With dramatic moves to upgrade equipment, facilities and amenities, Oman Air is signaling that it is ready to compete with its better-known regional rivals Qatar, Etihad and Emirates.
Although Oman Air has many of the same advantages of other flag carriers from Persian Gulf nations, the airline doesn’t have quite the same reputation for opulence as Gulf airlines like Qatar, Emirates and Etihad Aways. FlyerTalk forums have given Oman Air mixed reviews when it comes to offering the high-end travel experience so many passengers have come to expect from the Gulf airlines.
Many of the objections to flying on the smaller, less well-known airline stem from Oman’s use of some aircraft that are leased from Kenya Airways. Other air travelers cite the carrier’s less than ideal facilities at its Muscat International Airport (MCT), a limited route map and in-flight amenities that fall short of other Gulf carriers despite the best efforts of cabin crew members.
It seems that this forgotten kid brother in the region’s thriving aviation industry has been hard at work trying to stoke a bit of sibling rivalry – Oman Air has addressed its most glaring weaknesses in rapid succession.
Officials say the airline will open a long-planned, brand-new, state-of-the-art terminal at MCT. While the new facility was under construction, passengers were forced to rely on shuttle busses to transport them to a disused older terminal nearby.
Last month, the airline took delivery of its first new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Oman expects to add at least 30 new 737 MAX planes to its fleet in the coming months.
Oman has worked hard to boost its international reach. In just the last month, the airline has announced new routes to Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST), Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) and Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport (CMN).
This week, Oman officials even unveiled new premium cabin amenity kits. Announcing new inflight amenities, the airline makes no secret that it is out to capture a reputation for elegance that has so far only been enjoyed by the likes of regional rivals Qatar, Etihad and Emirates.
“The development of new amenity kits and inflight products complements Oman Air’s ambitious program to improve their service whilst supporting its dynamic fleet and network expansion,” the airline explained in a March 11 statement. “Oman Air is committed to constantly improving its product, developing its brand and offering its guests a unique experience.”
Oman Air says it is not just ready to compete with its regional competition, but also plans to copy a highly successful point-to-point international business model that has been employed by other airlines in the Gulf region with geographically advantageous bases of operations. Oman says it turned to a surprising example for its inspiration.
“The new model emulates the best practices by countries that have similar position as that of Oman such as Iceland,” airline officials explained in a statement in February. “Since adapting the destination business model, Iceland Air has increased the number of tourists five-fold since 2010 and delivered profitable growth.”