Oman Air: The 'other' Middle East airline with sky-high ambitions

From Sumnima Udas and Jon Jensen, CNN Published 1st October 2015
Editor's Note — 'The Silk Road: Past, Present, Future' travels east to west along this ancient trade route, exploring how traditional culture, arts, and trade have developed in the 21st century. This month we explore Oman.
(CNN) — Look at just about any list of the world's best airlines, and you'll likely find Middle Eastern companies in the top ten. Indeed, the "the big three" Gulf carriers -- Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad -- all secured a place in this year's Skytrax World Airline Awards, including the number one spot.
Could another Middle Eastern airline be set to join their elite ranks?
In the past year alone, Oman Air has added a new plane every month, and attracted 1 million extra passengers -- up from 5 million to 6 million.
"We are growing to 10 million guests on board," said Oman Air CEO, Peter Gregorowitsch.
"And we are going to do that in 2020, with 70 aircraft and 75 destinations."

World class airport

Work is also underway expanding the country's Muscat International Airport by four times its size. The current airport can accommodate 4 million -- roughly the size of Oman's population -- and in the coming years is expected to grow to a major transport hub catering for 12 million passengers a year.
There are also plans to develop Oman's Salalah International Airport, in the south east of the country, which will accommodate another 1 million passengers.

The Omani way

But despite these significant building works, Gregorowitsch insists that growth in Oman is done in a more measured way than other parts of the Middle East.
"We don't want to copy more or less the model of the neighboring airlines by big expansion plans," he said.
"Everything done in Oman is done in a considered way, step-by-step. Just like the development of the country -- there are no skyscrapers here."
Whether this approach will help Oman's national airline become the carrier of choice for those traveling between east and west, remains to be seen.