Airlines Airline Portrait: Oman Air

  • Oman Air

If people are asked to name airlines in the Middle East region, probably only some might say Oman Air. During a meeting with the German Luftfahrt Presse Club in Hamburg, AVIPEO.COM had the chance to chat with Paul Gregorowitsch, CEO of the carrier.

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The history of Oman Air goes back to 1970, when the forerunner Oman International Services begun handling with civilian aircrafts. First flights from Muscat to Salalah started in 1982 in a joint venture cooperation with Gulf Air. Eleven years later, in 1993 Oman Air was founded. The airline operated flights with leased Boeing 737-300 and joined IATA in 1998.

One important milestone in the history of Oman Air is the launch of first long-haul operations to London Gatwick in 2007 after the Omani government sold its share of Gulf Air and recapitalized Oman Air, taking 80% ownership. In 2009 Oman Air received its first of 5 ordered wide body aircraft. With a total of three Airbus A330-300 and two A330-200, the carrier expanded its network with several long haul destinations in the following years. Services to Paris, Frankfurt/Main, Munich, Male and Colombo as well as to Kuala Lumpur, Milan and Zurich started.

Fleet Overview:

  • 4xAirbus A330-200 (Seats: 20/196)
  • 6xAirbus A330-300 (Seats: 6/20/204 or 24/265)
  • 1xBoeing 737-700 (Seats: 12/102)
  • 24xBoeing 737-800 (Seats: 12/144)
  • 5xBoeing 737-900ER (Seats: 12/171)
  • 4xBoeing 787-8 (Seats: 18/249)
  • 2xBoeing 787-9 (Seats: 30/258)
  • 4xEmbraer 175 (Seats: 11/60)

In August 2014 Paul Gregorowitsch was appointed as new CEO. The Dutch manager came from German Air Berlin where he was part of the Management Board from 2011 to 2014. From 2007 to 2011, Gregorowitsch was President and CEO of Amsterdam-based passenger and cargo airline Martinair Holland.

Oman Air Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Oman Air Boeing 787 Dreamliner © Oman Air

Today Oman Air operates a fleet of 49 aircraft. Beside a single aisle fleet including 30 Boeing 737 Next Generation and four Embraer 175, the carrier operates a long haul fleet with six Airbus A330-300 and four A330-200. Since a first delivery in October 2015, Oman Air complements its long haul fleet with four own Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and two additional B787-9. Two Dreamliner’s are leased from Kenya Airways.

The size of the airline shows that it is not comparable to other Middle East airlines like Etihad or Emirates. However, this does not mean that the vision of Paul Gregorowitsch for its boutique airline is not ambitious: “We want to become the best airline in the world”. This goal shall be reached under the guideline of sustainable operations. With 66% Omani employees and a focus on regional products and service providers, this sustainability does not only aim on solid financial results. Due to the low oil price in the last years, the Omani government reduced its financial support for its state carrier. After a support of 130 Mio € in 2015 and 88 Mio € in 2016, Oman Air will not receive any support in the ongoing year. As a result of this change, the fleet of the Skytrax 4 Star Airline will replace all Embraer 175 aircraft with Boeing 737 aircraft in order to homogenize the fleet and reduce the operating costs.

Today the airline operates network of eight domestic and several international destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa. European destinations with partly double daily flights are London, Milan, Munich, Frankfurt, Paris and Zurich. Due to the high number of foreign workers in the Sultanate of Oman, the carrier connects Muscat with eleven destinations in India.

Quick Facts about Oman:

The Sultanate of Oman is an Arab absolute monarchy with a population of 4.4 Mio people. With an area of around 309.000 square kilometer, Oman is comparable to the size of Italy. The country has the 25th largest oil reserves in the world and is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the middle east. Due to the drop in oil prices the government has declared to diversify its economy and to develop new sources for income. Nearly 16% of the country’s population lives in the capital Muscat. The country is ruled by Sultan Qaboos since 1970.

The Sultanate of Oman attracts more and more tourists.
The Sultanate of Oman attracts more and more tourists. © Oman Air

Until today, Oman Air is not member of any alliance. Following the words of Paul Gregorowitsch, this will not change in the future as he does not see an advantage in this type of cooperation. Oman Air as a small partner airline in alliances like Star Alliance or Oneworld could not enforce its interests. The CEO prefers a strategy with bilateral Codeshare cooperations like the airline is doing already. By today Oman Air has codeshare agreements with several airlines from different alliances including Lufthansa, Emirates, KLM, Turkish Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.

To achieve the zealous goal of becoming the best airline in the world, Oman Air focuses on service and quality. All aircraft are equipped with Economy and Business class seats. Additionally, some Airbus A330-300 have six first class suits. On the entire long haul fleet, passengers can connect with Wi-Fi. The carrier’s economy class was chosen as the best in the world by the World Travel Awards in the years 2014 to 2016.

Talking about the year 2020, Paul Gregorowitsch stated a clear growth plan for its airline: a fleet of 40 narrow body Boeing 737 and 20 widebody aircraft. Therefor the carrier will receive the first of 20 ordered Boeing 737 MAX in 2018. Furthermore, the airline needs to make a decision regarding the wide body aircraft fleet. The decision if the carrier will focus on a solely Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet or a mixture with Airbus A350 will be made in the next months. CEO Gregorowitsch stated he would favor a homogeneous Dreamliner fleet that would allow lower operational costs. For its expansion the carrier will focus on the existing destinations and expand the number of flights. Interesting destinations for a further expansion could be Hong Kong and Seoul/Incheon in Asia.

Another milestone in the history of Oman Air will be the opening of the new Muscat airport in March 2018. The opening had to be postponed several times in the last years due to problems with fire protection and construction. This new airport could help to compete with other carriers in the challenging Middle East region. Paul Gregorowitsch stated, that from his point of view a period of consolidation will begin. Due to the low oil price, carriers in the Middle East region are forced to achieve Economies of Scale. The Oman Air CEO expects further cooperation between current competitors and could even imagine a collaboration between Etihad and Emirates.

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