Muscat: Qatar Airways will fly four times a week from Doha, flydubai will operate three times a week from Dubai, and Oman's national carrier Oman Air will deploy more flights this summer to Salalah.
The new Salalah airport is expected to handle 2 million passengers and is likely to meet its 2014 deadline since 50 per cent of the construction work is already complete. "We are planning to finish the construction and commissioning work by this year and are hopeful of opening the airport to the first passengers in early 2014 as more and more airlines come to Salalah," an official of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation said.
It seems that Salalah is trying to position itself as a year-round destination for adventure, nature, and leisure travellers, not only among the residents of Oman but all over the Arab world, especially during the khareef season.
A total of 351,195 people visited Salalah during the khareef season in 2012, which starts on June 21 and continues until September 21 every year. In 2011, the number of visitors was 339,500.
Of the 351,195 visitors, the number of visitors from Gulf countries went up to 92,631 in 2012 from 76,800 in 2011. "Many airlines are making a beeline to Salalah since the number of GCC residents is steadily increasing," a senior official of the Ministry of Tourism stated.
In 2012, there was a 98 per cent increase in visitors from Bahrain, with the number of tourists from the country rising to 2,865 from 1,449 in 2011. Kuwait was next, with a jump of 56 per cent in the number of visitors, followed by Qatar (20 per cent), the United Arab Emirates (22 per cent), and Saudi Arabia (2 per cent).
flydubai will start its Salalah flights on May 21, 2013, and will operate three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, while Qatar Airways will begin operations on May 22, 2012, from the Qatari capital, Doha.
Commenting on the launch of the new route, flydubai's CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith, remarked, "Oman was flydubai's third GCC destination, and we look forward to strengthening the relationship between the United Arab Emirates and Oman by offering passengers a high-quality, affordable travel option." Round-trip fares from Dubai to Salalah start at Dirham1,000, and fares from Salalah to Dubai start at OMR105.
Al Ghaith is also very excited about adding Salalah to the network. "The two-hour flight makes this popular city even more accessible, and thanks to our convenient flight schedule, the new route will offer passengers a less stressful way to get to a perfect weekend getaway spot, without the need for a long commute by car," he added.
Speaking exclusively to Times of Oman, a flydubai spokesperson said: "Oman is a popular holiday destination for residents across the GCC. While many people prefer journey by car, booking a two-hour flight with flydubai will enable them to maximise the length of their break. With flights starting in May, travellers will be able to enjoy the cooler climes of Salalah this summer.
Affordable air link
"For those living in Salalah and the surrounding region, this route offers passengers a quality and affordable air link to Dubai. It will help them in travelling to the UAE and beyond conveniently and efficiently through our growing network of destinations. This, in turn, will further strengthen the already established cultural and trade links between the nations."
It may be recalled that some UAE residents were killed in road accidents in 2012 while travelling to Salalah or returning to Dubai from Salalah. "The 1,300-kilometre stretch of road from Dubai to Salalah through the desert and the breathtaking mountain range has become dangerous, leading to many fatalities," said Suresh K, who regularly drives between Dubai and Salalah.