Oman Air has positioned itself among the big boys of the skies after paying out a record price to buy a pair of take-off and landing slots at Heathrow Airport in the UK.
The Sultanate’s national carrier shelled out $75 million (RO28.8 million) to secure the slots, including a highly prized early morning arrival, from Air France-KLM.
It’s the highest price paid for a take off and land slot ever, beating the previous amount by $10 million. While a huge deal, it’s still dwarfed by the $209 million (RO80.4 million) American carrier Continental Airlines forked out for four daily slot pairs in 2008.
Air France previously sold a slot at a lower price to Dubai-based Emirates, giving the Gulf airline six daily flights to the London airport.
Oman Air’s deal means it could start running double daily flights to the UK’s capital, a move it has been planning for some time now.
Slots at Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, have been changing hands for increasingly hefty sums in recent years as American carriers fight for lucrative transatlantic trade and fast-growing Gulf airlines look at funneling passengers through their Middle Eastern hubs.
Oman Air currently flies non-stop from Muscat at 2pm, arriving at Heathrow at 6.20pm, while its London flight leaves at 8.15pm and reaches Oman’s capital at 7.35am. The new slot will give them a 5.30am arrival from Muscat.
Oman plans to more than double the size of its fleet to 70 aircraft by the end of the decade.
Highest slot deals at Heathrow:
- 2016: Oman Air pays Air France-KLM $75 million (RO28.8 million) for two slots
- 2015: American Airlines paid $60 million (RO23.1 million) for a slot to Scandinavian carrier SAS
- 2013: Etihad paid $70 million (RO26.9 million) for three slot pairs from India’s Jet Airways
- 2012: Delta Airlines paid $47 million (RO18 million) for two slot pairs
- 2008: Continental Airlines shells out $209 million (RO80.4 million) for four daily slot pairs