By Vinod Nair — NAIROBI/MUSCAT: April 1 – The honeymoon period for air travellers from the Middle East due to extreme low fares is almost over, said a top official of Oman Air, who also dwelt upon the strategies in the short-term. Speaking to the Observer in Nairobi, Abdulrahman al Busaidy, Deputy CEO and COO, Oman Air, said: “The days of low airfares are over. Over the past couple of years, when oil prices went down, airlines lowered fares to capture the market share. Then it was realised that they are losing money. It has already gone up and will go up more. That period is over.”
He added the airfares are not going up just from Oman, but everywhere.
It may be noted that the profitability of a group in the business was affected by nearly 75 per cent.
Speaking in the Kenyan capital to mark the launch of a direct service, Al Busaidy said, “The airline is not planning a major Africa-wide expansion for now and very soon will have a code-sharing with Kenyan Airways. We have looked at Sudan and it was not encouraging for us. The route is under study now. The initial numbers were not encouraging, but we thought let us look at it again.”
He added, “In Africa, the only other place we may operate is Mombasa in Kenya (a relaunch), probably in a year of two. Other options such as Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa are not economical for us.
Code-sharing is the preferred option. There is too much competition and over capacity on the sector.”
Al Busaidy said, “In the short-term, we are studying Khartoum and also Baghdad as Iraq needs to be redeveloped.
We don’t expect to expand and instead would like to focus on consolidation. We have looked at Seoul in South Korea and it didn’t look promising. For Japan, we will preferably go for a code-share deal with Thai Airways over Bangkok.”
He said the West European market is fairly exhausted except for Spain. East Europe is certainly an option for the airline. “We may not opt for emerging destinations such as Georgia, but certainly the bigger cities of Romania and Poland if the authorities ease visa regulations for Oman. As traffic from Oman is only during summer, there should be also ease of visa regulations for East Europeans too.”
Among other options, Oman Air is working on a crew village project under the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis. “There is a proposal under which we can look for a party who can develop and furbish the building. We will rent it for 15 years and then building can go back to the developer. We don’t have to spend and they will get a guaranteed income.”
The airline said it is planning to have a revamped first class in the Boeing 787 Dreamliners. “There is a lot of work involved in it and we have a team in Miami who is working on the design. It has to be certified. Plans include approximately two rows of eight first seats.”
On some of the decisions taken by US authorities in the recent times, Al Busaidy said, “Different people have different thoughts. President Donald Trump emphasises more on pursuing what is perceived to be good for America and what can protect America. These policies are different from that of his predecessor Barack Obama who believed in freedom, competition and cooperation among countries in trade.”
He added, “Different people have different philosophies. There is no right and wrong, but a different approach.
In terms of aviation, some of the recent policies are said to be strange like that the ban is restricted to people from some countries. Even people with visas issued by the US Embassy were not allowed to travel, but luckily that has changed.”
The official said that the ban on laptops can cause inconvenience to passengers. “We don’t fly to US but it can cause inconvenience to passengers as they cannot just keep watching movies all the time.”