As the Middle East winners are unveiled at the World Travel Awards, Breaking Travel News speaks to Abdulaziz Al Raisi, chief executive of Oman Air, about taking a number of top titles.
Breaking Travel News: Where does Oman Air stand with rebuilding its network in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic? Are departures close to reaching 2019 levels?
Abdulaziz Al Raisi: The severe reduction in global passenger demand caused by the pandemic as well as travel restrictions across our network have led to a temporary suspension of some of our routes, and limited frequency on remaining routes.
As vaccination rates pick up globally, we aim to increasingly reopen our routes - however, this will depend on the relaxing of travel restrictions worldwide and the gradual recovery of global demand for air travel.
We will also continue to strengthen relationships with our codeshare partners to offer our guests even more destinations to fly to.
Our main objective is to identify routes that connect Oman to the world, contribute to Oman’s economy, and promote tourism, business travel to Oman and Oman as a destination.
Finally, we plan on streamlining our fleet of aircraft by replacing and retiring older aircraft with newer aircraft offering greater fuel efficiency and fewer emissions while enhancing passenger comfort.
BTN: What measures are Oman Air taking to keep passengers safe in the wake of the pandemic?
AAR: Elevated health and safety standards have been an integral part of Oman Air’s guest experience since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year, and have since remained at the forefront of the airline’s operational priorities.
Oman Air was quick to respond to the health challenges brought about by the pandemic - not only on board our aircraft but across our entire guest experience - and safeguarding the flying public in the face of unprecedented crisis continues to guide the airline’s recovery plans and reassures our passengers that they can fly with confidence.
Oman Air and our holidays division proudly display the Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
BTN: The carrier recently boosted flights to Salalah for the Khareef season – how important is domestic tourism to the carrier?
AAR: Domestic tourism in Oman is an important part of our business, especially in Khasab, a popular port city on northern Oman’s breath-taking Musandam peninsula, and Salalah in Oman’s southern Dhofar province, a destination renowned for its spectacular beaches and lush, green landscape during monsoon season (Khareef).
Both destinations are big draws among tourists in the GCC as well as Europeans in search of unique experiences in the Middle East.
Both destinations are easily accessible from Muscat International Airport, with relatively short flying times making them ideal for day trips or overnight stays.
As infrastructure projects in other parts of Oman are completed, we expect to see increased demand for domestic travel—both among locals looking to explore their own backyard, and international travellers seeking to venture beyond Muscat.
BTN: Oman Air has been honoured with the titles of Middle East’s Leading Airline - Customer Experience and Middle East’s Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards – how does it feel to have taken such prestigious titles?
AAR: We are extremely honoured and proud of this prestigious win which confirms Oman Air’s hard work to provide an exceptional travel experience to its guests.
This win will motivate our dedicated team to continue ensuring that every Oman Air passenger experiences the best possible products and services.
BTN: What do you think it was that caught the eye of voters – what is it that separates Oman Air from its competitors in the region?
AAR: Oman Air offers a unique expression of Omani hospitality, culture and identity.
We also focus on every aspect of the passenger experience to provide a premium and personal travel journey that meets the needs of our guests.
This is what distinguishes Oman Air from its competitors.
BTN: Oman recently outlined its vision for 2040, building a diversified economy to face the future. Where does Oman Air, as the national carrier fit into the plan?
AAR: Vision 2040 envisions tourism as one of the key pillars of economic diversification.
The sultanate’s attractiveness as a tourist destination is clear: an enviable location between Asia, Africa and Europe puts two third of the world’s population within eight hours flying time, one third within four; the sultanate is one of the safest and most secure places in the world - not just in the region - and offers exceptional nature, climate, leisure, culture and history.
Oman Air plays a vital role in Oman’s Vision 2040 strategy by connecting inbound tourists from source international markets to Oman’s tourism ecosystem.
Aviation feeds the tourism sector as much as tourism feeds aviation, and both sectors share a common objective - entice more international travellers to Oman and diversify the economy for sustainable growth.
Find out more about the award-winning Oman Air on the official website.