Oman Air to focus on consolidation, no new routes this year

By Vinod Nair — MUSCAT: May 21 – Oman Air has said it will go through a phase of consolidation for the rest of 2017, which has been a challenging year for global aviation, including the big players. Apart from adding to the existing capacity, the national airline hinted at reviewing the new baggage policy that was introduced this year. Ihab A Sorial, senior vice-president, sales, told the Observer, “The recently launched Manchester and Nairobi (in March) routes were the two new destinations planned for this year. We want to increase frequencies on the existing routes and not spread thinly across our networks. We need to focus on what we have, strengthen them and move on from there.”
He said the company needs to stay focused on its long and short-term objectives. “Our growth has been not haphazard and it is sustainable. The aviation industry is going through several challenges across the world and the bigger companies are likely to get hit harder. Oman Air is a relatively small airline compared with others and that gives us more room to manoeuvre.”
In March this year, Oman Air announced it would cease operations to Beirut in Lebanon for commercial reasons.
It may be noted the airline had to stop services to Singapore after exploring various options, including routing it via Kuala Lumpur, for some time.
The airline will also stop services to Dhaka, but continue with its other established route in Bangladesh, to Chittagong. “We have to close services to Dhaka due to competition and over-capacity.”
When asked about the research that goes through starting a route, he said, “What you do on the paper is different. You have assumptions and you build the business case on something. But the ground realities change, especially with the new capacities coming.” Sorial said the flights to China have been successful and they connect well with our services to Kenya, Iran, Jordan and Cairo.
Similarly, Nairobi operations have been well-received by passengers who travel onwards to China and the Indian sub-continent.
He said the airline is studying more destinations from China as it is a big market. “We review possibilities every week to explore possible new destinations where we can fly.”
He maintained that the destinations to the US and Australia have been ruled out because of the issues related to long flying hours and aircraft utilisation.
The airline would rather focus on strengthening the current network.
Sorial said the East Europe is always in the wish-list but it is not easy because we must study the routes, see profitability and need to be meticulous. “We need strong networks to feed these routes and connect the dots, probably in future when we decide to fly to the US.”
He said the new baggage launched in January this year has received mixed response. “There is always some resistance when changes are introduced. We have been hearing all the views and will look into the responses.
We also need to market the pros of this policy so far. It is important to hear the market.”
He said the new baggage policy will be reviewed later this year, but there are no plans to go back on it.
The decision was initiated taking into account factors such as the payload as the aircraft are mostly narrow-bodied, and for security concerns.
Some enhancements or benefits will be offered to consumers with regards to kilograms and prices.
Among other routes, he said Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok have been doing well, with frequencies to Kuala Lumpur and Thailand (thrice daily) to be increased soon.
Sorial said the airline is looking to diversify by marketing its premium business and the first class products.
The airline plans to have 70 aircraft for 73 destinations by 2023.
Sorial said the airline has been moving on the right path for sustainable growth with the support of the Ministry of Tourism despite the challenges.“We have a clear vision, we want to be the best.
BAGGAGE RULES
Under the new baggage rule, all passengers travelling Oman Air from the launch of this new concept will be permitted one 30-kg piece of checked-in baggage with a linear dimension of 158cm
1. Passengers travelling in business and first class will be permitted one extra bag with a maximum weight 20kg; this will increase to 30kg for passengers with valid gold and silver Sindbad cards
2. Passengers travelling in economy with valid gold and silver Sindbad cards will be permitted one extra bag with a maximum weight 20kg Oman Air’s current pricing model for additional baggage will be replaced with an additional piece concept in which passengers will be able to purchase additional pieces of luggage with a maximum weight of 20kg per piece to be checked in.