What role does Oman Air play in the overall development of Oman’s aviation sector?

PEARCE: Oman Air is the national carrier for Oman. It is critical that Oman Air is a dynamic growing carrier. There are a number of different functions that we perform. We are one of the main drivers for bringing tourism into the country. As a result, we work very closely with the Ministry of Tourism. We are keen to grow the carrier and we are focusing on bringing a lot of people into Oman to experience the likes of this wonderful country.

Which traditional and non-traditional markets is Oman Air looking to move into? How successful has Oman Air been at signing new air transport agreements and what destinations is the carrier planning to add in 2013?

PEARCE: Oman Air as a carrier actually goes back to the early 90s. It is a carrier that grew very slowly in the beginning to ensure that it had a sound operational base and it still does. Oman Air is very strong in its engineering and flight operations, and provides great cabin service to all of its customers. Originally, Oman Air had tremendously strong links to the Indian subcontinent. Currently, we operate to 10 different destinations in India and 3 in Pakistan. We fly down to Colombo and across to Bangladesh. So that was our traditional heartland. With the advent of the A330 in 2009, we now operate to multiple European points, Southeast Asia, and down to Mali. That has changed our operations substantially. The government of Oman through PACA (Public Authority for Civil Aviation), the government’s division that handles the air transport agreements, gives us the opportunity to always provide our points of view and send observations. Recently, the government negotiated new agreements or enhanced agreements with both India and Pakistan, which are two of our traditional strong areas. We will soon be announcing extra services into cities that we already fly to in India and Pakistan. They increase our frequencies in some cases to double dailies and full dailies. This will increase the connectivity to onward destinations as well as being a stronger service for the business travelers coming to and from Oman. I am sure that they will be tremendously successful. Alliances are a different area. I have been extremely keen since I have been here to be able to enhance them. In fact, recently we signed and announced one with Qatar and one with Royal Jordanian. We have 3-4 more under development and I am very confident that we will have those completed by early 2013.

How competitive is the aviation industry throughout the Middle East? What initiatives is Oman Air currently taking in order to better compete with other major airlines throughout the region such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad?

PEARCE: It is extremely competitive. Within an hour flight of Muscat you have 3 of the fastest developing carriers in the world with Etihad, Qatar, and Emirates. Emirates is the biggest operator of the A380 in the world. They are currently operating roughly 20 aircraft. As a result, we have a lot of competition but we are able to compete. We have a great deal of respect for them and we understand that there is a great deal of traffic between these three cities and Muscat. We are very keen to see this grow. Oman Air has a unique selling advantage over all the other carriers throughout the region and that is the country itself. As a country, Oman is extraordinary. If you look at the map you can see a nation that is almost the size of Germany and so it is fundamentally different. It has 1,700km of coastline. It has a mountain range and the highest peaks actually get snow during the winter. We have a very different proposition and one that still has great cultural heritage, fantastic architecture, and a place that beckons with many mysteries for the customer or client to discover when they visit Oman.

In the recent WEF Global Competitiveness Report, Oman received a ranking of 67th with regards to available airlines seat kilometers per week. Upon the completion of the new Muscat International Airport in 2014, Oman is expecting to receive roughly 12m passengers per year. What initiatives is Oman Air implementing in order to increase its availability of airline seats? Furthermore, what actions are being taken to improve the airline’s overall capacity and capabilities in order to accommodate the increased growth in passenger traffic?

PEARCE: We already announced the purchase of six 787 aircraft, which will arrive in 2015. We also have another six 737 aircraft coming for 2014. The advents of these aircraft are coinciding with the new terminal. We are also involved in a major fleet study and we expect to announce further fleet orders in the very near-term. When the new Muscat International Airport opens, which is scheduled for the end of 2014, we expect the terminal to operate in the range of 10m-11m passengers by 2015. We have a very considerable share from this range of passengers. The purchase of the new 787 and 737 aircraft will help drive this, along with further fleet orders that we will announce soon. We are very keen to get into the cargo business to facilitate development of cargo in and out of the country. The introduction of our A330s will help with that. We are also looking at studies of bringing freighters in.