x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Oman Air set to reveal new chief executive

Oman Air is poised to name a new chief executive as Peter Hill plans to retire next month.

Oman Air is in the midst of a restructuring and recovery plan that outlines a return to break-even and then profits around 2014. Stephen Lock / The National
Oman Air is in the midst of a restructuring and recovery plan that outlines a return to break-even and then profits around 2014. Stephen Lock / The National

Oman Air is poised to announce a new chief executive as Peter Hill plans to retire from the role next month.

"There is a shortlist," an Oman Air spokesman said of the executive search. "We hope to be making an announcement soon."

Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, the chief executive of BMI, the British carrier, is said to be one of the contenders, although the Omani carrier declined to comment.

The airline is in the midst of a restructuring and recovery plan that outlines a return to break-even and then profits around 2014. The plan focuses on serving business and leisure traffic bound for Oman, rather than going after the long-haul transfer market dominated by the Gulf's big three carriers, Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways.

Mr Hill, whose 50-year aviation career also spanned executive posts at British Airways, Gulf Air, Emirates and SriLankan Airlines, plans to return to Sri Lanka to run a foundation with his wife.

Under Mr Hill's guidance last year the Oman Air board of directors approved a five-year business plan spelling out several more years of losses as the airline invests heavily to transform itself from a small regional airline into the country's full-service flag carrier.

The target for break-even in 2014 is expected to coincide with new aircraft and routes becoming established into the Oman Air international network, and the global economy recovering from the downturn.

From 2009 to 2018, a total of 14 wide-bodied aircraft including the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will be introduced into the fleet. Recently, the airline won "Best Business Class" at the Skytrax Awards for its new seats installed on the A330s.

During Mr Hill's extensive airline career he helped start Emirates in 1985, and in 2001 helped SriLankan Airlines rise from the ashes after Tamil Tigers blew up half of his fleet in an audacious airport raid while he was chief executive.

One of his most famous decisions was in 2007, when he refused to offload three dozen passengers from a SriLankan Airlines plane to make way for the country's president and entourage, a decision that led to his dismissal. "It wasn't a difficult decision," he recalled. "I simply took it."

igale@thenational.ae