Oman Air Maiden Flight Arrives in Manila

Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, began its long-awaited non-stop flights between Manila and Muscat on December 2. The carrier becomes the only airline to operate a non-stop flight between the two countries with three weekly flights.

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The new flights are being operated by the carrier's 216-seat A330-200 aircraft. Manila is Oman Air's twenty-first destination in Asia. The 6,632 kilometre route operates every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The new flight will assist the Government of Oman in advancing and strengthening cooperation in all fields with the Philippines.

To coincide with the launch of the new flights, Oman Air has appointed Ritchie Tuano as the new Country Manager for the Philippines. "We are delighted to welcome Mr. Tuano to this new position and we wish him the very best in his new role," said Mahfood Ali Saleem Al Harthy, Chief Officer Sales at Oman Air. "We also look forward to benefiting from his extensive experience and knowledge of local markets to make this new route to Manila a resounding commercial success."

Tuano has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation industry in a number of areas including passenger operations, TMC, and GDS systems. He previously worked for airlines in the Philippines and in the Gulf Cooperation Council region. Most recently, he worked as a Specialist Consultant on behalf of Cebu Pacific for their new international operations in the Gulf region.

The Oman Air Sales Executive added that demand has been strong for the new Manila route. "Our new service from Muscat to Manila has already attracted huge demand for tickets, demonstrating the popularity of this destination amongst both business and leisure travellers," said Al Harthy. "Furthermore, it is clear that the new services also meet strong demand in the Philippines for travel to the Sultanate of Oman and forward destinations within our network.

The launch of Manila as a destination marks the beginning of Oman Air's latest expansion with the carrier planning to expand its fleet from thirty to fifty aircraft within three years. The new aircraft will include three A330 aircraft, six Boeing 787 aircraft, and fifteen Boeing 737 aircraft. Each aircraft will be equipped with newly designed interiors and state of the art technology. By 2018, the average age of Oman Air's fleet is expected to be less than three years old.

Oman Air plans to use its new fleet to increase frequencies on established routes, while adding new and exciting international destinations. According to Tuano, this is the first time that Oman Air will operate flights to Manila. "A long time back, there was an airline that operated a once-a-week service between Manila and Muscat," said Tuano. "This is an opportunity to serve the overseas Filipino workers as well as the Omanis - for us to showcase the country. There are also many tourist attractions in the Philippines and vice versa."

Oman Air believes that the Philippines will be a big market with the large population of overseas Filipino workers not only in Oman, but all throughout the Middle East. "We're talking about a multimillion population of Filipinos in the entire Middle East," said Tuano. "The Philippines has always been there in the pipeline so now it's a realization of that plan."

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Although the initial schedule for December will see Oman Air's flights to Manila operating every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, the schedule will shift to Monday, Thursday, and Saturday on January 1, 2015. All flights will service both passengers and cargo.

Before Oman Air arrived, passengers bound for Muscat would need to travel between thirteen and fourteen hours. "Anyone flying to Muscat had to go up and fly back again to Muscat," said Tuano. "You are actually flying over Muscat before you can get to Muscat." With the new Oman Air service, the trip is now just a nine hour flight. "It saves a lot of time for the passengers. It's a non-stop flight from Manila to Muscat but we have connecting flights from Muscat to the rest of the Middle East and to Europe as well," added Tuano.

Meanwhile, Oman Air is already planning to expand its existing service to Manila up to daily flights from the present three weekly flights. "There's a huge market between the Gulf and the Philippines," said Tuano. The Chief Executive Officer of Oman Air, Paul Gregorowitsch, remains "highly confident" of the "economic viability" of a daily flight between the two cities.

Unfortunately, the existing bilateral agreement with the Sultanate of Oman prevents the carrier from launching additional services. According to Tuano, Omani officials are already lobbying the Philippines to increase seat entitlements. "We also need the approval from the government here in the Philippines and we hope they will recognize the investment made by Oman Air," said Gregorowitsch.

Gregorowitsch noted that the overseas Filipino workers are the primary target market with about 40,000 currently residing in Oman. However, the carrier is also after the larger OFW population in the Middle East region, which it can service through connecting flights from its Muscat hub. Oman Air is anticipating a high load factor during the peak Christmas season.

"The holidays are upcoming and many people from the Philippines working and living in the Middle East are using this opportunity to take advantage of our attractive fares," said Gregorowitsch. He added that the airline also plans to market Oman as a destination for Filipino tourists. In addition to oil and gas, tourism is another important source of revenue for the Sultanate of Oman.

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Oman Air is contemplating launching flights to other cities in the Philippines outside Manila in an effort to capture a larger market share of the lucrative Philippines-Middle East market. The carrier is already experiencing unexpectedly high demand for seats on the new Manila route. Reservations for the route opened in August and immediately attracted attention.

Oman Air Flights to Manila arrive and depart from Terminal 1 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Passengers can enjoy service on-board Oman Air's award-winning Airbus A330 aircraft, which offers internationally acclaimed space, comfort, and on-board service including audio-video on demand delivered through personal seat back television screens.

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