Enhanced air connectivity to buoy Salalah’s economy

SALALAH, JULY 6 – A natural, cultural and tourism destination in its own right, Salalah is also fast emerging as a major business hub in the region supported by road, air and maritime networks. Consequently, this southern city of Oman is attracting the attention of businesspersons from across the region. Going by last year’s statistics, the city hosted about 200 small and big conferences, with more than 50 to 80 major conferences staged during the Khareef season alone. One such high-profile event brought 20 health ministers from the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) and international medical experts. Top construction policymakers also took part in ‘Smart City’ and ‘Intelligent Sustainability’ conferences.
It is against this brightening economic and business backdrop that regional airlines have been lining up to provide additional services to Salalah during the Khareef (monsoon) season in the face of rising demand for air connectivity to this destination — a move that makes good business sense for the airlines.
Thus two major regional airlines — Gulf Air and Etihad Airways — have decided to launch direct flights from their hubs to Salalah during the season, while other airlines which have regular operations to and from Salalah have either upgraded their facilities or added new sectors from Salalah. Oman Air, SalamAir, Qatar Airways, Air Arabia and Fly Dubai have their regular Salalah flights.
The latest among the airlines to start a new sector is SalamAir, which launched three weekly flights from Abu Dhabi to Salalah on Wednesday. Apart from its regular flights from Salalah, Oman’s low-cost carrier has started three times a week flights to the popular summer destination for UAE tourists. According to airline sources, the operation will continue till September 7.
Commenting on the seasonal service, Chief Commercial Officer of Abu Dhabi Airports, Maarten De Groof said, “Salalah is all-time popular destination for those in the UAE and seeking a cooler and nature driven destination during the summer. With Salam Air, travellers looking to visit the Omani destination will be able to take advantage of three weekly cost-effective flights.”
“We also look forward to welcoming travellers from the south of Oman to the city of Abu Dhabi, and sharing with them the wide range of cultural, entertainment and retail destinations the city has to offer,” he said.
Captain Mohamed Ahmed, Salam Air CEO called it an expansion based on demand. He stated: “Tourism and aviation will now be driven forward with the new Muscat International Airport and Salalah Airport. This is key to boosting the Sultanate’s economic diversification strategy.”
SalamAir has done demand based increase during the Khareef season on the Salalah-Muscat sector, which has gone up to five daily flights on certain dates when the demand is high. It has one daily flight from Suhar except for Wednesday and two weekly flights from Kuwait.
Just one day before the launch of SalamAir’s Abu Dhabi service, Etihad Airways started its seasonal operation from Tuesday (July 2) and the service got operational with the arrival of A320 aircraft at Salalah airport. The flight will operate twice a week between Abu Dhabi and Salalah during the Khareef season.
Earlier in June, Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, launched Salalah service, as its first seasonal flight GF548 arrived at Salalah Airport amid much cheer from airport and airline officials.
Gulf Air’s new three weekly flights from Manama to Salalah will be in operation till mid-September.
All these new services are in addition to regular services of Oman Air, SalamAir, Air Arabia and Fly Dubai. Oman Air normally has seven to eight flights daily but for the season it has increased up to 11 to 12 flights daily.
Similarly, Air Arabia has two daily flights from Sharjah to Salalah, while Fly Dubai operates two daily flights, except Friday, from Dubai to Salalah. Depending on demand they also have policy to increase number of flights to the region’s most important summer holiday destination.