New international airport huge boost for Sultanate

Ray Petersen –
petersen_ray@hotmail.com –

The long awaited and eagerly anticipated opening of the new Muscat International Airport will surely be a boon to Oman, and the region, with just a few little things to get tidied up.
One thing, after making four visits in the last three weeks is that I wonder just how on earth all that is going on at this massive, open complex, ever fitted into the old airport? It’s truly mind boggling. Now, I’m going to be a wee bit critical now, but I’ll try too, to offer solutions, as I really do see making this one of the top airports in the world as a viable and realistic objective.
Can MIA become a top 20 airport by 2020 as the posters say? Time will tell, but we are possibly a bit too close to DXB for that to be realistic in such a short term, however, as a longer term, sustainable alternative, I really believe it is possible.
I believe traffic management experts should be involved in the management of the new road approaches to the airport. Currently, drivers have to make late decisions on lane changes, so the placement and content of signage approaching the airport requires review. I don’t believe there is sufficient signage, and greater clarity is required to ensure as few lane changes as possible.
The same situation occurs when leaving the airport, and this could be simply resolved by indicating ‘Muscat and North’, or ‘Muttrah and City’, and ‘Seeb, Nizwa and South’, as the alternatives. Especially rental car drivers have no idea where is Azaiba or Uthaibah, Boshar, or Bowsher, Muttrah, Ghala, or the likes are, and they know they are at Muscat, but where is not clear, and clarity is safety.
The problem is that if such signage is left to people who are involved long-term with the project, they will begin to make assumptions that infrequent users will not be privy to, therefore it’s essential that this area is tidied up quickly.
The second main issues concern the short stay car parks at the departure and arrival areas. These are again, poorly signposted and, like myself, travellers may simply follow the signs indicating ‘arrival’ thinking that a short-stay, while picking up someone, parking option, will become available. But no, the parking option is via a different lane, and requires a very late change of lanes.
If the roads are busy, you are stuck, and have to drive through, go around and do it all again. It’s not a big thing to fix. Again, familiarity breeds contempt, and I’m sure it’s not an issue of competency, but human nature.
In the carparks themselves, the lift algorithms, or whatever they are, don’t appear to be all that efficient, as I have noticed long delays getting from one level to another, particularly on the carpark side. Signage indicating the carpark exits is also minimal. The carparking pay machines do appear to present challenges for some people too, though I am at a loss to understand why.
Just one funny story. I put my parking card in the machine, which said RO 2 to pay. I put RO 5 in the slot, and a light started flashing in the tray at the bottom of the machine, so I bent down to await my change. It never came. But my wife gave a gentle, ‘ahem,’ and indicated that my RO 3 was hanging out of another slot at the top of the machine. Duh!
Finally, the greatest issue for check-in staff must be people with too much baggage, and arguments about baggage. My experience of the few weeks to date offers this. Why not have a pre-check-in zone, where passengers can check the weight of their bags and cabin luggage. That must save a ton of arguments, stress and time at check-in.
Good luck MIA, well done in developing an Omani workforce, this is surely the biggest single opportunity for 100 per cent Omanisation in the Sultanate, so big ups to ya.