If you live in Oman, you’ve almost definitely travelled outside the country by air. If you’re an expat, you came here by plane, so no argument there. If you’re Omani, we’re sure you’ve gone overseas on vacation to escape the hot summer months.
Going overseas was a big deal for us when we were growing up. It was special to travel by plane. Today, however, we don’t think twice before hopping on a plane, as we sit back, close our eyes and prepare for an uneventful journey.
But while all of us and our thoughts are preparing for our journey among the clouds with not a care in the world, there are a million thoughts buzzing through the minds of those whose job it is to provide us that carefree journey.
From ensuring all the passengers and their luggage get to the plane on time and accommodating emergency last-minute requests to rescheduling delayed flights and ensuring that airports run smoothly despite the constant upgrades, a new show by National Geographic, shot at the world’s busiest airport, shows us just how airports cope with being busy, operating, and maintaining efficiency 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Ultimate Airport Dubai follows the lives of those who make Dubai International Airport the world’s busiest airport and among the best in the world. The show aired on National Geographic and is now available to watch online.
A number of key figures across all sections of Dubai International Airport, which plans to accommodate up to 90 million passengers a year, are followed through the course of their duties at the airport. There’s Mel Sabharwal, the Emirates Airline manager, whose job it is to ensure that passengers get to their flights on time. A far from easy task, given that the airport’s three terminals are quite far away from each other, and cover the size of more than 150 football fields.
No two days on Sabharwal’s job are the same. On one day, she could be finding alternative flights for a stranded group of Chinese passengers, whose connecting flight home has been delayed. But with just 90 minutes left before their replacement flight takes off, she needs to work fast. On another day, she’s required to calm down a distraught father whose son’s gone missing. With hundreds of thousands of people at the airport at any given time and mere minutes before the flight takes off, she’s got all of her staff on the case.
Over in customs, officer Hassan Ibrahim and his team have their eyes peeled for any contraband that enters the UAE, and with good reason: Dubai has some of the strictest laws towards illegal items, and it’s his job to ensure that as much of it as possible is stopped at the borders. He could be summoned for something as simple as a taekwondo instructor bringing in a prop that’s raised suspicions, or for something underhanded, such as passengers from South Asia bringing in expensive aromatic wood that’s used to make perfumes, hoping to sell it for a tidy profit in Dubai’s luxury tourism market.
Up in the control tower, it’s the job of Tess Toogood and her air traffic control team to ensure that planes take off and land from Dubai International Airport in a safe manner. With mere seconds separating the take-off, taxiing and landing times for aircraft from all over the world, it’s the New Zealander’s job to plan ahead to avoid the catastrophic collisions of millions of dollars worth of expensive aircraft.
It’s a skill she’ll need to use quite well in the weeks to come: Dubai International’s runways are to undergo a multibillion-dollar upgrade; the airport will be running on one runway alone. The massive engineering project will require the cooperation of thousands of people, years of planning, and with the tightest of deadlines, leaves absolutely no room for error. Ultimate Airport Dubai is an excellent show that deserves a binge-watch this weekend
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The Short and Skinny
Name: Ultimate Airport Dubai
Produced for: National Geographic
Produced by: Arrow Media
What it’s about: How does the world’s biggest and busiest airport continue to be the best? In this fantastic behind-the-scenes TV series, viewers are given an exclusive look into how Dubai International Airport runs round the clock
Runtime: 60 minutes per episode
Where to watch: National Geographic, DirecTV, various streaming sites
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10