Cargo is a main contributor to the turnover of the Muscat-based airline. It should gain further significance once a state-of-the-art freight terminal is operational in mid-2018 and a logistics hub at Muscat International is established. Meanwhile, the carrier is evaluating which Boeing or Airbus freighter suits its needs best. This is confirmed by Oman Air CEO Paul Gregorowitsch in this exclusive interview held in Hamburg, Germany.
Paul, Oman Air transported 159,618 tons of air freight last year. What’s your 2017 forecast?
Up to now our sales increased by a remarkable 27 percent. Provided this trend continues until the end of December, with all relevant indicators supporting this expectation, we should end up somewhere in the region of 200,000 tons.
How much of Oman Air’s total turnover does the freight business contribute?
Currently nine percent. Our main cargo drivers are the European market that contributes one-third to our revenues and predominantly India where we are very strong. We also believe that our new service Muscat-Guangzhou will be an attractive route for the freight industry, upping our volumes further.
What has become of the pact between Oman Air Cargo and Cargolux signed in March 2015?
At that time, we established a joint venture, whereby we guaranteed contributing a certain freight volume. Because of the deteriorating economic situation shortly after, we stepped out of this close tie. Today, we are still cooperating with Cargolux but to a lesser degree and without guaranteed volumes.
Is your airline profitable or in the red, and are privatization plans still standing on Oman Air’s agenda?
To answer to your first point: we are still unprofitable. Touching the privatization plans, I can only refer to the government’s announcement that state-owned enterprises are subject of privatization around 2030, either partially or entirely. This accounts for Oman Air as well.
How far is the construction of a new air freight terminal in Muscat in the meantime?
It’s on schedule with the first operational phase starting in November. The entire facility will be online in early summer of next year, giving our cargo business a big push. Thanks to the state-of-the-art freight terminal at Muscat Airport we will be able to transit international shipments at great speed, offering attractive conditions to our cargo clients and the logistics industry as such.
Geographically, the two big boys Emirates and Etihad are just around the corner. Where does Oman Air see its niche in cargo?
We do not intend to fly to every corner of this world. Instead, we focus on key markets like India where we offer 180 flights per week. As a matter of fact we concentrate on connecting Europe via Muscat with Indian destinations.
Do you intend complementing your passenger fleet by operating freighter aircraft?
Yes, they are an option. Which model is still undecided, it could be Triple Seven freighters or perhaps an Airbus variant. What should not be forgotten: Oman has large ports in Salalah and Sohar, the combination of ocean-air transports is very interesting. This even more once the trade with Iran is revitalized and the Yemen conflict is resolved. Oman is geographically incredibly well-positioned, particularly for combined sea-air transports between Far East or India and Europe.
How do you rate the cooperation with DHL that carries the overweight baggage of your airline’s passengers from a drop-off point in Oman to their final destinations with financially favorable conditions measured on overweight charges?
It proved to be a good move seen by the many passengers that request the DHL service. This way, they save money and can be sure to get their belongings at their final destination in good conditions without being personally involved in the transport of their belongings.