Passenger traffic at Oman’s main airport in Muscat and the Salalah International airport between January and August this year rose by 16 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, compared to the corresponding period in 2016.

Muscat International handled 9.23 million passengers during the first eight months of the year compared to 7.96 million for the corresponding period in 2016.

It also handled close to 30 per cent more cargo.

With four months to go in 2017, it appears Muscat International could easily  surpass its passenger traffic volume of 12.03 million passengers for the full year 2016.

According to the sultanate’s National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), 40 per cent of the total passenger traffic at Muscat International was generated between June and August.

This corresponds to the period when Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia closed their sovereign airspace to Qatar in line with the trade and travel embargo imposed on Qatar by Saudi-led countries.

A local media report earlier reported that the number of transiting passengers, or those who land at the airport and continue their onward travel without changing aircraft or alighting at the airport, increased by 350 per cent in July.

Passenger traffic at the much smaller Salalah International airport rose from 824,324 in the first eight months of 2016 to 1.07 million for the corresponding period this year.

Since the travel restrictions were imposed in the first week of June there have been no direct flights from Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Bahrain to Qatar. To reach Qatar, people have had to change flights and Muscat has been one of the most popular connection points.

Since June, executives travelling to Qatar from the UAE said it has become increasingly difficult to get flights to Qatar from the UAE routing through Muscat due to increased demand.

Muscat International is being expanded. Construction is expected to be completed before the end of 2017. The airport expects to enter full operations by early 2018.

The expanded airport will have the capacity to handle up to 12 million passengers a year. Succeeding phases of the expansion plan entail bringing the airport’s capacity to up to 48 million.