Muscat, Sept 11 – Oman Airport Management Company (OAMC) is expanding its airport operations and set to liberalise the aviation market to boost global trade links, said its Chief Executive Officer Shaikh Aiman al Hosni.
In an exclusive interview to the Observer, he said the airport expansion is vital for the economic future of the whole of the Sultanate.
“We have started liberalising the market with the second ground handling company, Swissport. This move will open up our operations to the global markets,” said Shaikh Aiman.
Swissport, now operating in Oman, is one of the biggest ground handling companies in the world. It operates in 48 countries, generates an operating revenue of 2.7 billion euros and handles 4.1 million tonnes of cargo a year. It also employs 62,000 staff and manages ground handling services for 230 million passengers.
Shaikh Aiman also said Salalah Airport is expanding its operations by up to 25 per cent of its present capacity, thanks to the new infrastructure already in place and marketing campaigns.
The southern airport in the Dhofar region is regarded as the second hub after Muscat International Airport. In the past five years, Salalah Airport has seen a sharp rise in passenger capacity from the local flights as well as from the popular Khareef season.
The OAMC CEO said Sohar Airport is ready to host new airlines to cater to the Al Batinah region’s townships.
“After Salam Air, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways, now we are talking with Iran Air to be the fourth
airline to fly to Suhar,” Shaikh Aiman added.
Sohar Airport will also serve as a new gateway for cargo and courier traffic in northern Oman and, in the future, will ease congestion on Sultan Qaboos Port in Muscat.
In addition, it will serve as an emergency alternative to Muscat Airport for passengers and cargo flying into the Sultanate.
He places special emphasis on local talent as opposed to expatriates to ensure the continuous progress of the management of Oman’s airports.
“We are proud to say the OAMC is Omanised by 93 per cent. I believe in the investment of local people. In the short term, it is cheaper to employ expatriates but the benefits are low. However, the investment we put in recruiting Omanis seems to be expensive now but will be cheaper in the long run and will give us more value in the future,” Shaikh Aiman explained.
Oman is also served by regional airports in Duqm and Ras Al Hadd. Shaikh Aiman said the combined operations of all five airports in Oman will boost revenues to the country and create jobs.
“We have signed, and will continue to sign, contracts with foreign companies to bring in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). The revenues will help the country in many ways but most importantly, create employment for Omanis,” the OAMC chief said.
Duqm Airport received a boost recently after a consortium of Chinese companies signed an agreement to build a town at a cost of $10.7 billion in the once-sleepy fishing village. When that materialises, it will be equivalent to over half of Oman’s current stock of foreign direct investment.
The investments in Duqm include a port, a dry dock, an oil refinery and petrochemical plants. These investments have the potential to make Duqm an industrial hub much bigger than other towns in Oman, giving the airport there a much bigger economic importance.
Saleh Al Shaibany