‘New Muscat airport, fleet expansion to boost tourism and logistics sectors’

Muscat - 

Oman is on the cusp of witnessing a dramatic change in the air transport industry with only days left for the new Muscat International Airport to open its doors to the world. The national carrier Oman Air too is stepping up investment in a new fleet of aircraft and new routes.

A US$1.8bn development at the new Muscat airport, which involves the construction of a 580,000sq m terminal, is set to open on March 20. While some 14mn people passed through the present airport last year, up 17 per cent on 2016, the project will initially boost annual passenger capacity to around 20mn.

A four-phase expansion schedule has been outlined for the terminal, which will see capacity rise to 48mn once all construction is completed.

Oman Air on its part is stepping up investment, announcing the arrival of a new fleet of aircraft, routes to North Africa and Europe, and an expansion of existing services as part of a strategy to support growth in tourism and logistics, according to the latest Oxford Business Group (OBG) report.

In February, Oman Air announced three new routes as part of its expansion plans, with flights to Casablanca, Istanbul and Moscow to commence in June, July and October, respectively. The announcement follows the launch of flights to Manchester and Nairobi last year. The airline is also looking to strengthen its position in the Indian market and aims to more than double its flights. It is exploring the feasibility of starting flights to new routes like Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Mangalore. It is part of a strategy that aims to expand the airline’s footprint to 39mn passengers by 2030.

To achieve this goal, the carrier has invested in a new fleet of aircraft, unveiling the arrival of a Boeing 737 Max in February. The 737 Max is the first of 30 it has purchased from Boeing. A further five are scheduled for delivery this year, with the remainder to join the fleet in the coming years.

To expand long-haul capacity and target more destinations in Europe and East Asia, in December 2017 the carrier also purchased one Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner; four more are expected for delivery in 2018, stated the OBG report.

The investment being channelled into Oman Air is central to the sultanate’s wider plans to spur tourism growth in line with its ninth five-year development plan, covering the 2016-20 period.

It covers the broader economic diversification strategy, which identifies tourism and logistics, along with manufacturing, as three sectors with strong expansion potential.

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