Muscat: Oman Air flights to Musandam are often forced to retreat to the Muscat International Airport due to unfavourable landing conditions at the Khasab Airport.
Individual customer complaints suggested that there are frequent issues with flights from Muscat to Khasab, a popular tourist destination for residents of Muscat. Several customers complained of a tiring weekend instead of a relaxing one when their flight returned to Muscat without descending on the Khasab landing strip.
The issue, however, cannot be attributed to Oman Air’s shortcomings, but to weather conditions in Khasab, which prevent flights from making a safe landing on the strip.
“The flight had to return as there was a lot of wind in Khasab, which made it impossible for the flight to land,” said Assad Abdullah, who travelled by Oman Air. “Even ferries are unable to make it to Musandam due to the weather and the only way to access the place is by road.”
He also said that the return procedure is simple and after the plane lands back in Muscat, passengers pass through security, and are able to collect their baggage without any hurdles. However, a few passengers reported the lack of information amongst the staff members in handling the situation and that they are not informed clearly after the return landing.
An Oman Air said in a statement that its priority is the safety and well being of the passengers and the decision to land lies with its professional pilots.
“Special consideration when operating in the Khasab Airfield is necessary because the Aerodrome is located on a high terrain. The presence of strong winds gives rise to severe turbulence and there is a high probability of wind shear encounters. With a South West wind, conditions in the bay to the North will be rough. Despite negligible turbulence in the airfield, both Northern and Southern approaches can experience severe turbulence. Extreme caution should be used in these conditions,” explained Captain Moosa Al Shidhani, vice president of Flight Operations, as the reasons for diverting flights back to Muscat.
The statement also said passengers would be informed about the weather conditions before the flights, which could become unfavourable and could lead to cancellation of the flight. However, there is not much that can be done if conditions change during the course of the flight. The passengers would be offered meals and accommodation if required and their flight would be rescheduled along with the possibility of a refund.
With no control over weather conditions in Khasab, Oman Air has considered various options, including adopting Ras Al Khaima as an alternative route, but visa-related issues have rendered this impractical. Cancellation of services to Musandam has also been ruled out as it deprives visitors of the experience of seeing the immense beauty of the nature in this part of Oman.
Oman Air has been operating flights to Khasab for many years. Currently, they are two flights a day during the weekdays and one flight a day during weekends, summing up the number of flights a month to around 50.
According to the data provided by Oman Air, out of these flights, nearly 10 to 20 per cent have been cancelled during the months of June and July this year, while less than 10 per cent of them were affected during May.