Sharp decline in transiting passengers

By Vinod Nair — MUSCAT: Dec. 27:  The number of people transiting through Muscat International Airport dropped by nearly 50 per cent to 17,031 as of November this year compared to nearly 29,000 passengers in 2015, as per the statistics provided by National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI). Only 541 passengers transited through Muscat airport in October and 1,287 passengers in November this year, compared to nearly over millions passengers who use airport of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Members of the travel industry told the Observer things may change with the improved connectivity following the expansion of Oman Air to new destinations such as China in the Far-East Asia, to be followed by Kenya (Africa) in March and Manchester in April this year. “We need to be more liberal with our transit visas, especially for short stay of two to four days. Currently, travelers need to furnish hotel bookings and visa on arrival is or e-visa (unsponsored) is not available for travelers from markets like China and India.
“We hope the government is working on this direction but there are certain difficulties, such as lack of enough hotel rooms surrounding the airport.  Opening of new airport in the near future with a hotel of around 90 rooms may change the matter,” said an airline official.
At the same time, international flight operations at Muscat increased by 11.5 per cent to 85,536 (flights, both take-off and landing) in 2016 to 76, 553 flights in 2015.
At the same domestic flight operations at Muscat airport dropped by 12.5 per cent to 8,875 flights in 2016 from 10,035 flights in 2015.
To recall, Oman Air stopped its Sohar operations this year.
The number of arriving passengers to Muscat airport has increased by 11.2 per cent to 478,748 passengers from 430,710 passengers in 2015. The number of passengers departing from Muscat airport has increased 9.7 per cent to 467, 117 passengers to 425,989 passengers in 2015. Total number of passengers increased using the airport 10.4 per cent to 945,865 in 2016 from 856,613 passengers in 2015.
Including both domestic and international operations, total flights operating from Muscat increased 8.7 per cent to 94,141 from 86,588 in 2015. The number of passengers also increased 17.2 per cent to 10,925, 325 in 2016 from 9,320,708 in 2015.
It may be noted that most flight operations from Muscat is to India (with 76,270 take-offs and 75,261 arrivals), followed by Bangladesh (18,818 take-offs and 28,763 arrivals) and Pakistan (17,893 take-offs and 19,345) arrivals).
Flight operations from Salalah Airport dropped 1.1 per cent to 9,241 in 2016 from 9,341 flights in 2015. Passenger movement from Salalah increased 17 per cent to 1, 105,647 from 943,521 in 2015.
Several new airlines including chartered and scheduled flights have started operations from Salalah this year.