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On October 24, Air France too started its thrice-weekly operations between Paris and Muscat. Image Credit: Reuters

Muscat: Oman’s airports are opening up to more flights and newer airlines, as prospects for tourism in the country improve. Tourist arrivals are on the rise with resumption of visit visas and a host of user-friendly online services aimed at international tourists.

Oman based airlines, Oman Air and Salam Air, a low cost carrier, have ramped up their frequencies to various destinations that had been halted due to the pandemic situation globally.

Some recent developments, like Oman Air resuming the Muscat-Bangkok and Muscat-Paris routes with thrice weekly operations, and the resumption of Muscat-London route in October with four weekly flights, were greeted with enthusiasm. Before coronavirus, Oman Air operated twice daily flights to London with a separate service to Manchester.

Foreign carriers choose Oman

Wizz Air, a low-cost carrier based out of Hungary with another hub in Abu Dhabi, started its operation between Muscat and Abu Dhabi with a test flight on October 31. The carrier will for now operate three weekly flights. On November 3, Switzerland based airline Edelweiss landed in Muscat International Airport on what was its maiden flight from Zurich International Airport. This new airline will operate three direct weekly flights between Zurich and Muscat. On October 24, Air France too started its thrice-weekly operations between Paris and Muscat.

High PCR rates in Oman

However, with the PCR testing being mandatory for any tourist or resident leaving or arriving in Oman, travelling for most has become a costly affair. The cost of PCR test across Oman is anywhere between RO12 to RO20. Test results take 24 hours to arrive but with an extra fee for express results, one can have it earlier than 24 hours. Another additional charge is attached at some places if a print out with the relevant stamp is required.

Arjun C Shekar, who had travelled recently from Dubai to Muscat says in Oman he spent close to RO45 for two mandatory tests – one on arrival at the Muscat airport and one before departure from a local clinic in Muscat. “Everyone understands the importance and necessity of PCR tests, but the rates have to come down if travel industry and tourism industry need to survive.”

Ignacious Thomas, working with one of the leading travel agencies in Oman says that the air-travel bookings currently consist of only those employees who have planned their annual leave or those who have to go on an emergency.