Oman Air to focus on profit, not fleet growth, says CEO

Oman Air aims to return to profit by 2014. (EB FILE)

Oman Air, flagship carrier of the sultanate of Oman, aims to focus on becoming profitable rather than further expanding its fleet, its chief executive said.

"The focus is now on being self-supporting, paying back the government its funding and showing that you can run a profitable airline, even if it is a government-owned one, in that region," Peter Hill said in an interview at the world's biggest travel fair, ITB Berlin. Oman Air aims to return to profit by 2014. The company posted a 2008 loss of RO42 million (Dh400m, $109m) and is due to publish full-year 2009 results on March 31.

"For 2009, the figure is roughly within what we thought wed be losing," said Hill, who used to head Sri Lankan Airlines and still calls Sri Lanka his home.

After a good start to this year, Hill said Oman Air could post a 2010 loss that is narrower than internal targets, without saying what those targets are.

The Gulf state's government has been trying to diversify the national economy to include higher income from tourism and natural gas to reduce its dependence on oil. Oman Air has a fleet of 21 aircraft including four Airbus A330s and 15 Boeing 737s. It has 17 planes on order.

Hill said the Oman Air board has decided to go ahead with an order worth up to $1.2 billion for six Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with deliveries starting in 2014, after considering a cancellation last year due to expected delivery delays.

"If long-haul business starts to really take off again, there could be a case for more A330s. But at this stage there are no plans," Hill said.

Oman Air, based in Muscat, offers non-stop flights to Asian destinations such as Bangkok and Bangladesh's Chittagong as well as European cities including Frankfurt and Paris.

Hill was appointed CEO of Oman Air in 2008 after the sultanate of Oman withdrew from Gulf Air, which it had owned jointly with Bahrain, to develop its own carrier.


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