State-owned Oman Air has raised its capital by 67 per cent to $1.3bn and it plans to add eight new destinations to its network in 2010.

The increase in capital was approved during the airline’s extraordinary annual general meeting and annual general meeting, which was held on 31 March, the airline says in a statement. 

The carrier says its financial performance in 2009 was heavily affected by the global economic downturn. In 2008, it posted a loss of $109m.

The airline says it expects to return to profit by 2014 as it starts eight new routes to Milan, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Dar es Salaam, Islamabad, Lahore and Al-Ain and Ras al-Khaimah in the UAE in 2010.

Oman Air carried 2.4 million passengers in 2009, a 19 per cent increase from the previous year and also added 28 per cent capacity with the addition of five Boeing 737 aircraft and four wide-body aircraft. It had five long haul destinations, including Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Male and Colombo.

The International Air Transport Association predicts that Middle Eastern airlines recorded 25.8 per cent growth in passenger traffic in February compared to the same month in 2009, the strongest growth for any region in the world (MEED 30:3:10).

Oman is currently carrying out an expansion of Muscat International Airport, where the first phase of the new airport terminal is scheduled for completion in 2014. Capacity at the airport is expected to grow to 12 million passengers a year from the current four million.

Further phases will bring capacity to 48 million passengers a year by 2050, according to Oman Airports Management Company.