Flight Plan

Oman Air keen on greater interaction with India

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on November 27, 2018 Published on November 27, 2018

Draw of tourism Oman is keen to promote the country and its capital, Muscat, as a tourist destination   -  Lukas Bischoff

Plans aggressive marketing, seeks more weekly seats for carriers to and from India

It is a small player in world aviation. It also gets easily overshadowed by bigger players Emirates and Etihad that operate from the same region. But Oman Air, the official airline of Oman, has always realised India’s important position and the airline is now planning to become more aggressive in its marketing in India.

Oman has approached the Indian government seeking an increase in the number of weekly seats that carriers can operate to and from India — from 27,000 to 70,000 seats.

In December last year, authorities in India and Oman increased the number of weekly seats the Oman carriers were permitted to operate, to 27,405, up from 21,145 seats permitted earlier. Oman Air is the only airline from Oman that operates flights to India.

“There is no specific number (on the number of weekly seats that Omani carriers can operate) that we can say in public. But we have informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi that if we can get up to 70,000 (seats), that will be great to have. I raised this point during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Oman. They promised to look at it,” Ahmed Al Futaisi, the Omani Minister for Civil Aviation and Telecommunication, told a group of Indian journalists in Muscat recently.

Prime Minister Modi visited Oman in February this year.

The Omani Minister conceded that the Indian side had recently increased the number of seats that Omani and Indian carriers can operate, but added that the increase was not enough. Jet Airways, Air India Express, SpiceJet and IndiGo operate flights to Oman.

The Minister added that if there were any specific places that the Indian government wanted airlines from Oman to focus on, this could be considered based on the (economic) viability of operating these flights. At the moment, Oman Air, which has a fleet of 53 aircraft including 10 Boeing 787 and 10 Airbus A-330 aircraft apart from 5 Boeing Max aircraft, operates to 11 cities in India, including Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram.

Focus on tourism

Oman Air asking for more seats from and to India fits in well with the country’s new thrust at promoting either capital Muscat or Oman as a tourist destination. Perhaps realising that it cannot compete with airlines like Emirates, which uses Dubai as its hub to transport flyers to different parts of the world, Oman is planning to promote Oman as an end destination.

“Our strategy in aviation will be an enabler for other sectors, the most important of which is tourism and also logistics, which grows fast in Oman,” said Mohammed Nasser Al Zaabi, Chief Executive Officer, Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA), Oman, adding, “We are concentrating a lot on tourism. We want a lot more in-bound traffic to the country, not only transit. We would like to have more visitors.”

With political instability in the other countries in the region, another senior official believes that everyone is looking at Oman mainly because it is a politically stable country. “What is happening around us geo-politically today has led to everyone eyeing Oman now, mainly due to political stability in our country. However, our strategy is more long term instead of depending on the current political turmoil in the region, which has seen Iran being placed under global sanctions. Many of the trips, which earlier went through Doha, are now re-routed through Muscat.”

According to the CEO, PACA, most of the traffic to Oman at the moment is from Indians working there who travel back and forth, and from the Gulf Cooperation Council. At the moment, tourism contributes 3 per cent to the country’s GDP. Oman wants to take this to 6 per cent by 2014.

Mohammed Nasser Al Zaabi pointed out that there were many investment opportunities in Oman which “hopefully should make the Indian side open to offering more traffic rights. We are still trying with the Indian authorities. I am sure in Oman we can take more from India.”

The writer was in Oman at the invitation of Oman Aviation Group

Published on November 27, 2018
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