MUSCAT: Oman Air wants the Rub’ Al Khali (Empty Quarter) airspace to be opened for regional flights, which will help save fuel and also reduce the duration of flights for passengers.
Oman Air’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Paul Gregorowitsch said, “A key work area of interest to Oman Air is the opening of the airspace in the “Empty Quarter” or Rub’ al Khali. This will lead to reduction in fuel and time savings for WY (Oman Air) flights going to GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, especially Jeddah and Medina.”
Currently, the flight to Jeddah takes three hours and 35 minutes. But once the Empty Quarter is opened, the flight timings could come down drastically.
Speaking to the Times of Oman (TOO), Chris Goater, manager of Corporate Communications, International Air Transport Association (IATA), said the opening of the Empty Quarter airspace would benefit not only the Gulf region, but also assist over-flights of African and Asia-Pacific traffic. “This would help in improving efficiency, reducing delays and carbon emissions,” he stated.
Oman’s air passenger traffic is expected to surge by 142 per cent to touch 22 million passengers by 2034, according to IATA.
The Sultanate is set to grow at 6.2 per cent on an average for the next two decades and by 2034 it will see approximately 22 million passengers annually, according to an IATA spokesperson.
The Middle East region as a whole is set to be the joint-fastest growing region, along with the Asia-Pacific, at 4.9 per cent a year on average until 2034.
“That will lead to an extra 237 million passengers en-route to, from and within the region for a total market size of 383 million passengers,” he told TOO.
Aviation experts said the growth is foreseeable with more airlines joining the Muscat skyline and Oman Air going on an expansion spree by buying new aircraft and introducing new destinations, such as Goa, Dhaka, besides increasing flights to several destinations in India.
Middle East traffic
Demand for passengers in the Middle East is also expected to grow by 4.2 per cent each year for the next two decades, said Tony Tyler, IATA chief to the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) last year.
Due to surging passenger demand, the Middle East must cooperate on air traffic management (ATM) and improve safety and security standards; in addition to minimising departure delays in the region.
The IATA chief expects 383 million passengers to travel through the region per year.
Oman however, does not face any ATM delays, nor is the Omani airspace congested, but if the need arises, cooperation with other airlines in the region will become paramount.
TOO asked how Oman Air will play a role in cooperating with airlines in the region to better enhance ATM.
“At the state level, Oman Air works actively with PACA and specifically the Air Navigation Service and ATC Directorates that provide Air Traffic Control services. Such fora include other airlines in the region and the IATA MENA team,” said CEO Gergorowitsch.
However, a possible scenario could arise where airlines would not cooperate as it might not serve their best interest. Oman Air said it will cooperate if the need arises.
“Oman Air is a member of both IATA and AACO. Therefore, Oman Air will work in line to the joint recommendations made by IATA and AACO on the subject to counter if any challenges arises in future,” said Gregorowitsch.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) average safety standard compliance rate, the Middle East scores 68 per cent and airlines in the region are expected to achieve an 80 per cent compliance rate by the end of 2018.
When asked how Oman Air will play a part in increasing the safety and security standard rate, the Oman Air chief said, “Oman Air is fully compliant with ICAO Annex 1 and Annex 6 Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and of course we are regularly audited by PACA and IATA.”
He added, “We hosted the MID Region Safety Summit in Muscat in 2014. The meeting was attended by 10 states and nine organisations, including IATA, CANSO, and ACI, etc. The Universal Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) was a key agenda item, whereby it was agreed to progressively increase the Universal Oversight Audit Program (USOAP-CMA) to improve safety standards.”