The 8am Muscat to Dubai Oman Air flight took off last Monday heading eastwards, turned sharply, giving me, from my seat on the left hand side of the plane, a clear view of the progress of all of the construction work. The first most noticeable aspect is all of the new roads inside the airport perimeter.
The major new road connecting Sultan Qaboos highway and beyond into the new terminal is well advanced, and this road will also connect to 18th November Street. There is a very large bridge structure clear to the eye.
Having suffered with the road works along 18th November Street for the last two years, I am left wondering why some better co-ordination and planning was not in place such that this new connection and the further widening of the street did not take place at the same time. More delays I fear for many in the morning, but I guess it keeps continuity for the HiFM presenters with their traffic reports.
The new terminal is due to open in 2014, according to both Wikipedia and the Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC) website. The new arrangements will be able to handle 12mn passengers a year, up from 6.5mn in 2011. Twenty-eight passenger airlines currently use the airport and soon there will be two runways each of 4km length, to take the largest of planes.
I am reminded of my check-in formalities that morning, when using my Sinbad Silver card, I tried to use the Business queue, which was actually longer than that for economy. “Shift change, sir” said the helpful manager standing next to the counter. Let us hope the 86 check-in desks in the new terminal do not suffer from simultaneous shift changes.
I like the new Oman Air lounge; it is comfortable with friendly staff and tasty snacks. I hope I can keep my Silver card for some years to come. Muscat Duty Free also carries a wider selection of goods now and some other parts of the existing airport do work better than a few years ago.
The parking is still an issue but this is understandable as things were very different when the airport opened in 1973. I use the VIP parking when picking up guests, well worth RO2, it’s always empty and I usually only have an hour to pay! I like car park three for my trips; it gives an easy exit onto the highway in the Seeb direction. The new airport will have 8,000 car-park spaces.
I can report that the Control Tower now has all the paperwork in place for it to reach its full height and will become Oman’s tallest building. The Civil Aviation Headquarters is also well underway.
As has been proved in Dubai, a modern airport coupled with a world-leading airline can stimulate tourism and growth. Let us hope that the new Muscat International Airport, and Oman Air, can exceed expectation.
And for all those who read my 'Fingers and Thumbs' column a few weeks ago, who recommended a visit for me to the optician, I can confirm that the e-gate still requests that I use my index finger, but will only let me through if I actually use my thumb. “A glitch in the system” explains my friend from OAMC.
Nick lives and works in Muscat and the views expressed in this column are entirely his own. You can e-mail Nick at email@example.com