Oman Air begins flights from London Gatwick

28 Nov 2007 by Tom Otley

Oman Air began operations to London’s Gatwick airport from the Omani capital of Muscat this week. The two class (economy and business) flight using an Airbus A330 leaves Muscat at 1600, arriving Gatwick 2030, returning 2230 from Muscat and arriving at Gatwick 0945. The new flights were described by CEO Mr. Ziad Bin Karim Al Haremi as being aimed at leisure travellers, to ensure that the increase in tourism to Oman continues.

“We are not going to be the taxi of the world with travellers using Oman as a hub to get to the other side of the world,” Mr Al Haremi said, “We are here as an arm of tourism into Oman.”

The new connection comes as a belated response to the altered ownership of Gulf Air, which once was owned equally between Oman, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, but which latterly saw Abu Dhabi withdraw to launch Etihad, with Oman withdrawing in May 2007. As a result the Omani Government has concentrated its efforts on Oman Air for connections abroad, and has increased its 33% ownership to 84%, with the expectation being it would become the sole owner in the near future.

London is the 24th destination for Oman Air, with its 25th to Bangkok also starting this week. The airline applied for slots at Heathrow, but was able only to secure slots for the winter schedule and so chose Gatwick where it has a consistent departure time for both summer and winter schedules. Nevertheless Mr Al Haremi said:

“We don’t know whether we will stick with Gatwick or get the slots at Heathrow and move there.”

At Gatwick Oman Air will use the Aviance lounge in the North Terminal for its business class passengers. The airline’s frequent flyer programme – Sindbad – allows top tier travellers to take advantages of the free limousine service available both in the UK and Oman which business class passengers enjoy.

With the government’s increase in ownership comes management’s focus on new aircrafts, new routes, and new logos. The CEO optimistically said they are hoping to expand or increase frequency in the next year to France, Germany, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Damascus, Yemen, and the Indian subcontinent, where they have approached the government for additional destinations. By 2012, he said, they are planning to have 30 wide-bodied and 12 narrow-bodied aircrafts.

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