Oman Air has revealed that the UK city of Manchester will be among a number of new markets it will serve over the coming years as it embarks on a major fleet and network expansion. The airline has confirmed it aims to introduce a new daily link between its Muscat International Airport hub and the northwest England city from spring next year.
The Gulf carrier has ambitious plans to more than double its fleet before the end of the decade, growing to 70 aircraft 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.
The airline confirmed its plans to expand its UK operation in a brief statement. “Based on the requests for information received, Oman Air intends to start operating daily flights from its hub in Muscat to Manchester. The new service is scheduled from April 1, 2017,” it read.
The UK has always been one of the key markets for Oman Air and is one of just five country markets it serves in Europe. The airline currently offers flights to Frankfurt and Munich in Germany; Milan in Italy; Paris in France, Zurich in Switzerland and London, with the airline describing the UK capital as a flagship route.
Alongside Bangkok, London was one of Oman Air’s first intercontinental destinations. 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. These are likely to be replaced by brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners on both rotations over the next two years.
Just last month (April 12, 2016) Oman Air launched a second daily Muscat – London Heathrow rotation after the airline paid a reported $75 million for lucrative morning inbound and outbound slots at the capacity-constrained hub airport.
It said the investment in the slot pair was in response to overwhelming demand from air travellers for flights between Muscat and London, and from London to onward destinations in the Middle East and Asia. The growth into Manchester in 2017 will complement this traffic as well as providing a more convenient option to travellers currently connecting or using ground transfers to travel to London from the North of England and Scotland.
With its fleet of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners increasing over the coming years, it is likely the Manchester route will be served by redeployed A330 equipment. Oman Air’s long-haul fleet currently consist of two 787s, six A330-300s and four A330-200s.