Muscat: Those using the Muscat International Airport parking facilities have been urged to comply with the regulations.
The appeal from the Oman Airports Management Co. (OAMC) has come in wake of the continued rise in the number of passengers.
The airport has hosted more than 25,000 passengers in the past few months, along with thousands of people who go their to receive or to bid farewell to them. This has placed a significant pressure on the parking areas, and many airport users often face difficulty in finding vacant parking lots, particularly during peak time congestion.
This difficulty in obtaining adequate parking space at certain times was attributed by Faisal Sultan Al Ma'amari, Retail Sales Manager at OAMC, to the behaviour of some airport users who tend to leave their vehicles in the parking lots for a long time, often more than a year.
Besides this, people who come to the airport to receive or drop off passengers also use the airport parking lot for a long time, sometimes exceeding 12 hours.
Numerous people have started using the airport facilities and services, such as the restaurants and coffee shops, so they spend a long time on the airport premises.
While the airport management does not object to this, it has been noticed that driven by cheap parking fees, airport users often arrive in several cars instead of using a single car for the entire party. This makes it harder for passengers to find vacant parking spots, especially for those in a hurry to catch their scheduled flights, resulting in delays and causing problems for the airlines operating at the airport.
Al Ma'amari spoke of the efforts made by the OAMC in collaboration with companies and firms operating at the airport to raise awareness and provide guidance, and he urged for compliance with the relevant laws and regulations governing the use of the airport parking area and other facilities.
He also stressed the company's keenness to meet the needs of airport passengers and visitors without modifying the parking fees, which should be affordable to everyone. The parking fees at Muscat Airport, he said, are the lowest in the region, where other airports impose much higher charges, especially for long-stay parking.
According to Al Ma'amari, airport parking lots have recently witnessed unprecedented crowding and congestion due to the rapid growth of the national economy and the increasing number of tourists and visitors to Oman, which rose by 82 per cent during the last five years.
This figure is far beyond the capacity of the airport, which was designed to receive about 3 million passengers, whereas the passenger number exceeded 8.5 million last year.
Even so, the company has made rigorous efforts to cope with this movement through the expansion of numerous airport facilities — most notably, the parking lots, which increased to 22,30 spaces after the expansion, including 830 spaces reserved for airport staff.
To counter the parking problem, the retail sales manager claimed, many ideas are being explored by the company in coordination with the Royal Oman Police and Oman Air, based on the nature of the airport and the expected growth during the upcoming three or four years until the new Muscat International Airport is completed.
These options include the merging of Car Parks 1 and 2 and the creation of up to 140 new long-stay parking lots in Car Park 4 with the same nominal fees; this will all be handled in coordination with the competent authorities.
Al Ma'amari stated that OAMC has undertaken other projects to reduce congestion in the parking areas, such as facilitating the entry and exit to and from the airport. This step has enabled passengers to overcome the difficulties they had previously encountered.
However, he noted, the long-stay parking lots in Car Park 4 should not be construed as places where passengers can park their vehicles for an indefinite period.
Such parking spaces have been provided for passengers travelling on long visits of 3 to 5 days to reduce congestion in Car Parks 1 and 2, which are next to the terminals.
He also pointed out that the fees charged in these parking lots are reasonable and acceptable, reaching OMR5 for each day from the fifth day onwards.
He requested passengers to use the parking lots in a reasonable manner that allows their utilisation by other passengers as well. The cheap fees have encouraged some drivers to park their vehicles for a long time during their trips abroad or over the weekend.
Al Ma'amari also said that the company is constantly implementing plans for additional parking spaces to upgrade the airport's services. The company is considering all available options for the utilisation of free spaces, and these efforts will bear fruit in the future.
Al Ma'amari remarked that he was looking forward to the cooperation of passengers and other airport users alike to allow for a positive impression of the airport among visitors and airport goers until the completion of the new airport project, which is designed to provide sufficient parking spaces and keep pace with expected growth in the coming years.
The retail sales manager also stated that the OAMC had launched a website displaying flight times so that passengers can arrive at the airport at the time designated by the airlines.
This should encourage passengers to desist from the habit of arriving at the airport several hours ahead of their departure time which causes congestion.