OAS set to revamp ops


Airline operator Oman Aviation Services has said it is streamlining its operations and upgrading its nine-aircraft fleet to bring the firm back into the black after two years of losses.

Edward Grauvogl, the firm's commercial division director, said ground-handling by Oman Aviation and operations of its subsidiary Oman Air would be combined under one firm to boost efficiency and services.

"This will cut down costs and keep our staff to a minimum and make us profitable again," he said.

Abdulrahman Al Buseidi, chief executive of Oman Air - the Gulf's smallest commercial airline - would head the new firm, which has still to be named, Grauvogl said.

The government has a 35 per cent stake in Oman Aviation and the rest belongs to private investors.

Oman Aviation Services suffered a RO2.86 million ($7.4 million) loss in the first nine months of 2001 due to what it said was high maintenance expenditure.

This followed a net loss of RO2.55 million in 2000 compared to a net profit ofRO1.7 million the previous year.

But Grauvogl said the final 2001 figures would be better than expected.

"We had quite a strong fourth quarter, generating revenues from unexpected lower aircraft maintenance costs after we negotiated a better deal with firms selling us spare parts."

The firm will turn profitable in 2002 as Oman Air improves its fleet and adds new routes, he added.

"We expect to produce profits this year from the strength of our new fleet, which will reduce our operating costs, and the fact that we will be flying to new destinations," he said.

These include Kenya, Tanzania and Lebanon.

Grauvogl said the firm was looking at buying wide-bodied planes, such as Boeing 767s and Airbus A310s. Oman Air's present nine-aircraft fleet comprises two A310s, three Boeing 737s - two newly delivered - and four ATRs.

"We will still go ahead with our current plans of completing the purchase and lease of the 737s, which will be used for shorter destinations," he said.

Oman has a large population of Indian origin and routes to India provide 70 percent of the airline's revenue. "One of the reasons we are planning to buy the wide-body planes is to diversify our business and to depend less on the Indian routes," Grauvogl said. Its other flights are mainly within the Gulf.

Oman Air, which last year signed two separate agreements to buy and lease five new Boeing 737s, has already received two of the planes and expects two more to arrive later this year. The fifth plane is expected to join the fleet in 2003.

"At the moment, we are flying at a fifty per cent capacity to these destinations because our current planes are simply too big for these flights. The plan is to introduce smaller aircraft so we could release bigger planes for longer routes," he said.

The airline's new flights to Beirut begin on June 1. The three flights per week will involve a stopover at Dubai.

On June 7, the airline will launch the Muscat-Mombasa-Dar-es-Salaam-Muscat flights which would operate twice a week.

The airline would also operate six flights per week to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, from April and until May, 10 flights to Mumbai (Bombay), six to Chennai (Madras) and five flights to Kochi (Cochin).