SUSTAINING THE GROUPTo help sustain the carrier during its period of heavy investment, the group hopes to develop in other business sectors such as engineering, catering, ground handling and training."We are building a number of other areas to be able to sustain the group along with the airline," says Hill. "I’m talking about an engineering facility, which will probably be in partnership with a major player in that business, so we have the capability of maintaining our own fleet, perhaps maintaining other fleets in the region. We already have a catering facility, but that is going to be expanded to take care of future growth."We are trying to be careful not to mimic what is being done elsewhere, so we are talking to other players in the region to see how we can synergise what we’ve got and what they’ve got, so there is not too much duplication. If we can leverage things that they’ve got and we can use, and vice versa that we can provide, so that we can keep ourselves gainfully employed."I would say it is that through ventures like the ground handling company, the MRO, the catering, the training, all of these will be contributing revenue for the group, they will help to bring the group up to break even. Things like the price of oil, or whatever happens in the region will dictate how soon we can bring the group back to profitability," says Hill.
FLEET GROWTHIn the longer term Oman Air’s long-haul plans will be boosted by the addition of Boeing 787s – it last year agreed to lease six 787-8s from Kuwait’s Aviation Lease and Finance Company. These aircraft were originally due to begin joining the carrier’s fleet from 2012, though delays on the programme mean they will not arrive until later. As the last A330 arrives in 2010, it means the carrier will have to "make some decisions on what we do in the meantime".Further fleet development is set to see the arrival of regional jets at the carrier in line with Omani plans to develop regional airports in the sultanate. "In the next few years, there will almost certainly be the development of local services within Oman to link some of the major tourism sites," says Hill, noting the airline is studying the potential acquisition of new regional aircraft. "We are in negotiations with Bombardier and Embraer at the moment to see who is going to be the chosen one. We are looking at four or five aircraft to start with, time frame would be around 2011 or 2012."