour. He was actually quite a friendly guy, showing me a photo album he had of the various sites of the Muscat area, giving me a bit of overview to the history and the future of the area and telling me about his family. Turns out he actually had family in England too – although I generally find most people do once you tell them where you’re from…

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Glad I got to see this – I’d seen pictures before I left but looked a bit far out to reach.

Arrival at the airport was around thirty minutes later. Almost immediately as you enter, there’s a security check.

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It was then around to the Oman air check in to grab my boarding pass.

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WY even have good looking boarding passes!

As there didn’t seem to be a huge amount landside, especially after all the security checks, I headed through to passport control and was stamped out of the country. Then it was yet another security check – the third by my count. As usual, it was in to a duty free shop almost immediately.

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There were also a few windows around to see what was around.

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After this it was a bit of a wander, however this airport is a world away from DXB!

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But for how long?

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I then made my way downstairs to gate 17, although it wasn’t actually open. So I just sat and waited in a pretty dreary looking basement.

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The gate was opened a few moments later, and I entered the holding pen, seeing something familiar along the way.

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In the distance I could see the scheduled E175 being prepared to head over to DXB.

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Guess they weren’t expecting a jet of this size when they built this hangar.

Boarding was called at 16:35, although there wasn’t a bus straight away. So why call for barding?! After a minute or two, one turned up and we made our way over to A40-EB, one of the only jets on this side of the terminal.

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9th May 2013
Embraer E175 / A4O-EB
Seat: 18A / Economy
Scheduled: 17:20 / 18:20
Off Stand: 17:08
On Stand: 18:12

Once onboard, I was amazed to see seat back TV screens – on a regional jet?! In fact the cabin was pretty clean and modern in general with a colourful scheme, yet still managing to remain subtle in the process. Much better than the Dark leather of the European carriers.

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Legroom was sufficient too.

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There were also pillows on each seat. Again, a nice touch on such a short hop. I remember flying with BD many years ago and my mum asked for one as she had a bad back – and was told they don’t even carry them on such short flights.

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One of the increasing number of airlines that are doing away with no smoking signs. Although nobody paid any attention.

The American captain came over the PA and announced a flying time of 48 minutes and a cruising altitude of 20,000ft.

The engines were started and pushback came at 17:08 – or should I say we pulled away from stand, and made the taxi out to the runway, quite a few minutes ahead of schedule. We passed some interesting things along the way.

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Upon reaching the end of the runway, there was a wait for a few moments for our sister ship to land.

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We took off into the haze at just before 17:20.

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Passing the future MCT.
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Around ten minutes after departure the service began, although this time there was a choice of chicken or cheese wrap. I opted for the chicken. It was pretty similar to what was on offer on the outbound flight.

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After this it was going between the skymap and the window until descent started at just after 17:45.

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As had been the case every time I had flown into DXB this week, it was pretty hazy and murky.

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Touchdown was at around 18:05 and we made the long taxi over to terminal 1.

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Once on stand, there was a bit of a wait to disembark. Once out the door, it was through to passport control. This was much quicker than over in T3 and I was stamped into Dubai for the third time in five days.

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Not a bad looking C Class

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I got slightly shouted at for taking this picture. That’s about as far as it went though.

It was then up to the metro and on to Deira City Centre for some dinner and a bit of a look around. I was taken back at how many decent sized shopping centers there were around.

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I got yet another stare when I took this picture.

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This was great! I’ve since managed to hunt one down in the UK.

As I hadn’t seen much of the area around my hotel, I decided to take the 30-minute walk back.

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The following morning I woke up pretty late for me – around 9AM. I took my time getting ready, as the metro doesn’t start until around 13:00 on a Friday. I took another walk around the local area.

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I like how traditional and modern mix here.

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Unhealthy – but good – breakfast.

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Watching the departures from DXB. Shame my camera was still playing up.

After spending an hour or so walking around, it got a little hot for my liking so I headed back to the hotel to cool off for an hour or so before heading back out again. Once the metro had opened, I went out to the Dubai mall and the Burj Khalifa

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First impressions of this impressive mall.

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Unfortunately, all the tickets for the Burj Kahlifa had sold out. Which was a little annoying as that was the one thing I wanted to do on this trip. Guess that’ll teach me for not booking in advance – something that I nearly always do. Typical that the one time I don’t do it, I get bitten!

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So, after looking through the tat in the gift shop, about as close as I could get was having a walk around the base outside. I was in awe at just how tall this building was – one of the most impressive sights I’ve ever seen.

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Hot brakes?

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After a good while wandering around – and mostly staring up, I headed back inside.

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More tradition, among the multinational brands.

At least I got to see one of Dubai’s wonders close up.

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Continuing my self guided tour.

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After a tiring few hours I headed back to the hotel for the night, via a packed metro and that’s where I’ll leave this part.

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Stay tuned for the final part of this series that will tell the story of my final day of this trip and my flight home to London.

Emirates / Oman Air | B77W/E175 | BKK-DXB-MCT

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

The second of my two day trips whilst on my first Asian adventure was booked in January 2013. Having wanted to try out Oman Air (mainly due to their great livery) it seemed crazy not to take a short hop across to Oman whilst in Dubai. My decision was also helped along by not only seeing PalmJets photos, but also somebody from work having recently returned from there and sharing a few pictures and stories of his own. Booking was made via the Oman Air website for the relatively cheap price of around £100. The 737 operated nearly all flights, however one departure from MCT in the evening was operated by the E175. This was the most tempting option as if I chose this, it would mean I would have logged all variants of the E-Jet in just 14 months. The main downside being that it wouldn’t leave me a huge amount of time in Muscat. But an A.netter has to do what an A.netter has to do!

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But first of all, I needed to get back from Bangkok to Dubai. This was achieved via the LHR-DXB-BKK-DXB-LHR ticket I booked back in November 2012. I was also hoping that this day trip would go a lot more smoothly than the first I had booked down to Phuket! If you missed that part of the story, or indeed the first part, you can catch up via these links:

Arabia & Thailand 2013 1: LHR-DXB-BKK EK A380/77W
Arabia & Thailand 2013 2: Two TG Classic’s to Phuket

Check in for the Emirates sector was made via the EK website pretty much as soon as I arrived back from Phuket, late on Tuesday night.

According to the online check in, the originally scheduled vanilla 777-300 had now been switched for the –ER version. Annoying! Although admittedly, it wasn’t completely un expected.

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My morning started much like the last – alarm off at 6AM, down for breakfast, probably the blandest cheese omelet I’ve eaten, and then onto the train to the airport.

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Arrival was around 50 minutes later.

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FID in Thai…

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…And English

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I wonder if TG205 will go to plan today?

It was through to zone T today to get my boarding pass. I asked the check in agent if the flight was busy, and she replied it wasn’t. Yet the check in seat map showed something different? So who was right?

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After this, it was a brief look landside.

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Before heading through security and passport control. Again, it was painless and I was through both in seconds.

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After this I went for a walk air side – very big airport with plenty to look at!

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I happened to look up at the FID and noticed my flight was boarding – some twenty minutes earlier than advertised, which was a first. So I made my way down to gate E1 to find A6-EGA waiting, delivered in March 2010 and in service with Emirates throughout – confirmation that the originally planned -300 had been subbed for the -300ER.

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Upon entering the gate area, it was only around five minutes before boarding was called – all very early again.

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8th May 2013
777-31HER / A6-EGA
Seat: 40A / Economy
Scheduled: 09:55/13:00
Off Stand: 09:49
On Stand: 13:14

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Once onboard, I made my way down the aisle, being welcomed by a very attractive blonde flight attendant along the way, and took my assigned seat of 40A.

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It turned out the flight was pretty busy – so I guess the EK seat map at check in was right! Most of the rear section of economy seemed to be German. Or at least speaking German. However despite OLCI showing I had a seat mate, only the aisle seat was occupied.

This aircraft had the newer style ICE system, as found on the A380.

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The hot towels were then distributed. Still not used to getting these in economy – they disappeared from the cheap seats on UK airlines a long time ago!

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Slowly but surely the flow of people on to the aircraft stopped, and the middle seat of row 40 remained free.

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It was still half an hour until our departure time though. During which time, the menus were handed out.

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I was more than happy to sit and wait on this jet, unlike yesterday. I had some IFE to look at, more elbow room due to not having a seat mate, and these made much more comfortable:

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Shortly before departure, the captain was over the PA saying that we had a flight time of six hours and ten minutes and a cruising altitude of 36,000ft. He also mentioned he would speak to us again before descent into ‘the beautiful Emirate of Dubai’.

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Pushback was a good few minutes ahead of schedule, and we made our way over to the runway.

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Although we were held up a little by a Shanghai Airlines 737 pulling out in front of us and then going pretty slowly.

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We made it into the air at 10:10. After departure, we made a 180 degree turn, heading out over the city.

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Just after departure, I watched a bit of tv.

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Followed shortly after by the drinks service

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Around ninety minutes after departure, lunch was served. I chose the chicken.

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I also watched a film during lunch – Searching for Sugar Man. Well worth a watch – a true story about a musician who released two albums in the US, neither sold all that well so he went back to being a builder. Unknown to him however, he sold millions in South Africa and because he had retired from the music business, everybody assumed he was dead!

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During which time, we crossed into India

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As I watched the film, the stars came out almost unnoticed.

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And a bit later, we passed out of India again.

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I noticed on both my flights to and from Bangkok the cabin crew coming around the cabin and taking Polaroid pictures of certain passengers, putting them into cards and presenting them to the passengers. Seemed to only be certain passengers though? At first i thought it was just for kids, but then noticed adults getting the same thing. Not sure what the requirements for this? I hadn’t seen it before either.

The crew on this sector were pretty good with the Juice runs.

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Following this, it was another film – Parental Guidance, a bit of iPod (listening to Rodriguez’ album after watching the film earlier) and watching the minutes tick down on the sky map. It was around this time I could have done with a toilet break and a visit to the galley for a chat, but as the guy in the aisle was fast asleep this was a no go, so settled for a bit of Family Guy instead.

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Once I finally was released, we had started our descent so no way to have a chat really.

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Once our descent had started it got a little bumpy, and the seatbelt sign was turned on a little earlier than expected.

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Shortly afterwards the arrival video was played.

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During descent, I noticed on the skymap that we appeared to be heading back to Bangkok – so figured we were probably in a hold, although it wasn’t actually announced.

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On approach, the Frank Sinatra song was played – I noticed this on both approaches to DXB, but not to the foreign destinations. Although considering the lyrics, I guess it wouldn’t make all that much sense if they played it on the outward flights.

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We touched down and made our way over to the new terminal, arriving a few moments later, and a few minutes behind schedule.

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I disembarked a few moments later.

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After this, it was out through to arrivals. It seemed that the rest of the arriving passengers were connecting, so therefore I was the only person for quite a while – a bit of a strange experience in such a big international airport!

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Where is everybody?!

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Eventually, some more people did turn up, at passport control. Again, it took quite a while to get through. And again, I couldn’t seem open my eyes wide enough for the automated gates to work – or indeed for the manual system to work all that well either. How wide do you have to open them exactly??

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Once through to baggage claim, I headed off to the duty free shop to change my remaining Thai Baht into UAE Dirhams to return the headphone adaptor I’d brought previously. Although this wasn’t possible due to the departures and arrivals shops being different companies, despite having the same name, logo etc. Confusing.

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Then heading through customs, I was stopped asked if I had any drugs, alcohol or tobacco – I responded no, but he decided to search me anyway. Well why ask if you were just going to search me anyway? Just say you want to search me! The officer found it easy enough to unpack my bag, however packing it up seemed more difficult and he just wondered off.

After this it was upstairs to the metro, and on to Al Rigga station, just a couple of stops down to where my hotel, the Flora Grand, was just a short walk away,

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Upon arrival, I was welcomed, given a glass of apple juice, told all about the services the hotel offered and given the key to my room. And it turned out to be a pretty spacious room – if a little dated. But good enough.

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Once at the hotel, I used the free wifi to check in for tomorrow’s flight.

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Later that evening, I headed down to the mall of the Emirates to grab some dinner and a bit of a window shop.

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Looks like your standard UK shopping center with those shops!

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Ticket stand for the Abu Dhabi GP

Skiing anybody?

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Pretty decent selection of guitars in the Virgin megastore – I don’t play though, I just think they look cool.

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Followed up by an easy dinner.

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Despite having major chain shops from both the UK an the US, there were still a couple of more traditional shops.

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On my way back to the metro, I grabbed an ice cream from Cold Stone creamery. I’d had one on my recent trip to Washington, so figured I’d try the UAE version too!

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Back at the hotel – overview from outside my room.

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The following morning, after a very good sleep, I left the hotel at around 09:30 and made the short journey to DXB terminal 1.

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Upon arrival, it was obvious that T1 is nowhere near as impressive as T3 – at least not land side anyway. I headed over to grab my boarding pass from an empty Oman Air desk.

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Followed by a couple of pictures – although I had heard a rumor that this sort of thing could be a little troublesome, so I only managed a couple, at least in this smaller part of the terminal. This wasn’t helped by a member of the public seeing me take a pic of the check in area earlier and warning me that there was a police officer nearby.

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After this it was through to a busy passport control – mainly full of people heading for the VS and BA flights it seemed. I noticed a young couple stood to the side with a VS ground staff member and a few members of immigration.

Once through, it was then the long walk underneath the apron over to the much more impressive airside area.

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This was much more impressive! First port of call was to change my headphone adaptor – which was finally granted, and then off for a wander.

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Stopping for some breakfast when I reached my assigned gate, C28.

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After this I went to walk off breakfast, seeing the VS flight about to depart back to LHR. VS seem to use a mix of all their Airbus fleet on the DXB route. In the last year they have used the A346, the new A333 and now it seems the much unloved (at least by VS frequent fliers) A343. As I passed through the food court, I noticed the young couple having issues at immigration earlier casually sat eating a McDonalds, despite the fact the VS holding pen was now completely empty and the final call for boarding had gone out. Admittedly I don’t know any of the story, but the fact they were with VS staff (identified by the bright red uniform), and were now airside meant surely they should be on that flight? I guess some people are just always late.

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The one and only VS A343 with AVOD.

And taking in the impressive terminal.

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I also saw a QR Dreamliner about to head back to Doha, but getting a picture was pretty impossible.

Once reaching the end of the terminal, I headed back down to the gate. It said it was open, yet there wasn’t anybody around.

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At 11:25, the gate was opened and I was the first into the holding pen – being welcomed with a “thank you Mr James”.

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At 11:40 a 738 pulled on to stand, however I was unable to see the reg at this point. Boarding was then called at 12:05.

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9th Mat 2013
737-86N / OK-TVU
Seat: 27F / Economy
Scheduled: 12:35/13:30
Off Stand: 12:23
On Stand: 13:30

Once heading down the jetway, I could finally see the reg – and noticed that the flight would be operated by OK-TVU – on lease from smart wings, delivered new to them in early 2012 before heading out on lease to Oman Air in early 2013. I’m assuming it is a wet lease due to the Eastern European crew.

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This aircraft also had Boeings latest sky interior – the first time I had experienced this.

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Pushback came a couple of minutes ahead of schedule and we made the long taxi over to the runway.

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The newly returned to service 787 heading back to DOH

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Departure came at around 12:40, and we were then into some pretty murky skies and across the desert.

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The entertainment was similar to what I had experienced on TAP back in February – a tv show was playing – the same one by the look of it, but nowhere to plug in any headphones – so a skymap throughout would have been better. What we got was still better than nothing though.

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After this the meal service began – much better than expected actually. Improvement over the European, US and even the Thai offerings from the previous day trip.

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The captain was also on briefly, stating that we were due to arrive at 13:30.

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A few moments later – just as descent started actually, we passed through some pretty heavy turbulence – so much so that the captain came on and asked the crew to suspend service and to remain seated for the rest of the flight.

More clues to this jets real identity

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There wasn’t too much to be seen on descent due to the haze and the fact most of the approach was over the sea.

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Touchdown was at 13:25, and we made the quick taxi over to the parking position.

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The new MCT taking shape

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There aren’t any jetways at MCT, so it was on to a bus.

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Once at arrivals, nobody seemed sure if I needed a visa. The guy selling them at the Travelex stand said no (as I had come from Dubai), but the immigration officers seemed to think that everybody needed one regardless. In the end they gave in and let everybody pass without one – which I thought was a little bit of an odd way of doing things, but It suited me. It still wasted a few minutes, that I was pretty short of as it was.

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It was then to the taxi stand to buy a ticket for a brief visit to Muttrah Corniche, arriving around thirty minutes later. I was glad that at least one of my day excursions on this trip had gone to plan!

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Muttrah Fort

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Pretty unimpressive really…

And that’s pretty much where I’ll leave things for now – my return to Dubai, again with Oman Air, will be covered in part 4!