On March 21, 2018, the government of Oman opened the doors to the new Muscat International Airport terminal. While this is the logical next step for a country seeking to attract increased revenue from tourists and air traffic, I use the new terminal with mixed feelings.
The Good: New Muscat International Airport
Space – The biggest benefit from opening the new terminal is the huge increase in space. Everything from parking to airside seating is bigger and better. If this was the only change from the old terminal it would still be a win. It’s like moving from a studio apartment to a mansion.
Capacity – This bigger space opens up a lot more opportunity in the form of capacity. The increased capacity is a necessity for Oman to achieve its targets. But space is only one factor that we see which increases capacity. The improvements that we don’t see are advances in efficiency like runway access, baggage handling, and traffic flow. Everything that makes the airport experience more smooth.
Airbridges – The greatest things that I love at the new Muscat International Airport are the airbridges. I can’t stand having to load into a bus between the airport terminal and aircraft. I wouldn’t mind just walking to/from the plane myself, but the bus is a major hassle. Today we have full luxury and the ability to directly access the aircraft from the terminal. I big win in my book.
Baggage Claim Viewing Deck – The last good item I’d like to point out is a little more obscure, any maybe something visitors haven’t noticed, yet. The airport designers included a viewing area directly into the baggage claim from the land-side food court. Here you can wait to spot your friends and family as they exit immigration and wait for their bags. I find it much more enjoyable than waiting at the exit of customs. However, I wish the managers at the new Muscat International Airport would install more arrival information screens closer to the viewing glass where guest stand and wait. The current screens are too far away to view them without leaving the glass. A small suggestion but not a huge deal.
The Bad: New Muscat International Airport
Sadly I am more critical of the new terminal.
Space – For starters it’s too small, but maybe I am spoiled from other large airports in the region. Firstly, I find the gate concourse too narrow. This is especially apparent when you use the moving walkways. They are located in the center of the wings, but travel through an almost enclosed area, making it feel like a tunnel.
The concourse that is straight ahead from the central hub that features the airport history is the prime example of the narrowness, and general lack of space. Two people can barely walk side by side when transitioning from the central terminal shops/ food area to the gates. Very weird.
I also found very poor use of space at the security area for departures. You must enter the checkpoint though a glass gate first, then snake hard 90 degrees to access the x-ray belt. Here I found my fellow travelers taking advantage of the poor flow to try and cut in front and place their bags on the belt instead of waiting for the people in front to move through the metal detector. This hard turn is required because of the clashing designs of the security gate, and x-ray machines. It’s like x-ray machine purchasers didn’t talk with the airport designers or vice-versa. A shame for a brand new airport.
Incomplete – If you are looking to experience the world’s newest complete airport, you will be largely disappointed. The new Muscat International Airport opened before it was fully complete. At least I hope that is the case. Bathrooms are missing key features like soap dispensers, and many signs are printed on a laser-jet and posted with clear tape. Generally the many missing details will make you question the high price paid for this new building.
Poor Housekeeping – I hope this improves because it’s an easy one to fix. On my last flight through the new Muscat International Airport I found discarded meals sitting at most of the tables in the lounge areas, windows that looked like they’ve never been washed, and waiting chairs haphazardly arranged. Just a general lack of cleanliness and attention to detail at a brand new airport touted as “premium.”
Lack of Character – Lastly, I’ve spoken to people who like the look and feel of the new airport. However, to me the designers missed a great opportunity. We see some of the local designs queues coming through with the palm tree and desert motifs. But this doesn’t compliment the modern styling of the building. I wish they would have just stuck to one design theme. Either go full Omani and design the airport with total Arabic design, furniture, and feel. This would be my first choice and the most unique among all airports. Or the designers should have gone full modern like Doha, an airport often compared to the new Muscat International Airport.
In my opinion there is little comparison. Doha is fully modern, has amazing staff who direct, clean, and organize a beautiful, large, wide, and comfortable ship. Muscat doesn’t compare.
The new Muscat International Airport terminal employs a lot of great features will make our flights easier and enjoyable. However there is a lot left on the table. Somethings can and should be sorted, others cannot. At the end of the day this new terminal is an improvement from the old terminal, but I still miss that old building with all its downsides. It had character, something you can’t build with concrete and rebar.