While comparative figures for 2013 and 2014 show a rise in passengers arriving at and departing from Muscat International Airport, they also show a decline in transit passengers.
IATA spokesperson Chris Goater feels the new transfer charge may increase this decline further. National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) figures show an overall passenger traffic increase of 4.6 per cent in 2014 from 2013 at Muscat airport while the transit passenger numbers fell 20.3 per cent from 42,912 in 2013 to 34,187 in 2014.
Goater feels the transfer charge could add to the decline. According to Goater, IATA has been asking Oman to lower its charges. “IATA has been arguing against an increase of charges at Oman’s airports. A proper consultation process and adequate data is absolutely vital in order to set competitive charges. A transfer passenger charge has also been introduced, which will actually lead to further decline in such (transit passenger) traffic.” The other reasons he gives for the year on year decline are increased competition with the region’s top three airlines and Oman Air’s shift in strategy, which now focuses more on tourism.
“Oman’s numbers have shrunk mainly due to competition with the big three - Emirates, Etihad and Gulf Air. It is important to note that there has been a change of CEO and strategy at Oman Air, to focus more on getting the product right in order to bring tourism to Oman, rather than competing for transfer traffic.”
He said friendlier policies towards aviation sector could boost it. Another reason, he said was the delay in getting the new Muscat International Airport operational. “Oman is suffering from a delay in the delivery of its new airport, now not scheduled before 2017-18.” Goater said it would be a mistake for Arab countries to precisely follow the European model.
“We would hope that Oman would think twice before approving anything that could put the country at a competitive disadvantage.” Muscat Daily was unable to get any comments from officials at Oman Air and Muscat airport for this article.