TO MCT AND BEYOND

Oman 2017 | TRANSPORT & LOGISTICS | FOCUS: NEW AIRPORT

The airways of Oman are set to change forever upon the opening of the new Muscat International Airport.

The year 2017 will bring big changes to the aviation sector of the country, with the highly anticipated new Muscat International Airport (MCT) finally opening its doors after extending its construction deadline several times. The new airport will be able to service 12 million passengers a year, with comprehensive construction projects designed to gradually increase this number to 48 million passengers per year upon final completion.

The grandeur of this new, 580,000sqm airport terminal is manifested in its 96 different check-in counters for both domestic and international flights and more than 80 immigration counters, both structural advancements necessary to ensure the smooth operations that accompany such a striking increase in annual passenger capacities. The hallmarks of every major airport will also be included in this project, with a large duty free area, restaurants, and shops to be opened, as well as almost 30 waiting lounges and 40 flight gates. This airport will boast 10 baggage claim belts with two servicing domestic flights and eight for international flights, marking a welcome upgrade from the current airport capacity. In response to the complaints of irritated customers, this airport also offers greatly expanded parking opportunities and has two separate parking lots over 65,000sqm that can accommodate well over 2,000 vehicles. There is also an extended waiting area for family members or loved ones that overlooks the baggage terminals as the newly arrived collect their belongings.

The need for this new airport was growing apparent, as the 1,400 planes that land in Oman each day represent an almost 20% increase from 2014. Virtually every metric available for measuring air traffic at MCT has undergone significant increases. According to Oman's National Center for Statistics and Information, the total number of international flights taking off from and landing at MCT increased by 12.8% compared to this point in the previous year. A more revealing statistic shows that the number of international flight passengers both arriving and departing at MCT each increased by 20.5% and 19.4%, respectively. This represents an expansion in the passenger load by at least 500,000 passengers in both categories during these months. Domestic flight passengers for both arrivals and departures also increased by 9.9%. The added passenger load, which does not look to slow down any time soon with government plans to actively attract international investors and more tourists, lies at the heart of efforts behind the airport overhauls. According to Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), the number of total passengers at MCT has increased by an average of around 1 million passengers since 2009, with the number reaching 8.3 million in the last year of data available.

There are many different dimensions of Oman that will have the capacity for great improvements as a result of this new and vastly expanded international airport. Two of the five sectors identified as priorities for the Omani government in their ninth Five-Year Plan leading up to 2020 include logistics and tourism, both of which will clearly benefit from the new aviation infrastructure. OAMC reported that the total freight including mail at MCT increased by over 10,000 tons per year from 2011-2013, according to the most recent data available.
It follows that with additional space to accommodate more aircraft and an outspoken desire to increase the nation's logistics capabilities, the new airport will play a vital role in advancing the country in this respect. Moreover, the national tourism strategy of the country wants to attract millions of new tourists by 2020. There are also projections that place the country's tourism industry as eclipsing the USD1 billion mark by 2020. Both of these ambitious aspirations will be within reach upon the completion and commencement of this national airport project.