Small but Beautiful

Ahead of his retirement in September 2011, Oman Air’s CEO Peter Hill tells Airports International about his “rewarding” time at the carrier and his hopes for its future.
Speaking at this year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week at the Isle of Wight, UK, Mr Hill describes himself as “one of the lucky ones” when discussing his success as the airline’s CEO during the last three years.  He says:  “We’ve achieved much more that I thought was possible.  I think I’ve created awareness about what needs to be done to move forward and I think now Oman is proud of its national carrier.  I got the opportunity and hopefully I’ve taken that on and done something with it.”
Since Mr Hill’s appointment in 2008, Oman Air has expanded considerably.  The airline now has 42 destinations with more to come, such as Moscow and Zurich.  It has a fleet of Airbus A330s, Boeing 737s, Embraer E Jets and ATRS.  There are also six Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order, which are expected to be delivered from 2014 onwards.
Mr Hill believes the A330-300s are among “the best around, in terms of the interior specifications.”  The aircraft have First, Business and Economy class and features such as audio video on demand, live satellite TV, USB and iPod sockets, laptop power points and touch-screen IFE monitors.  The airline also introduced mobile phone and WiFi connectivity on its aircraft – a world first in the aviation industry.
“People love flying with us.  We’re a boutique airline” Mr Hill claims, adding that the airline’s main goals are “quality, service, hospitality and sustainable viability for the future.”
With headquarters based in Muscat, Oman, the carrier faces strong competition from other Middle Eastern airlines but Mr Hill claims that this is not the case:  “We don’t want to be like them,” he says.
“We want to be big enough to be a sustainable airline with a good network that is really serving Oman, both as a destination from countries around the world plus as an origin for the growing population of Omanis.   It has got ingredients that no one else has got and that’s a speciality.
“We don’t need to have an airline that’s heavily subsidised to provide cheap transportation for people.  We have to rely on that business at the moment because it’s an unknown company to many people, but in the future we really need to be promoting Oman as a destination.  That’s the real challenge – the average person does not know where Oman is.”
Mr Hill says that the airline’s future plans are to bring the country’s tourist board, the Omani government and other stakeholders together to build a strategy to put Oman on the map.  A target of 12 million tourists per year has been set for 2020 and the CEO believes this will be met: “Come to Oman once; you’ll come again,” he says.
Currently, no replacement has been found yet for Mr Hill’s position but he believes that the airline has a strong management team and that his successor will continue driving the company forward in the future.