One week ago, at daybreak, I arrived to Amman from Al Ain International Airport. Yes, I am as surprised as you are since about 12 hours prior to that, I was not aware that Al Ain had an international airport. Well, it is interesting how I ended up at this airport which I will relay to yourselves just now.
Doing a bit of pre-planning, I anticipated that there was going to be a rush for airline tickets during the Eid holidays and thus, I searched for a booking over 2 months ago while I was in Jordan for my summer holidays. Emirates airlines’ flight were already closed and Air Arabia’s prices were not that enticing. So, I ended up booking a Royal Jordanian flight via the internet. It was convenient as it would be departing at 3pm on Thursday so that I can end up breaking the fast in Amman with my parents and siblings and gain one extra day of holidays. In addition, I had traveled with Royal Jordanian airlines during the summer and their service was improved from the 90s when I used to travel during my college days.
Anyway, with the web-based electronic ticket booked and paid for, I did not pay much attention to it until it was too late. Apparently, Royal Jordanian had done a rescheduling of their flight from Dubai and changed it to an 1pm departure timing. Since I did not have a phone number listed, there was no one to call me about the change. My parents were able to find out that there was a Royal Jordanian flight with one seat available from Al Ain Airport. I quickly reserved on it and arranged for a ride to there at midnight.
During my ten years living and working in Dubai, I have had the opportunity to travel from 5 international airports within the UAE. They are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah (which is a story in itself for another post), and Al Ain airports. The busiest and most advanced is Dubai whereas it has become one of the busiest airports in the world with thriving duty free shops and facilities. For example, there is a laundry branch there whereas you can pick up/deliver your laundry for frequent travelers who reside in the city. During the holiday season (especially at Christmas and New Years), the airport becomes extremely busy and overcrowded with many travelers stretched across the vast passenger terminal. Abu Dhabi’s airport is just as advanced especially with the emergence of Etihad Airlines, but it smaller and not as busy. It bodes well for its future with expansion plans in place to cope with the increasing traffic, but still has not reached Dubai’s status.
Sharjah’s airport is simple (its design is similar to Al Ain’s), but has started to become livelier with Air Arabia operating from there. However, it is representative of the status of Sharjah meaning that Sharjah residents tend to be people in lower-paying jobs who seek affordability. Thus, Air Arabia is a budget airline and the bulk of the passengers are budget travelers with the airport’s facilities catering to that category of people. However, this was a smart move as it certainly occupies a niche being extremely close to Dubai’s airport (only half an hour drive away).
Ras Al Khaimah is by far the smallest airport (although Al Ain might be tied with it). In 2001, it only handled 28,000 passengers. There are only 3 passport counters with Al Ain having four.All of these airports reflect the status and character of the cities they serve. Generally, I believe this is true of all airports in the world. To get an impression of the city, one needs only see the airport. Ironically, that is usually a person’s first interaction with the city that they are visiting.