Oman Considers New Regional Airline Named “Oman Link”

Oman Aviation Group has issued a feasibility study of the worth of creating a new domestic and regional airline. “Oman Link” would take over the bulk of Omani’s interior routes from Oman Air.

Oman Air jet airborne
The Omani government is seeking proposals to run a domestic/regional airline. Photo: Oman Air

State entity Oman Aviation Group (OAG), Oman’s aviation sector developer has this month hinted at the introduction of a new national airline. One that can be operated at a fraction of the cost of Oman Air’s current domestic and regional services.

According to Reuters, the new carrier would be called “Oman Link”. It would take over the lion’s share of Oman Air’s local routes, which are proving increasingly expensive to maintain.

Muscat-based Oman Air is the Sultanate’s flag carrier. It is majority-owned by the Omani Government and overseen by the OAG. The Group earlier in the month requested a feasibility study of the prospect of a new airline.

If the toe-dipping shows favorable conditions, Oman Link may be given the go-ahead. Although it is not clear how quickly the process would take, proposals for the new enterprise must be submitted by November 11th, writes Reuters.

Oman Link would use regional jets rather than expensive intercontinental types currently operated by Oman Air. The carrier could potential serve smaller airports within the Gulf too, if it came to fruition.

We have contacted Oman Air for its take on the rumor but have so far received no reply.

Oman Air: the transit carrier

To take regional and domestic carriage out of Oman Air’s hands would allow the national carrier to concentrate its efforts on consolidating its international presence. At the moment, Gulf carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways are proving highly competitive and virtually untenable.

Oman Air jet on taxiway
Two-thirds of Oman Air passengers transit to other destinations around the world. Photo: Oman Air

Due to its unique position within the world, the Omani aviation network has been for some years dominated by transfer rather than point-to-point flights. According to Arabian Aerospace, more than two-thirds of all of Oman Air’s passengers are transiting the country’s Muscat hub.

This arrangement has suited, in some ways, the Omani economy. Without international transit, Oman Air would have languished with low volume domesticity. But as a consequence of this reliance, the carrier failed to keep in step with the big Gulf movers. Furthermore, the carrier’s 2008 departure from a symbiotic agreement with Gulf Air did not help matters.

Hence, last year the carrier’s announcing change. not only to transform its network but also to expand internationally, and reduce its historic reliance on transit custom.

Wrote Arabian Aerospace in 2018, Oman Air’s boss Abdulaziz Al Raisi said,

Point-to-point traffic is better yield and I’m sure that will help us to improve our numbers here. So the government, the ministry of tourism and Oman Air, together hand-to-hand we are trying to promote Oman as a destination.”

With this renewed want to expand its point-to-point volume, Oman Air today pits itself against the Gulf giants, and appears undaunted.

Oman Air jets on apron
Oman Air’s domestic operations are weighing down its long-term expansion plan. Photo: Oman Air

Expensive domestic and regional routes

Of its four internal Muscat routes, Oman Air uses a Boeing B737 and Embraer E175. But both are, according to the airline, too costly to run domestically.

The routes, writes Reuters, do not yield a sufficient profit and would be better serviced by a dedicated domestic and regional carrier that could link with Oman Air. That arrangement would leave Oman Air free to concentrate its efforts on international expansion.

SalamAir is the sultanate’s only other LCC. The airline, owned by Muscat National Development and Investment Company began regional operations in 2017.

The OAG’s recent expansion and redevelopment of the nation’s aviation sector will certainly help to pave the way for a new carrier. New terminals at Muscat and Salalah have improved connectivity and significantly increased passenger volume within Oman (rather than over it). So too has the OAG’s increasing focus on tourism and investment aided foreign interest in the country as an entity.

With all that in mind, and Oman Air keen to turn its attention to foreign matters, it seems only a matter of time before a profitable solution is found.