Oman's Salam Air targets doubling of passenger numbers next year

Fledgling low-cost airline estimates it will serve 3 million passengers in 2020, up from expected 1.3 million this year

Salam Air to carry 1.3 million passengers this year and more than double that figure in 2020. Courtesy Salam Air / Facebook
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Oman's budget airline Salam Air, which is considering an order of Airbus jets, is set to carry 1.3 million passengers by the end of the year and more than double that number to 3 million in 2020, its chief executive said.

The airline expects a load factor — a measure of seats filled — of about 85 per cent by the end of the year on its fleet of A320s and the re-engined A320 Neos, Mohamed Ahmed, Salam Air's chief executive, said on Monday on the sidelines of an aviation conference in Dubai.

"We had a good year, helped by the fact that fuel price behaved itself," Mr Ahmed said, noting that the airline's fuel bill stayed within what it had budgeted for.

Salam Air, owned by Omani private investors and Muscat National Development and Investment Company (Asaas), started operating in January 2017 and is expanding before an initial public offering planned for 2024. The airline has drawn up a plan to serve 60 destinations and expand its fleet to 20 aircraft over the next five years. It currently flies to 20 cities with seven jets and expects to receive two more A320 Neos this year.

Salam Air earlier said it expects to carry more than a million passengers this year, up from 700,000 last year, as it expands its fleet and adds more routes.

The airline is looking to order up to 12 Airbus narrow-bodies and is evaluating the longer-range A321 jets and the smaller A220s.

Salam Air is still in talks with the manufacturer, Mr Ahmed said.

"We are not in a hurry to make a decision, it depends on slots and rates," he said, adding that purchase prices were comparable to aircraft lease rates.

The airline is aiming to grow its fleet to 20 jets by 2025 through a mix of leased and purchased aircraft, while working with aviation authorities to secure more slots into markets such as India, Pakistan and Iran.

Salam Air is close to reaching break-even point this year and may turn a profit in 2020, helped by lower fuel prices and some of its rivals reducing capacity on some routes due to their grounded Boeing 737 Max fleet.