New budget airline to be launched by year-end

Muscat National Development and Investment Company (ASAAS) was granted the new air services operator license by the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA).

02 February 2016
*Salalah, Iran, Pakistan main target routes

* Process of establishing a firm to operate airline

* Focus on destinations with 4-hour travel time

* Emphasis on affordability, quality

*Time optimum to launch low-cost carrier

* Will allow Oman Air to focus on long-haul routes
Muscat - Writing a new chapter in the history of Oman aviation, Muscat National Development and Investment Company (ASAAS) was granted the new air services operator license by the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA)on January 20 this year. Salalah Air, Qurum Business Group and Muscat Air were the other companies in the race.

Speaking to the Observer about the immediate plans, Khalid alYahmadi, CEO, ASAAS, said, "Oman's second national airline and its first Low Cost Carrier (LCC) will act as an enabler for the development of tourism sector and the economy in general. At the moment, we are in the process of establishing the company that will operate the airline following, which we will proceed with obtaining the Air Operator Certificate and the Economic Operating License. Our target is to launch by end of 2016."

He said the company is in the process of identifying the carrier's name and brand identity. It may noted that last week, the company had invited suggestions on Twitter from the public to find a suitable name for the airline.

"I can say with certainty, at this point, that while budget carriers are known as 'no frills airlines', Oman's LCC will not comprome in any sense on the quality or reliability of any aspect of its operations.

"Prioritising affordability, we will target inbound and outbound destinations with a four-hour travel time, focusing in the first instance on domestic routes such as Salalah, before expanding to regional destinations, including Pakistan and Iran that are underserved."

On possible relationship with the existing national airline, Yahmadi said, "The winner of multiple international industry awards, Oman Air is a national asset and will be our honour to work together with the luxury-focused long-haul specialist airline for the good of the nation.

"Serving different markets and different routes, the two airlines will offer complementary services and our joint activities will stimulate the growth of the sector, by meeting tourism targets and acting as a catalyst for business and investment in Oman. The new LCC will allow Oman Air to focus on expanding its fleet and better serve both its international and intercontinental network."

He said, "The increased capacity from the expansion of Muscat and Salalahairports and the addition of new regional hubs, makes this an optimum time to launch the new LCC. The Middle East is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, and Oman's aviation sector has been one of its stronger performers in recent years, particularly among the smaller regional centres."

According to Yahmadi,Oman is characterised by a youthful mutli-lingual and ambitious demographic. In fact, the Sultanate's talent pool is one of its strongest assets and of particular importance to ASAAS. "Our projects will play a leading role in building local capacities and capabilities, generating business opportunities for SMEs and creating employment for Omanis.

He added that the company is working towards Oman's long-term economic prosperity and to build the country's international competitiveness, making it the most conductive environment to doing business.
ASAAS is one of the main investment arms of the government estalbished in 2014 with capital of RO100 million. Its stakeholders include the State General Reserve Fund, Muscat Municiaplity, Public Authority for Social Insurance, Oman National Investment and Development Company (Tanmia) and a group of local pension funds.

ASAAS' mandate is founded on identifying new investment opportunities and intelligent solutions that meet public needs to enrich the quality of life of people in Oman. The company's business model revolves around collaborating with different public and private sectors efforts in tourism, logistics, healthcare and education to contribute to the diversification of the national economy.

"Tourismis one of our targeted sectors where we will address its entire supply chain with a variety of projects announced over the course of the coming year. Among them are hotels, mixed-use developments with residential and commercial components and theme parks." he said.

© Oman Daily Observer 2016

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