Oman emerging from the shadows of its big neighbours

posted on 20th August 2019
Oman emerging from the shadows of its big neighbours

Oman Aviation Services is expanding fast on the back of rising air traffic in Oman and the growth of Oman Air, write Justin Burns

Oman’s air traffic has been increasing strongly over the years at its two main hubs Muscat International Airport and Salalah International Airport.

This growth has helped development of national carrier Oman Air along with Oman Aviation Services (OAS) and its ground handling unit Oman Ground Handling.

Traffic has doubled over a five-year period in Muscat from 7.5 million in 2013 to 15.3 million in 2018, with this expansion showing no signs of slowing to a halt any time soon.

Dr. Khalfan Al Shueili, CEO of OAS, said 2019 is a very good year, as the move away from Oman Air last year to become part of the Oman Aviation Group, allows the Oman Ground Handling division to grow even stronger.

“We managed to retain our customers, increase our services and further optimise our processes. This is underlined by us successfully obtaining the RA3 certification to ensure the smoothest transport of freight to European Union destinations,” he said. “Throughout the remainder of the year we will launch new products and we will see the implementation of an Integrated Management System on the Quality side.”
Oman Air is Oman Ground Handling’s biggest airline customer and it has grown in tandem with their development, but the handler is not solely reliant on them and is actively engaging with other carriers, including trying to attract new players to fly in and out of Oman.
Al Shueili believes the opportunities for expansion are vast and he is confident it will increase its market share in Muscat, by welcoming more airline partners and as Oman’s tourism sector continues to thrive, but this must be sustainable growth.

Further growth he notes will be driven by the newly implemented Integrated Management System (IMS) that will cover ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO 14001 Environment Management, ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management, and ISO 10001 Customer Satisfaction along with new products and services it will launch.

Performance has been strong across all OAS’ business units and Al Shueili said all ground handling units are working with a clearly defined road map, making it easy for everyone to be on the “same page” and perform in synergy with other units.

Various units of OAS carry out tasks with I-RESPECT as core values – which stands for Innovative, Responsible, Efficient, Sustainable, Proud, Equal, Caring and Transparent.

NEW TRENDS

Globally, the ground handling marketplace is evolving all the time, as new partnerships are formed, consolidation continues at pace and investment is made in the latest technology.

In the Middle East, Al Shueili said one notable new trend is the regional expansion of global players across the area and as air traffic increases they continue to develop their businesses.

Another that he noted is that major ground handling players are moving into overseas markets which in his opinion will surely improve ground handling services for the benefit of customers across the region.
Ground handlers are also enhancing their product portfolios, branching out into new services to give their bottom-lines and revenues a boost, by introducing ancillary services at airport or even at off airport locations.

Other interesting trends are also taking shape in the Middle East, according to Al Shueili.

“Ground Handlers have started to form alliances either in the form of membership in an association or alliance, or to have a possible joint venture that improves the ground handler’s standing compared with global competition,” he said.

“And last it is technological enhancement. Ground handlers have started seriously to adopt latest technologies in airports which can significantly reduce their operating costs and increase their profit margin.”

FUTURE INVESTMENTS

As passenger traffic keeps growing strongly in Oman, it seems it could be an optimum time for OAS to invest in the business and expand the ground handling services it provides.

Indeed, OAS will be prioritising investments in and development of ground handling services that it offers in Muscat. “We are close to announcing some new services that will be highly appreciated by our airline customers as well as by the passengers,” Al Shueili said. “Besides a new state-of-the-art lounge in Muscat, we have also other products and services in the pipeline that will be quite an innovation in Oman.”

However, despite all new glitzy future plans and development of new services, he said the biggest asset is the workforce and it will continue to invest a sizeable amount into colleagues to deliver the services at the highest possible level.

Another central focus is investment in new ground service equipment (GSE), new system upgrades in its RMS and other parts of the business, which he feels is a major aspect where OAS is “excelling” versus competitors and peers and highly perceived by customers and business partners.

Oman Ground Handling recently strengthened its fleet of GSE by acquiring 11 modern lifting and loading equipment, as well as aircraft pushback tractors to develop its operational services and enhance capabilities to drive efficiency and performance.

Some handling service companies in the region have expanded outside of their home market. OAS currently only operates in Oman but does it harbour any plans to set-up outside of the country?
“We are indeed looking into this opportunity,” Al Shueili said. “We believe that we are now strong enough to transfer our success also beyond Oman. But regional expansion is not our priority right now. We are at early stages for discussions and will continue them with a clear focus – sustainability.”
The future certainly looks bright for OAS, but it will not be making the mistake of expanding too fast and sustainability it seems is clearly more important than market share.