Dubai: Oman’s airport operator wants new airline Salam Air to set up its base at Salalah International Airport, a move it believes would increase the profile of the country’s second largest airport.

A new 2 million-passenger (capacity) terminal opened at Salalah International in June replacing the old 500,000-passenger terminal. Meanwhile, Oman awarded a licence to state-owned Muscat National Development and Investment Company (ASAAS) in January to establish budget carrier Salam Air, the country’s second airline.

“We are pushing them to go to Salalah but I think they are pushing back to stay in Muscat,” Oman Airports Management Company chief executive Aimen Ahmad Sultan Al Hosni told Gulf News at an exhibition in Dubai on Monday.

The budget airline will start operations by early 2017 as per an agreement with Oman’s aviation authority and plans to fly medium and short-haul flights, according to Salem Awad Saeed Al Yafaey, Salalah International general manager. It will operate the narrow body Boeing 737 aircraft, Al Hosni said.

ASAAS did not respond to emailed requests to comment.

Oman is investing in five airports across the country, including building a new passenger terminal at main airport Muscat International that is facing further delays.

“We are targeting 2017 and inshallah we can deliver,” Al Hosni said.

Oman said in January the new terminal would open by the end of 2016, around a year behind its last target opening date. It was originally set to be completed in 2014 but issues with illegal workers and technical difficulties have contributed to delays.

Al Hosni declined to say when in 2017 the terminal could open, telling Gulf News it is up to the Ministry of Transport to “set the timing.”

Salalah, a popular regional holiday destination, handled 1 million passengers between January 1 and December 17, up from 840,000 in 2014, Al Yafaey said, adding that Oman Airports has approached Bahrain’s Gulf Air and Saudi Arabia’s budget carrier flynas to fly to the airport.

“I hope they (Salam Air) take the base in Salalah because that definitely will add value to the airport,” Al Yafaey said.

Oman Airports will issue a request for proposal (RFP) by the end of the year to establish aircraft maintenance services at Salalah International, he added.

Construction on terminal buildings for new airports in Sohar, in the country’s north, and Ras Al Hadd in the country’s east, will start this year and in late 2017, respectively, Al Hosni said, adding that Air Asia’s Thailand joint-venture Thai Air Asia will start flights from Bangkok to Muscat in late July or early June.