Dubai: Oman Air, the sultanate's flag carrier, said yesterday it had increased its authorised capital to 500 million riyals (Dh4.7 billion) from 300 million riyals amid plans to add eight new destinations in what is expected to be a challenging year.

"We are confident that over a period of time when the airline has established its presence in the industry and its network has matured, we will see positive returns on investment," Ahmad Bin Abdul Nabi Macki, Oman Air chairman and Minister of National Economy, said in an e-mailed statement announcing the capital increase.

Oman Air will add Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Dar- Es-Salaam, Islamabad, Lahore, Milan and Ras Al Khaimah and Al Ain to its list of international destinations this year, which is expected to be "challenging but buoyant," the carrier said.

"The industry is expected to show improved results in 2010 as passenger travel is picking up, especially in the premium cabins. It will however take time for the business to return to the levels seen before the economic crisis," Macki said.

The airline last year carried 2.4 million passengers, a 19 per cent increase on 2008, and had a seat utilisation rate of 61 per cent, Oman Air said.

The carrier said it also boosted capacity in 2009 by 28 per cent with the addition of five Boeing 737s and four wide-body aircraft, and added Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Male and Colombo as new long-haul destinations.

Oman Air has a fleet of 15 B727-800, two A330-200 and two A330-300 aircraft, with another three A330-300s to be added in the 2010-11 period, according to the statement.

It also expects delivery of five Embraer 175 jets in the first quarter of 2011 under a recently signed contract.