Oman Air, which, in March 2016, was considering taking 13 Airbus A350 in 2020 has now focused on placing an order for 9 jets. Options now include Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.
The airline’s CEO Paul Gregorowitsch was appointed in 2014, as the oil price slump started. His focus seems to be on rationalizing the aircraft types used to save maintenance costs needed when different jets are flown. Short haul has to be a consideration to enable more flights per 24hours which will enable higher revenue per plane. Government subsidies have reduced substantially leading to the flights into Sohar Airport being cancelled and increasing the need to come into profit. The target of breakeven is 2017 and government subsidies are expected to end in 2018. After 2018 the government will be looking to divest some of its equity in Oman Air.
Oman air currently flies into 53 destinations, mostly Asia, and will look to increase these to 75 by 2023.
The current situation of boycotts on Qatar has enabled Oman Air to increase flights into Doha and to lease aircraft from Qatar Airways. This association may lead to longer term association when the Oman government sells some of its stake in Oman Air.
There have been rumours of Oman Air buying a stake in Air India, as the Indian government looks for a buyer. This has been denied by Oman Air and with the ‘open skies’ planned by the Indian Government, new aircraft will enable Oman Air to increase its own flights to India. These are currently 126 a week into 11 destinations with a seat limit of 21,147. India offers good potential as there are large number of Indian workers in Oman, India offers good value education to Omani students, medical services and holidays. Salalah, Muscat and possibly Sohar airports could be used to provide direct flight into Indian airports and Paul Gregorowitsch’s short haul focus will be well served here.
Iran and Oman’s increasingly strong relationship and the ending of US sanctions should enable Oman Air to rapidly increase the destinations served in Iran. Iran offers religious pilgrimage sites, medical services and tourism destinations.
European destinations may have less appeal as the distances are longer and changes in currency rates make Oman a less attractive destination for winter holidays from Europe into Oman while Europe is still an expensive destination for holiday makers from Oman and Asia.