A complete picture of the devastating impact that the pandemic and associated lockdowns have had on air traffic movements in the Sultanate last year is now evident from newly published data released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).
According to the Centre’s latest bulletin, air traffic movements recorded at Muscat International Airport – both arriving and departing on the domestic and international sectors – totalled 35,093 over the course of 2020, representing a staggering 70.2 per cent decline in comparison with the previous year’s tally of 117,842 movements.
Likewise, air traffic movements at Salalah International Airport (arriving and departing on the international and domestic sectors) tumbled 71.2 per cent to 3,398 last year, down from 11,812 in 2019.
Oman’s international airports in Muscat and Salalah had remained shuttered for passenger aircraft for several months at the height of the pandemic last year as airlines around the world grounded their fleets as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19.
National carrier Oman Air, among other regional and international airlines, resumed limited operations starting in July last year.
Most scheduled commercial flights continue to remain suspended in response to new waves of the infection that swept across several parts of the world.
The lockdowns had a disproportionately higher impact on international flights, according to the report. A total of 31,102 air traffic movements were recorded on the international sector at Muscat International Airport last year, down a hefty 71.1 per cent from the 2019 tally of 107,451 arrivals and departures.
On the domestic sector of the same gateway, air traffic movements totalled 3,991 – representing a 61.6 per cent decline from the previous year’s tally of 10,391 arrivals and departures.
There was a corresponding slump in passenger numbers handled at the Sultanate’s premier international air gateway as well. On the international sector, the total number of arriving and departing passengers plummeted to 3.695 million last year, versus 14.904 million in 2019.
Departing passengers accounted for a slightly higher percentage of the total, which is perhaps attributable to the sharp uptick in the outgo of expatriates and their families who were casualties of the turmoil wreaked by the pandemic on local businesses.
On the domestic sectors, only around 390k passengers travelled last year, down 65.1 per cent the previous year’s total of 1.117 million passengers handled by the airport.
In all, 32,911 flights were handled at Muscat, Salalah, Suhar and Duqm airports last year, carrying a total of 4.566 million passengers (arriving and departing), the report added.