Recognised as the World’s Leading Airline – Economy Class by the World Travel Awards, Oman Air is presently in the midst of a sharp recalibration of its services.
With new aircraft – including the Airbus A330 and Boeing B737 recently taking off – and flights to Goa and Singapore just launched, Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole here sits down with chief executive Paul Gregorowitsch to discuss what is next on the agenda for the airline.
Breaking Travel News: Thank you for joining us Mr Gregorowitsch. It has been a little over eight months since you were appointed to the position of chief executive with Oman Air, in August 2014. Can you tell us how the airline has changed direction under your leadership?
Paul Gregorowitsch: It is a pleasure to speak to you.
I joined Oman Air as chief executive officer in August 2014.
At that point, the airline had a fleet of 30 aircraft and was poised to begin its current ambitious expansion plan.
The plan will see us increase our fleet size to 50 aircraft by 2018, and to 70 aircraft by 2010.
It will also see us launch services to new destinations around the world, and increase frequencies to many established destinations.
That plan is now fully underway.
We have taken delivery of new Airbus A330 and Boeing B737 aircraft over the last few months and we now operate nearly 40 aircraft.
In fact, we are proud to be the first airline in the Middle East to operate the new Boeing B737-900, which is now in service.
We have also launched new routes to Manila, Jakarta, Singapore and Goa, and will open up a new service to Dhaka, Shanghai and Najaf later in the year.
Furthermore, we are extending our reach into Europe and have just announced a new codeshare with KLM.
This will enable Oman Air’s customers to book seats on KLM’s flights between Oman and Amsterdam.
We expect to announce more new destinations later in the year.
However, Oman Air’s expansion is not the only change we have seen.
Our international staff strength has continued to increase and we are all working with a shared sense of purpose.
I have been pleased to see our staff work together with a shared aim: to be the best.
That means being the best in terms of quality, service, choice and value.
It also means that, in this highly competitive industry, we need to be commercially astute and more efficient.
One demonstration of this is our Shape and Size efficiency programme, which is delivering significant savings.
BTN: You joined the carrier from Air Berlin, a successful European airline. What unique challenges does running Oman Air in a Middle Eastern market dominated by the three ‘super-connectors’ create, and what opportunities does the environment present?
PG: In reality, the challenges are no greater in this region than anywhere else in the aviation industry – as I said, it is highly competitive.
Oman Air has its own priorities, its own strategy, and its own business model.
We do not define Oman Air against competitors.
Instead of being a generic ‘Gulf carrier’, we offer a unique expression of Omani hospitality, culture and identity.
We also focus on every aspect of the passenger experience.
We offer competitive pricing via our website, call centre and travel agent partners.
You can now check in online up to 36 hours before departure.
Our lounges at Muscat, Salalah and Bangkok – as well as those we offer through our partners in other destinations – are excellent.
And, of course, our premium customers are able to enjoy the convenience of door to door limousine services in many of our destinations.
We even offer a lounge to aircraft limousine service for first class passengers at Muscat.
In the air, we operate a young, extremely reliable fleet.
Our aircraft are fitted with comfortable and spacious seating and excellent IFE.
These ‘hard’ products are complemented by high quality service and excellent in-flight dining.
Furthermore, we were the first airline in the world to offer both Wi-Fi and mobile phone connectivity, and we still lead the field in this respect.
We have therefore established ourselves as a unique and distinctive carrier.
As a result, we have developed a loyal and growing customer base – we carried 5.1 million passengers last year.
We also have the advantage of the Sultanate of Oman’s strategic location.
We are perfectly situated to operate to almost anywhere in the world.
With our expanding fleet and flexible approach to network planning, we can operate to just about anywhere, as long as the route is commercially viable.
BTN: Oman Air is presently in the process of launching flights to Goa, Singapore and Dhaka – can you tell us a little about progress there?
PG: We have launched both the Singapore and Goa routes already.
I was proud to visit both destinations aboard the two inaugural flights.
It was a pleasure to be accompanied by a range of guests and to demonstrate our superb new aircraft to them.
Singapore is one of the world’s great cities and Goa, our 11th service to India, is one of the most sought-after leisure destinations.
We are therefore already experiencing strong demand for bookings.
We will be launching our new Dhaka service, our second destination in Bangladesh, later in the year.
BTN: The new routes are part of a wider, newly announced, strategy to ‘become the best’. I understand this centres on a drive to achieve profitability at the airline by 2017. Could you tell us a little about the thinking behind what sounds like a radical overhaul of the airline?
PG: It is not a radical overhaul, but it does represent a clearer focus on what we do and how we do it.
We have an outstanding reputation and we intend to keep it.
We operate in a highly competitive environment and we intend to grow our market share. As we have expanded, we have enjoyed the kind support of the government of Oman, but we need to repay our debts.
As our fleet and network continue to expand, as we operate more flights and carry more passengers, that loss will continue to reduce in size.
We anticipate that we will reach profitability by the end of 2017.
BTN: Finally, Oman Air has been recognised as the World’s Leading Airline – Economy Class by the voters at the World Travel Awards. Can you tell us how it feels to have taken this title?
PG: We were delighted to receive the award.
It is powerful recognition of our outstanding Economy Class service.
Furthermore, it shows that not only the World Travel Awards judges, but also air travellers around the world, continue to be extremely impressed with what Oman Air offers.
It is particularly satisfying to receive the award at a time when we are rolling out new aircraft interiors aboard our latest aircraft.
Passenger feedback has been very positive and we are confident that we continue to offer unbeatable inflight comfort and service.
There really is no better time to find out for yourself why the World Travel Awards named Oman Air the World’s Leading Airline - Economy Class.