Oman Air agrees record slot deal to grow London operation

This new slot pair has been reportedly purchased from Air France-KLM and will provide an early morning scheduling option for the Middle East carrier and allow it to introduce a second daily rotation on the Muscat – London city pair.

According to UK newspaper reports this past weekend, Oman Air has agreed to pay a reported $75 million for a pair of lucrative slots at London’s constrained Heathrow Airport. This is a record price for a pair of slots at the hub airport and eclipses the $60 million paid by American Airlines to acquire a slot from Scandinavian carrier SAS, according to The Sunday Times.

This new slot pair has been reportedly purchased from Air France-KLM and will provide an early morning scheduling option for the Middle East carrier and allow it to introduce a second daily rotation on the Muscat – London city pair. Fellow Gulf carrier, Emirates Airline has also acquired a slot pair from Air France-KLM which will permit it to introduce its recently announced sixth daily frequency between Dubai and London Heathrow, all of which will be flown using Airbus A380 equipment from June 1, 2016.

Oman Air has operated flights into the UK for less than ten years. It first launched service on the Muscat – London city pair during the winter 2007/2008 schedules from November 2007, initially serving Gatwick Airport. However, like many long-haul airlines it made the switch to Heathrow Airport with its daily operation moving during January 2009. It initially utilised Airbus A310 equipment but switched to newer A330-200s and then to larger A330-300s, which currently serve this market.

The airline’s current schedule provides an afternoon departure from Muscat and a mid-evening arrival in London, but these new slots will allow for a morning arrival time in the UK and therefore provide better connection options via Oman.

Oman Air has ambitious plans to more than double its fleet before the end of the decade, growing to 50 aircraft by 2018, with a further increase to 70 aircraft being achieved by 2020. The airline is seeking to both grow point-to-point demand to support Oman’s business and tourism development strategies, but like Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, use its geographical location to also provide transfer opportunities via Muscat International Airport.

As a state-owned entity, Oman Air plays an important role supporting the Sultanate economic goals. A study earlier this decade on the contributions made by businesses to the national economy showed that Oman Air’s operational activities have delivered social and economic returns for the Sultanate of Oman of RO420 million.

“This underlines the importance of the role played by the national carrier in fulfilling the social and economic objectives of the country,” said Chief Executive Officer, Paul Gregorowitsch in an interview ahead of last year’s Routes Middle East and Africa forum.