Taking pride in its work, Oman Airports has been changing the way that people fly by adding innovation to aviation services at every available opportunity. Endeavour Magazine spoke with David Wilson, Chief Operations Officer, to find out more.
Being responsible for the smooth running of airports is no mean feat, but the team at Oman Airports (OA) has been making it appear deceptively simple for years, which is surprising, given the sheer volume of work involved.
A government-owned operation, OA has been charged with the management and operation of the government owned civil airports within the Sultanate of Oman, including but not limited to the overseeing of business–critical infrastructure and facilities. To put this into layman’s terms, if something is needed to ensure the continued seamless operation of an airport, OA is responsible for making it happen and with as little disruption as possible. From marketing and communications through to commercial operations management and coordinating security efforts, everything falls to OA.
With a vision of being among the top 20 airports in the world by 2020, the pressure is on, but thanks to a methodical approach, exemplar management team and perpetual awareness of who these endeavours are all for, things look to be very much on track. The commonsense approach is highlighted in the symbiotic purpose and mission statements of OA, as the team explained:
“Our purpose is to be ‘growing gateways to beauty and opportunity’, while our mission complements this by calling for us ‘together, to excellently manage and develop the gateways of Oman’.”
Looking at the buoyancy of the industry as a whole, it’s interesting to note that OA is performing very positively, especially in comparison to other Middle Eastern operations. While there have been periods of uncertainty in every industry in the region, OA has more than weathered every storm; it has actively sought to grow, as David Wilson explained,
“The opening of the new Muscat International Airport in March 2018 has helped us achieve an increase in our revenue. Our new retail and duty-free outlets offer a wonderful product portfolio, which can compete with the best airports globally, and passenger experience has also improved significantly since opening the new airport. Our satisfaction scores have improved across multiple indicators, reflecting passenger satisfaction with the new airport infrastructure and services offered throughout their journey.”
He went on to note; “2018 Quarter 4 scores in the ACI-ASQ survey (an airport benchmark quality survey) have ranked Muscat Airport 18th Best Airport in the world in the 5-15 million passengers airport category.” Wilson also emphasized on the prestigious prizes that OA won recently. One of these prizes being His Majesty’s Sultan Qaboos Award for the Best Private Sector eService and the Skytrax award for the title of World’s Leading New Airport in 2018. Such Awards are a reflection on the efforts of Oman Airports to achieve the best passenger experience and to be a worldwide brand in this competitive industry and a leader in an innovation.
So that’s it, right? OA has entered the top 20 best airports list, so it’s time to sit back and relax a little, surely? Absolutely not. This accolade has only further fuelled the determination of Wilson and his team to strive for ever higher levels of passenger satisfaction and commercial success. Salalah Airport played into this perfectly, having enjoyed a particularly productive year, which saw it climb to the position of second best airport in the whole of the Middle East and sixth best globally, in the below 2 million passengers category. It’s not just passenger services that have been propelling OA to the top of the industry though,
“There has been steady growth, in Muscat, in our cargo market in the last 12 months, helped by the opening of a new cargo facility in March 2018, with a capacity of up to 380k tonnes. This is definitely a targeted growth area for Oman Airports over the coming years and we will be working closely with our national stakeholders and international partners to continue to improve and manage the cargo market in Oman.”
OA is in a privileged position in that its key partnership is with the Government of the Sultanate of Oman. Both parties are keen to facilitate the opening of new airports for the nation and with projects of this nature always being colossal in size, it’s vital to have the backing of a large body that has prestige running through every facet of itself. As a key example, the Government invested significantly in new Muscat International Airport terminal. Such a huge project would be difficult to complete, were it not for the unwavering support of the government. Wilson makes it clear that, despite the costs, modernization is key to continued success. “There is no comparison between the old world airport and the new; every single part of the service offering for customers and the systems behind our operations is different.”
He continued to explain; “All our new airports now have boarding bridges, improved retail spaces and fully integrated systems and control centres, allowing us to provide a much higher quality of service to airlines and passengers. Indeed, the new infrastructure is absolutely essential to being able to deliver the level of service that our customers expect and to help us achieve our vision to become and remain a top 20 airport company in the world by 2020.”
In addition to the Government of the Sultanate of Oman, OA acknowledges a host of other strategic partners that have played an important role in the evolution of the region’s airports. The Public Authority for Civil Aviation, Oman Aviation Group, Royal Oman Police, Oman Air and Oman Aviation Services are all cited as critical strategic partners, though this list is not exhaustive.
When it comes to the future, there’s nothing but positivity, investment and evolution on the cards. Thanks to a foundation of high performance and continuous improvement, there is a level of faith and trust that OA is an operation worth engaging with for the long term:
“The Government of Oman, through the Ministry of Transport & Communication, has invested significant sums in the development of the airport infrastructure across the sultanate of Oman. Muscat International, Salalah and Duqm now have state of the art terminal facilities and airfield infrastructure that can accommodate the world’s largest aircraft, the Airbus A380. Whilst our airport infrastructure is very new, we are focused on always enhancing the passenger experience and are embarking on a programme of implementing technologies such as self-service check-in and Self Bag Drop, which will provide our airlines and passengers with choice.”
Wilson went on to explain that even more passenger-critical initiatives are being brought in: “We are also investing in passenger flow management technology at Muscat, which will be able to highlight hot spots across the inbound, transfer and outbound passenger journey which will allow us to refine our forecasts and provide the passenger with a seamless journey through the airport by identifying pinch points that could create queues.”
It’s the unerring commitment to upholding the very highest standards, while always actively seeking out new opportunities to exceed the expectations of customers, which makes OA such a pinnacle of modern business, not to mention a benchmark of the aviation sector. Open communication with other international airports maintains both a competitive edge and an overarching standard of excellence for the entire industry, while setting OA apart. The future certainly looks set to be a continuation of the success already being enjoyed by Wilson and the whole Oman Airports team, however, it’s the passengers that will really feel the benefit.