DOWN THE RUNWAY

Oman 2016 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Paul Gregorowitsch, CEO of Oman Air, on the key indicators behind the airline's growth.

Paul Gregorowitsch
BIOGRAPHY
Paul Gregorowitsch’s career spans over 30 years in the airline industry, spending time at KLM, Air France/KLM, and Martinair Holland, followed by the Germany-based, low-cost carrier Air Berlin. This has given him a deep understanding of sales, marketing, customer service, operations, and general management at board level in global, full service, charter, cargo, and low-cost airlines.

What are the key indicators for assessing the performance of Oman Air over the past year?

Oman Air's first objective is to ensure that operations are safe. The second is to remain the airline of first choice and, as our market share in Oman has increased, it is clear that this has been a success. The third objective is to make money by increasing revenue and reducing our costs. We have been able to increase revenues over the past year with the addition of aircraft; today, we have 39 aircraft compared to 26 a year ago. The opening of new destinations has been important but our cost drive has ensured that we reduce the overall costs in the organization. This is especially important now since the country's income from hydrocarbons has decreased and state support for Oman Air has been reduced. The fourth objective is to cater for growth. Additional aircraft require new pilots, and workers in the engineering and maintenance departments are required to fit with our new destinations. Additionally, there are also new airports opening in Oman, which we need to support. The fifth objective is to contribute to the wellbeing and economic development of Oman. This relates both to the number of Omanis that we employ and the number of tourists we bring to the country. We have been successful in this area, as last year the government invested $425 million into Oman Air, and our return was over $1 billion to the economy of Oman. In 2015, we are only receiving around $170 million but we will still contribute over $1 billion. All objectives have been reached for 2015.

To what extent can Oman air benefit from new airport developments such as at Salalah, and how can the airline contribute to their success?

Salalah's new airport is creating a beautiful environment. The retail element is better and the increase in size has made it much less congested. It is certainly catering for the growth of Oman Air and our fleet expansion. For example, our new 787 will operate for the first months to Salalah because our pilots and engineering colleagues need to gain experience. It is a good station since we have our own handling organization with which employees can practice and learn. We are considering combining more destinations such as those in the sub continent via Salalah once we get the bilateral political approval from the Indian government. Muscat today, on the other hand, is completely congested. The new runway is in use but the old runway is being renovated, which creates long taxi waits. The building has constraints, but we have still managed to open a new business-class lounge. A new baggage belt has been added and the departure hall has been extended, which will help us cope while we wait for the opening of the new airport in 2017. Muscat remains our base and is therefore highly important.

How do you assess the success of the recent drive to recruit Omani staff at Oman Air?

We have 6,418 staff, of which 62% are Omani. We have departments within Oman Air, such as the call center, where 99% are Omani. We also have departments where the Omani employee rate is only 30%, such as cabin crew for instance. We have recently said that we are going to increase the local cabin crew contingent, which will be possible because Oman has friendly citizens for whom hospitality comes naturally. We would like to increase the number of Omani cabin crew by 50%.