Oman Air targets expats, tourists and techies from Bangalore

June 17th, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, June 17 (IANS) Oman Air, the latest international airline to connect this IT hub of India with Muscat and the Gulf region, is targeting expatriates, tourists and techies from Karnataka state to boost air traffic between the two countries. “We expect to achieve about 75-80 percent plane load factor (PLF) in our flights on both ways, as thousands of expatriates from Karnataka in Oman and UAE have been looking for direct or connecting flights to Bangalore and Mangalore,” Oman Air chief executive officer Darwish bin Ismail Al Balushi told IANS here Tuesday.

“As gateway to the Gulf, Muscat is strategically located to provide connecting flights to Arab states and west-bound destinations to Indian techies and business/leisure travellers on five days a week,” he said.

Oman Air has begun operating since Sunday a direct flight between Muscat and Bangalore - its 10th destination in India - for five days a week; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. In return direction, the service is available on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Of the estimated six million Indian expats in the Gulf region, over 500,000 are living in Oman. Of them, about 200,000 hail from Karnataka.

Apart from catering to regular passengers, including families of expats, the airline is offering special holiday packages to professionals and honchos of the booming knowledge sector in partnership with star hotels in Muscat. The packages include trips to tourist spots in Oman and other Gulf states either by road or connecting flights.

“We facilitate advance visas for tourists and leisure travellers from the subcontinent. We are hard-selling Oman as an alternative holiday destination to other Gulf states. Similarly, Karnataka and Bangalore will be showcased as special destinations to Arab tourists,” Al Balushi said.

Availability of world class healthcare facilities and cost-effective treatment in Bangalore holds huge opportunity to promote Karnataka for medical tourism in Oman and other Gulf countries.

“Conversely, Muscat and other Gulf cities provide an ideal location for Indian organisations to hold meetings, interventions, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and spend weekends at tourist spots,” noted Al Balushi, who is also the secretary-general of the Oman ministry of finance.

In addition to the present Boeing fleet, the airline has placed an order for delivering three Airbus with different seat capacity in 2009 to operate more flights in the Indian sector and increase the frequency to daily from four and five days a week from all the 10 destinations.

“We are also looking at Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Pune and Amritsar as high-density tier-two cities to meet the demand for direct service to Oman and other Gulf countries.

“India has the potential to emerge as a hub for international airlines like ours to ferry passengers bound towards either direction,” Al Balushi affirmed.

Currently, Oman Air operates 73 flights a week to and from India, which has turned to be the most profitable route owing to the large contingent of Indian expats in the sultanate.

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