Thursday, August 4, 2016

Letter to the CEO of Oman Air ... Part 2

Dear Oman Air,

I'm beginning to think I'm being targeted... like this is some mean joke someone is playing on me because I travel so much and because I probably pissed someone off with my last Letter to the CEO of Oman Air. in 2013... ( the one post that earned me 116 comments)

I will send this letter to the complaints section, but I would also like to share it with my readers because I'm a blogger. That's what we do. I'm sorry. 

On July 25th I had to endure one of your worst customer service failures of ALL TIME. I regularly experience customer service failures, but this almost takes the cake. I'm a frequent flyer. I'm a Gold Sindbad member. I'm loyal (have no choice really unless I fly up to Muscat on a magic carpet). My current statistics show that one out of every three flights I have an unpleasant experience. Yes, I maintain an excel sheet. These experiences usually involve one or all of the following:

1) Sindbad Gold/Silver counters in Muscat Airport have no one manning them

2) Online Checkin counter is hogged by one person with a serious problem who just can't sort out their ticket. 

3) Having to constantly remind your customer service people at the checkin counters to put the priority baggage tags on my luggage. 1 out of 2 times they forget unless I remind them. 

4) Arriving at gate only to be informed that "WOOPS we forgot to tell you that we changed planes and now you're in a different seat". Highly annoying when I'm traveling with someone and we wanted to sit together. That's why we checked in online and booked our seats in advance. That's what normal people do. Why can't you just inform us like normal airlines. A simple email. I register my phone number with every ticket I book but I have NEVER received an SMS from you. Ever. 

5) Looking at Boarding pass as I go through security only to discover that the flight has been delayed. Well why didn't you bother telling me at the counter? I could have gone out and had another passion fruit frozen yogurt at Pinkberry instead of sitting in the lounge for hours listening to Omani businessmen trying to sound loud and important on their phones while lining up to schedule foot massages in the quiet zone (while not being quiet). 

6) Arriving at the gate and being told to wait forever. 

7) Not finding a seat at the gate

8) Getting on the bus and waiting a good 10-15 minutes until it moves... with the doors open  (imagine Muscat heat in July... that was not fun)

9) Arriving at the aircraft only to wait some more in the bus (my record is 32 minutes in 2015... standing.... with a crowded bus)

10) Getting on the plane finally only to find someone else sitting in my seat. Usually a woman who doesn't want to sit beside a man, or a man who doesn't sit beside a woman. If I'm in a good mood I smile and ask the cabin crew for assistance, or I'll take the person's boarding pass and try to find their seat to take their place. If I'm in a bad mood I just ask them to get up with my "you don't wanna meet me in a dark alley" expression. The blank cold "I've been in a meeting all day and I'm not afraid to hurt you" expression. Yes, that one. 

11) Being told to move from my seat two or three times (happens regularly with me). They see a friendly-looking Omani girl with no face veil and automatically assume I'm cool sitting next to a man. I am, as long as we take off on time, but I hate being shifted again and again. Get your shit together and enforce rules. Or create a section for women. Stop this chaos. I have NEVER seen this on any other airline before.

12) Taking off finally. The food trolley comes. They throw (literally) a sandwich and apple juice on my tray as if I'm in a prison canteen. Normally I don't ask for anything. I hate eating on short flights. Why don't you ask before you force your cold little sandwich and warm apple juice on me? Why aren't there options. More importantly ... why do you sometimes offer water and sometimes not?

13) Taking off late and NEVER getting an apology for the delay. All the pilot or senior flight supervisor have to do is say "Dear Passengers - we apologize for the delay". Just admit you're late. Everything is better if you just say sorry. The indifferent we don't give a shit about you attitude drives me nuts. 

14) I've been on 45 minute flights across North America where they have an efficient food and beverage service with a choice of snacks and a choice of drinks. Why can't you do that? You have a one hour-twenty minute flight. Sometimes a cup of coffee would be nice. When we ask for one, the standard answer is "I'll see if we have time". If you have time for duty free, why don't you have time for coffee? Just have the bloody thermos on the snack trolley with you and a pile of paper cups. It's not rocket science.

15) Landing finally. Waiting in the baggage area. Everyone starts getting their bags ..... except me. What on earth is the point of Priority Baggage Tags if they're going to arrive at the very end? I just don't get it. If you don't have the ability to ensure an efficient priority baggage service for First/Business Class/Sindbad members, just don't offer the tags in the first place. 

So anyway, back to my experience last week from Muscat to Salalah. Bear with me.

I had spent 42 hours traveling across the world. Five flights. I was tired and jet-lagged and eager to get home. I checked in online that morning to ENSURE my seat was still there (economy aisle seat at the front of the plane... easy and quick to leave when we land). A few days before I tried to use one of my upgrade vouchers to upgrade to business class for this flight, but guess what? I applied through the website a good week before and to date I have not received a response. Great service, thanks.

 I went to the counter to drop off my heavy bags. The employee kindly put on the Priority Baggage tags. All was well. I went to Duty Free to buy something. Went to Costa Coffee for a caffeine fix. All was well. Wasn't in the mood for the lounge. 

I then headed to the gate a good 50 minutes before departure because I'm organized like that. The gate was full. I kid you not. Was this some kind of joke? You booked Gate EIGHT (one of the smallest) for the new Dreamliner aircraft? Some talented logistics people you guys have. For real. 

There were a few people at the gate ahead of me trying to get in. A family it turned out. A wife, children, a husband, and their housemaid. The Oman Air staff would not let the housemaid onto the flight. She had some permit letter from somewhere but it had expired two days before or something like that. The Omani husband was going nuts and arguing with the staff. I decided to be patient and observe the gate to see if I can spot one empty seat for me. My eye caught something... the flight information screen. Flight delayed. 


I waited another twenty minutes hoping the Omani family would stop arguing with the two employees at the desk and quietly observing the monitor to see if the flight would be delayed any further. Finally, I asked Mr. I Don't Care Oman Air Staff  if I could just get into the gate to sit down. He looked at me then he said "There's a line behind you". I looked behind me... lo and behold, at least thirty people standing in line. INSANE. But that's what you happen when you try to stuff an elephant into a telephone booth. Bad planning, my friends. Bad planning. 

We waited for an hour. I kid you not. In line. Standing. No apologies, nothing. By the time 40 minutes had gone by, I was leaning against the counter for support. I had a heavy laptop and bag. The Omani family were still arguing about their housemaid. A more senior Customer Service person was brought over to convince the family. The "Senior" customer service person completely ignored the 40+ line of people who had been standing for ages because your gate was too small to handle all the passengers. I wasn't willing to yell 'screw it' and go back to Costa because I had no idea when the flight was taking off, and I didn't want to lose my place in line leaning against the counter. 

The indifferent J.A and M. B. staff at the counter completely ignored me for an hour even though I stared them dead in the eyes waiting for one of them to give me an apologetic smile and say "Madam, we're sorry for the delay and sorry you have to line up like this and sorry there's no room for any of you to sit". But no, they completely ignored us. 

A man from the back of the line came up to argue that his wife was pregnant and needed to sit. They asked to see the wife then declared her unfit for travel. The man went berserk. "What do you mean?!! We're checked in! We're going home!". J & M said "Nope, she's eight months pregnant'. Husband says "No she's not. I said SIX months". They argued and argued and argued. The family with the housemaid and the family with the pregnant wife took up a good twenty more minutes with the customer service people while we continued to stand in line staring at them.

Some people already seated at the gate asked to be released in order to go to the bathroom (five feet away from the counter). The staff at the counter CLEARLY discriminated. Omanis allowed to go easily. Hand in your boarding card and go to the bathroom. Poor Pakistani laborers were not given the same treatment and in fact were treated like they were asking for a HUGE impossible favor. For real, Oman Air? Why the discrimination. Mother Nature does not discriminate.  We all need to pee. I'm sorry but it's a reality especially if you've been stranded at a gate with no information on your flight. Stop treating us like we're part of Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment

By the time an hour had passed, your staff didn't even update the information screen for new departure information. I had no idea when we were taking off. We were still at the gate ten minutes after the screen said we would take off. So professional. I had no idea when to confirm my arrival time to the person picking me up in the Salalah. Unfair to them too. 

When we finally boarded, I was ready to murder. Fortunately, I'm not the type of customer who makes a loud scene at the gate. I prefer to bottle up my anger and release it through this blog. 

The flight took off without ONE apology or even MENTION of the delay from either your pilot, first officer, or senior flight supervisor. Why couldn't your staff just acknowledge that everyone had been treated like crap and you're sorry for it? When I landed in Salalah, I had to wait 25 minutes to get my bags. People with no priority tags received their bags before me. What is wrong with the baggage system?

Your letter above confirms that you are committed to going the extra mile for your valued customers. To be honest, sir, I'm not feeling it. I have flown KLM, Swiss, Gulf Air, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Czech Airlines, Jet, Air Canada, Delta, United, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Porter. Sir, I know airlines. I know customer service. Oman Air is in the KG-1 class when it comes to customer service half the time. 

I have flown Oman Air internationally to London, Paris, and Delhi. The treatment was 'slightly' better to London and Paris, but not much. Delhi was another story altogether.  

The domestic flights are a nightmare. 50% of my flights between Salalah and Muscat are unpleasant. I'm not even a difficult person. I just want to get to where I'm going with minimum hassle. That's what I'm paying you for. I want to be able to leave at a decent time, be informed of any delays via email or sms, receive my bags as planned, and not be shifted from my seat. It's not too much to ask for is it? If it is, please let me know. 

I know everyone complains about Oman Air, but I wonder how many people actually take the time to write you long letters with feedback. Something has to change. You are our national carrier. What happens if competition is introduced domestically? You'll lose half your passengers! Just because you currently have a monopoly over the Omani market doesn't mean you have the right to treat people like this. 

Find a way to improve. Please. I'm tired.  

Dhofari Gucci.

PS ( On a positive note, I'd like to mention how professional and efficient your Sindbad email team are. Whenever I email directly, they respond efficiently and handle queries quickly. Thank you Manal & team) 

Sunday, June 12, 2016


After weeks and weeks of suffering from extreme humidity, it finally started raining. Yesterday was a drizzle and this morning was full-on rain on the way to work. 

I'm not sure whether this is actually "Khareef" (monsoon) rain, but it's rain nevertheless.

Dhofari Gucci is one happy blogger. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chronic Wanderlust & Anantara

I am and will always be a traveler. I have one foot in Salalah and one foot firmly placed in the rest of the world. My heart is out there exploring, fantasizing, curious. In my free time, I look at airline websites to study the latest and easiest connections from Salalah to the rest of the world. I update my travel bucket list daily. One of the happiest days of my life was the day Qatar Airways launched the Salalah connection. 

When I'm not traveling or planning my next trip, you'll usually find me sprawled on the sofa flipping through travel magazines. During the months when I am stuck in Salalah, I comfort myself with my travel magazine subscriptions; National Geographic Traveler and International Traveller. I've been getting National Geographic Traveler for years. I decided to try out the Australian International Traveller last year. So far so good.

Yesterday I was reading the latest issue of International Traveller. In the section on the latest hotels around the world, something caught my eye..... Salalah! 

A piece dedicated to Anantara's new Al Baleed Resort, the new luxury resort opening up in the summer on the beach in Salalah. I've been following updates on the resort through various acquaintances including one of the board of directors. Someone (ehem... MM) offered to give me a tour of the construction site but I never got around to it. We snuck into the site a couple of months ago and it looks lovely. A hotel with (I think) around 30 rooms and then dozens of water villas. Yes, you can now actually rent a villa with a POOL in Salalah. 
(this is on their website for the pool villas)

All in all, very exciting. A true luxury resort, and not cheap either. For November a normal sea-view room with breakfast is around R.O 120. The pool villas start at R.O 200. In September during the monsoon it's way more expensive. The three-bedroom pool villa can cost you R.O 950 per night. Bookings start from September 1st according to their website. 

I'm looking forward to hearing about their dining options. Salalah has a very limited list of restaurants in town where one can go for a special dinner (you're basically stuck with either the Hilton or Crowne Plaza). The finest restaurant (in my opinion) is Silk Road at the Rotana, but it's 20 minutes out of town. Al Baleed Resort appears to have three main restaurants; international, Mediterranean, and Asian. They're also going to have a luxury spa and multiple activities, etc. 

They're right next door to Al Baleed archaeological site on the beach. According to my sources, staying at the hotel will gain you free entrance to multiple archaeological sites in Dhofar as well as the museum next door. 


Over and out for now.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

To Marry or Not to Marry

I know the title sounds like Gucci is contemplating marriage, but the post is not about Gucci. It's about something that has been frustrating to me these past few weeks. I know I know, I tend to write when I'm mad, frustrated, on a roll, angry. Trust me, these feelings generate good posts. Happy posts just ain't my style unless I'm talking about Onken yogurt or coffee.

So, as someone who works in a relatively senior position where people are constantly trying to convince me that they need to be hired, I am faced with all types of people.

98% of them are absolute losers who are unemployed for a reason. 1% are professionals who are seeking to switch organizations and build their careers. 1% are the incredibly smart fresh-outta-college kids who have great potential but don't realize it yet. I tend to zoom in on this minority. They're the best part of my day. As for the other 98%, if I'm in a normal mood I'll give them no hope and gently end the conversation and hope they leave. If I'm in a good mood I'll give them shit about getting their lives together and give them advice on how to apply for jobs and write a CV. If I'm in a bad mood, I call security. 

Anyway, this post isn't about my job. It's about the types of people who come asking for jobs (the lazy ass college graduates who can't write a CV, the people who don't want to go to college and think they can get a comfortable office job with a high school degree, the people who think their connections will get them a job, the people who think they can charm me into hiring them, the people who use the "we're a charitable case" line, etc. The list is long. Little do they know that large organizations like mine have strict recruitment procedures including psychometric testing, English testing, and in-depth interviews. You don't get hired unless you're human gold. Period. 

Today's post is about a relatively significant percentage of the 98% male trash who come for jobs. Normally their fathers or uncles come (never could figure out why). These are the guys who either never finished college, never started, or finished and have been at home for years doing nothing (like zero). Their parents find a girl for them, and think that by marrying them off they'll somehow magically mature and find a job.

It doesn't work.

I have met SO MANY of these people, it's an epidemic. I don't know if it's the same outside of Dhofar, but we have this shitty terrible habit of arranging marriages at a young age when the guy doesn't have a job. Why do they do it? This is my theory: 

1) The guy graduated (or didn't), has been sitting at home for years sleeping and staying out all night with friends. He's useless. His family are fed up with him. Let's find him a bride in hopes that she'll "straighten him out". (sounds risky to me). 

2) Let the boy complete half his Deen (religion) and get married. It's Islamic. Marriage sex will keep him away from the dark side. God will bless him with a job later. 


4) His brothers are getting married, so let's marry him off along with them. Bil Marra. It's cheaper. 

5) If he's married, companies and government are likely to take pity on him and offer him a job. I swear this is the case most of the time. 

I could think of more reasons once I've had my second cup of coffee. 

Anyway, it's the year 2016. Life is hard. We're in the middle of an oil crisis. The cost of living is not what it used to be. Families can't continue to support useless young men who can't get their shit together, let alone married ones. They are expensive (petrol, pocket money, clothes, food, cigarettes), let alone a wife and babies (diapers, milk, bottles, etc etc). Who is supposed to pay for them?! This is why I have so many fathers come to my office asking us to hire their useless sons. They can't pay for them anymore. They're tired. They're frustrated. I often just want to shout at them "Why did you marry them off when they had no means of supporting themselves or their wife/babies?!!!". 

In an ideal world (and in my head), a young man/or woman first finishes high school, then goes to college or university, then spends a year (or two? or more AT LEAST) working, growing up and learning about life and adulthood. THEN get married. First learn about responsibility, about yourself, about bills, about where you want to go in life. Go out, travel, learn, experience. 

Then again, my ideal world is very different from the one I'm living in.

What are your thoughts? 


Monday, February 22, 2016

The Oil Crisis: Impact on Daily Life

Good afternoon my few loyal readers who still check in on me from time to time although I have yet to pull myself back into regular writing. Looking back at my posts from 2009, etc, I find that my angry posts were always the popular ones. My feminist outbursts and descriptions of women and life in Salalah. I find that I am not so angry anymore, and I'm not a very effective 'happy blogger' if you know what I mean.

Nevertheless, I'm pleased to inform you that I am a bit angry today, hence the post. 

I do not need to elaborate on the existing oil crisis in Oman and why it happened, etc. My post today is about the direct impact on the lives of Omani citizens from the perspective of someone who directly works on budgeting and employee benefits. 

As many of you know, in early January, the Minister of Finance announced that the price of fuel would go up. Muscat Mutterings wrote about that here.  That was the first step. Most people thought "Oh well, it's a small price to pay. I don't mind paying extra for fuel". Some of us knew this was just the beginning, We assumed electricity and water would be next.

In mid-December, it was announced (again through Ministry of Finance) that all government entities as well as government-companies, and any companies owned 40% or more by the government would not be allowed to issue any bonus/rewards to employees until further notice. Employees gritted their teeth and said "Ok, we can handle a hike in fuel costs and no bonus... we'll be alright". Some grumbled, but most were ready to sacrifice this to help Oman get back on its feet again.

December 31st, another Ministry of Finance circular, this one with more serious requests... They requested the following from government entities and companies again (40% or more government owned):

1) Reduction of operation costs by 10% at least
2) Stopping all promotions
3) Cutting over-time
4) Minimum salary spending (in other words, please don't hire anyone)
5) Monitoring vehicle usage (don't use your car after office hours, please)
6) Reduce spending on electricity, water, internet, and rent.
7) Cutting down on business travel whether inside or outside Oman, using Oman Air only, cutting business class, 
8) Not sending anyone to conferences abroad, and also not arranging conferences in Oman. 

A lot of people were royally pissed off, particularly about the promotions and over-time. Some of us were royally impressed. It made sense after all. Promotions aren't necessarily a given right. 

Silence for a little bit. Things calmed down. Then another F-Bomb dropped (F referring to Finance ministry, not what you think...). Yesterday another major announcement from the Ministry of Finance to all government organizations and companies 50% or more government (basically most of Oman, right?). The announcement was a polite order to murder all employee benefits. A neat table listing everything that should be cut... where do I start? Here are some samples:

1) Employee medical insurance (families included)
2) Life insurance 
3) Vehicle insurance
4) All internal loans (whether company sponsored housing loans or salary advances, etc)
5) No more 13-salaries or Eid money, or Ramadan bonus, etc. 
6) Basically no rewards. 
7) No schooling fees to be paid for employees' children
8) No scholarships or sponsoring employees' higher education
9) No gifts to employees 
10) No marriage support funds
11) No funeral support funds
12) No birth support funds
13) No phones and paid phone bills
14) No annual medical checkups
15) No company vehicles for top managements
16) No annual airfare tickets for expats (I presume) 
17) No payment towards house-maids (didn't know that was a benefit!)
18) No gym memberships
19) No home internet or phone benefits
20) No covering employees' rent
21) No share of profits for employees
22)  No relocation allowance or settling-in allowance or furniture allowance
23) No credit cards for CEOs
24) No monetary reimbursement in the event of a disability (say what?!)
25) No reimbursement in the event of death (even worse)
26) No benefits for retirees.

Etc, etc. The list is long. Basically what they're saying is "Your salary and nothing more".

Now, don't bite my head off, but I think a good chunk of the list is perfectly sensible. In fact, I respect the Minister's decision on those items. 

However, I can't help but wonder if this was thought-through. Did they really think carefully before cutting all medical insurance? For real? Do they realize that Salalah basically has one government hospital for a quarter of a million people? What about life insurance? 

What about internal study-assistance support for employees completing their university degrees. What do you tell them? Sorry, no more support halfway through your degree?

And disabilities and death support? Really?

Some of these benefits were clearly stipulated in employees' contracts. What does that say for Oman's legal system? What's the point of a contract? In fact, what's the point of a Board of Directors for many of these organizations if the Ministry of Finance can dismiss them and make these decisions on their behalf. Did the Ministry actually consult any of the sectors before dropping the bomb? Unlikely.

If companies aren't able to offer any benefits (whether private or public sector), what's the point of a job market? How do you retain your employees? 

I understand and respect his decision to cut down on some managerial benefits. In fact, I tip my hat to him. However, why not introduce other measures as well instead of cutting medical benefits from people and their families without any notice? 

Why not impose income tax on extremely wealthy people? What about land-tax for people hogging way too much land? Why not stop projects? Cut down on Diwan costs? Entertainment? 

The one thing the minister hasn't said outright is "Stop recruitment". But anyone working in the government and semi-government sector knows that's what's between the lines. They can't say it outright because it may lead to another mini Arab-spring. 

There are a lot of pissed off people in Oman today. These difficult times require leadership. I think Omanis would feel so much better if His Majesty gave us a speech along the lines of "We're going through a tough period, we need your support, we can get through this if we all work together and make small sacrifices,... what doesn't kill us will make us stronger".  

Is it so hard? In times of difficulty, clear communication is key. It's the only way to convince people. Change Management, my friends. Change management. 

Over and out for now.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Ancient Script Leads Dhofar to Colorado

Very happy that this incredible researcher is getting some of the attention he deserves. I've been to his mini museum and have read a lot of his work. He's one of the people who was working on the Salalah-Mormon connection as well. Most (or all) of the cave writings research done in Dhofar is his as well. 

This article was published in the Oman Observer two days ago:

By Kaushalendra Singh:  How a language would have travelled from Dhofar, south of Oman, to Colorado, a western US state or vice versa, is a complex question. The answer is also not simple, as experts from both sides have been researching to reach a conclusion and have done scores of papers, meetings and have collected samples to prove their points. But one thing is for sure that the scripts of an unknown language found both in Dhofar and Colorado are almost the same. And there has been similarity between climatic conditions of both the places. Like Dhofar, Colorado is known for its geographic diversity, with mountains and arid desert. Colorado, however, has snow-covered mountains and is perched a mile above the sea level. Experts from both the ends are trying to establish travel and other possible links to establish the history of a language and two cultures.

Ali Ahmed Ali Mahash Ash-Shahri, 68, has taken unto himself the task of establishing the fact that the language that has been found in Colorado was in fact the local language of the people living in Dhofar region some 2100 years ago. Ali humbly suggests adding or subtracting 200 years (+-200), as it has not yet been established and the language is yet to be deciphered. “Lots of evidences have been found, collected and documented but still not fully established,” he says and drops a hint that the language in question might be present day ‘Sahri’ which is known also as ‘Jabbali’ (Arabic word for something that belongs to mountain).

Ali Ahmed, however, strongly refutes the language being called ‘Jabbali’ “as mountains do not speak and languages are known by the people who speak them. The language was being used by local Dhofari Sahari tribe and hence it should honourably be called ‘Sahari’ language,” he insists and says “today there has been no written record of ‘Sahari’ language but it is spoken widely in Dhofar. He is trying to establish the missing link with the scripts that have been found in Dhofar and Colorado.

What makes more interesting is the fact that 28 years of research of this sexagenarian has led some researchers to understand that the remains of 33-alphabet language found in Colarado is very similar to the undeciphered inscriptions of Dhofar.

Ali Ahmed strongly believes that 28 years of meticulous research would lead him to get the written clue of the Shahri language. He is pained at disappearance of the written records of ‘Shahri’ language and says: “Each time a language disappears, a part of history and a way of thinking vanish. It is very important to establish written records of the language and we are lucky that its spoken form is widely practised in whole of the Dhofar region.”
The similarity between the alphabets found in Colorado and those of undeciphered inscriptions means a lot for Ali Ahmed. “It is a clear indication that the language is very old and the people from our place must have travelled to those places and finally settled there,” he says.

Tradition and culture is very close to Ali Ahmed. His studies in History as a subject in Beirut University and later his career in defence services made his passion for past more pronounced. He decided to do something for his own spoken language while collecting everything ‘old’ that came in his way.

His house in Saada speaks volumes of his hard work to give ‘Shahri’ a written identity. His living room has turned into a delicate house museum with all possible records in the forms of pictures, inscriptions, tools, photo negatives, audios and videos to support his research.

Besides all possible documents to support his research work, Ali Ahmed’s house museum has several items ranging from leather utility items to guns and gums.

He has written two books titled ‘Ancient inscriptions and drawings in Dhofar’ and ‘Language of Aad’. Both the books are written in Arabic and English.