On the south-eastern edge of the Arabian peninsula, sharing land borders with the United Arab Emirates in the north-west, Saudi Arabia in the west, and Yemen in the south-west — the Sultanate of Oman is often the ‘quieter’ voice of the Gulf aviation scene, but it’s home to a strong, and growing aviation sector.
By the end of 2019, IATA forecast Omani aviation will have grown 40% over a three year period — a very promising statistic, that itself is helping drive aviation growth in the region.
In Oman’s capital, a new $1.8 billion terminal at Muscat’s International has already opened its doors to passengers flying to, from or through Oman. The new terminal raised the capacity up to 20 million passengers per year, and is equipped with the latest technology to accommodate aircraft including the superjumbo Airbus A380.
The next chapter is not only encouraging for Oman’s growth, but it features a new airline with a fresh approach, ready to shake-up Oman’s aviation industry.
‘SalamAir’ is the name of the first Omani low-cost airline in history of the sultanate.
The young airline already flies to much of the Gulf, taking advantage of Oman’s neutrality in the current Gulf Crisis conflict, and operating to Gulf cities including Doha, Dubai and Jeddah.
SalamAir is well positioned to be part of and help accelerate Oman’s air travel growth, and CEO Captain Mohamed Ahmed – an industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, including at other Arab airline start-ups – is confident of the airline’s goal to be able to reach 60 destinations in five years.
The idea of an Omani airline with a business model based purely around low fares is a somewhat foreign concept to the sultanate, but a very familiar one elsewhere around the world. While other low-cost carriers catering for mass markets, such as Europe, may operate solely as a business, Oman’s first low-cost carrier has the potential to influence, shape and determine how people travel between Oman and short-range destinations.
“If demand doesn’t historically exist for travel in a destination, we’ll create it by flying there,” said SalamAir CEO Ahmed. This positive thinking will be needed for Oman to take on this all-important growth.
Last summer, Salam Air – the “Simply Omani” airline were already flying four times a day between Salalah and Muscat, with Airbus aircraft more than 90 percent full – a clear example of Omanis opting to leave their cars at home, and fly cheaply instead.
Now, the airline has signed an agreement to add six brand new Airbus A320neo aircraft to its fleet – quite an achievement in itself, for such a young airline. SalamAir’s CEO said, “In less than 18 months since our launch we have connected over half a million passengers across the globe and we continue to gain momentum as a leading budget carrier. With the new A320neo addition to our fleet we look forward to building on this success and expand to new markets while guaranteeing a great travel experience for our passengers.”
Oman are gearing up for continued growth in its aviation sector, and this year will see the Sultanate better establish itself on the global aviation map.
Domestically, just last month, a new airport terminal at Duqm opened, adding to the ‘new airport’ portfolio of ‘Oman Airports’ company. The terminal building spans 8,660sqm and has a capacity for 500,000 passengers annually, with the potential to expand to two million.
Passenger numbers are on the rise, specifically for transit passengers who are using Muscat as their one-stop layover between Europe and Asia. It’s very exciting to witness Oman’s aviation industry growth, and statistics for the immediate future are very positive for the peaceful Sultanate.