Muscat: Oman-based Canadian expat, Claire Fisher, recounts her travel experience from the Muscat International Airport after its re-opening on the 1st of October.
Travelling during a pandemic – it’s a task far from the ordinary.
As airports across the country kickstart their operations after nearly six months of closure – save for operations that dealt with repatriation and chartered flights – passengers who will be flying in and out of the Sultanate will catch a glimpse of the ‘new normal in travel’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s not to say the airports aren’t ready to take the extra step to keep their passengers safe and their travel smooth.
Claire Fisher, 36, a Canadian-expat who flew from Muscat to her home in Canada on the 1st of October recounts her time at the airport.
In an e-interview with BusinessLive ME, she says: “My experience at the Muscat International Airport was smooth… all things considered.
— مطارات عُمان (@OmanAirports) September 30, 2020
“I travelled on the first day of the official re-opening of the airport [October 1], so I got to see the airport on its first run.”
Oman had shut its airports earlier in March when Coronavirus first made its way into the Sultanate through passengers who had returned from Iran; however, the airport had been servicing passengers taking repatriation and chartered flights.
“The airport wasn’t as crowded as I would’ve thought,” Claire adds. “The precautionary measures mean that only those who are travelling can enter the airport. Friends and family aren’t allowed to enter unless they are helping a passenger with mobility issues.
“Upon taking a trolley to carry all my luggage, I didn’t notice a kiosk to sterilise the carts. But, I assume that the ground staff had sterilised them individually before stacking them by the entrance.
“Wearing a mask – and concealing your nose and mouth properly – is mandatory at the airport. Once you walk in, there’s a contactless temperature checkpoint at the entrance just like you would have at the Muscat City Center or Oman Avenues Mall.”
As per the airport authorities, passengers who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will be transferred to the airport clinic immediately.
“Walking inside, you’ll notice that most shops have been shut for safety. The Caffe Nero outlets are open, but the seats are placed 2 meters apart. There are also hand sanitiser kiosks in more frequent locations around the airport.”
Reiterating the importance of arriving at the airport on time, Claire says: “The airport website advises you to arrive three hours in advance, but I would suggest passengers to get there at least four hours before to avoid queuing.
“Passengers must also keep in mind that there are more procedures (safety checks) than what you would face on any international flight – and that will take longer than what you can regularly expect.
“Still, we had no problem checking in. The processes were smooth and the staff were well-trained. My Oman visa was being cancelled as well. The line at the visa cancellation kiosk was thin, so we were in and out fairly quickly.
“My only disappointment was that despite the social distancing protocols everywhere, people still clumped into clusters in the areas of security checks.”
However, trays at all security checkpoints are automatically sterilised before being handed over to passengers.
“Passengers breaking social-distancing protocols were a problem at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport too, where I had to fly to for my connection flight. So, my experience in Muscat was not an isolated incident.
“The Duty Free outlet was open, but as flights were limited, there weren’t a lot of people inside. This also meant that the washrooms were sparkling clean,” she explains.
The airport currently only allows one cabin hand bag, besides a personal item such as a purse or a shopping bag from the Muscat Duty Free.
“Thankfully, everyone at the boarding gate were following social-distancing protocols. There, we were all handed face shields – and everyone was required to wear one prior to the flight.”
“Overall, I must say that I was very impressed by the steps and measures that were undertaken by the Oman Airports management and staff.
“Anyone travelling through the Muscat International Airport can do so at peace.”
* All images used in this article are for illustrative purposes only
** Names in the article have been changed as per interviewees’ request