Oman Air flying high

Al Busaidy.

The Gulf's youngest carrier, Oman Air, has chalked out a fleet and network expansion to build on its growing success.

The airline says it had a "very satisfying" fourth quarter of 2001 despite the upheaval in the global aviation market.

"Oman Air did not suffer the reductions in demand experienced by carriers operating to/from Europe or on the North Atlantic, where Iata reported drops in the range of 15-35 per cent," said its acting chief executive Abdul Rahman bin Harith Al Busaidy.

"Traffic within the Gulf area has remained unchanged, and indeed has even strengthened somewhat as Gulf residents opt for regional travel in lieu of travel to Europe, for example.

"The launch of innovative packages like the 'Magic of Muscat' has helped stimulate new regional traffic. Traffic to India too remains strong from the Gulf."

The airline carried 730,000 passengers during 2001 throughout its network.

Al Busaidy said the airline will be introducing a new fleet of jet aircraft including three Boeing B737-700 and a B737-800 to replace the current fleet of two Airbus A310 and one B737-400 planes. The airline will also double its ATR aircraft to four and continue to operate its three Fokker F27 planes.

Oman Air will also be adding services to several new points including Mombasa, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam in east Africa and Beirut by early June this year while axing the "uneconomical" route to Dhaka in Bangladesh.

"More aircraft sized correctly for the demand levels on our routes will allow Oman Air to increase frequencies on existing routes, as well as expand the network," said Al Busaidy.

"The new aircraft will offer our passengers a much improved Business Class product with more legroom and wider seats. The new aircraft will all have inflight entertainment in both Business and Economy class."

Longer term, Oman Air is considering adding regional jets to upgrade services on the Muscat-UAE routes and expand its Gulf network. It is also looking to spread its wings to points in Europe and southeast Asia, he said.

Al Busaidy said the new fleet along with newer technology features and better management control will also allow better scheduling of aircraft to improve the airline's on-time performance to reach a target of 90 per cent.

He said Oman Air has linked up with Gulf Air's Falcon frequent flyer programme from the first quarter of this year to offer its passengers a chance to earn and redeem mileage credits.

The airline has a code share agreement with Gulf Air on all Gulf flights in and out of Muscat except for those to India. It also has code share arrangements with SriLankan Airlines and Swissair and discussions were continuing with two other carriers for similar cooperation.

The airline is also introducing new meal service to make onboard service more pleasant and enjoyable.

"This compliments our newly introduced staff uniforms last year, and the fresh new B737 interiors, featuring Omani Art on the bulkheads," he said.

He said Oman Air was installing the Enterprise Resource Planning (Oracle) System, the Baggage Reconciliation System and Departure Control System this year aimed at improving efficiency and productivity.