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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

1994: Capital opens another air route

40 years of the UAE: Silence stretched across the grounds of Al Ain International Airport as the assembled crowd awaited the arrival of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

AL AIN // Silence stretched across the grounds of Al Ain International Airport as the assembled crowd awaited the arrival of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Among them was the duty manager Rashed Al Shamsi. Now the airport's operations manager, Mr Al Shamsi remembers standing there on March 31, 1994, along with the others who had worked for months to have the airport ready in time for its official opening.

Then Sheikh Khalifa arrived. He walked along the red carpet towards the red ribbon in front of the freshly painted terminal building. As he cut the ribbon, the crowd erupted in cheers.

Behind the terminal an empty Gulf Air plane touched down on the runway, signifying the airport was ready for incoming flights.

"Of course everyone was happy when the airport was opened," said Mr Al Shamsi.

Since then the airport has been busy, introducing new flights - it now operates 14 a week, catering for about 4,000 passengers - and constantly adding improvements to keep passengers happy.

The airport has been successful. In March, a global passenger satisfaction survey ranked Al Ain International Airport fourth in the world, beating Dubai International Airport, which ranked at 26th, and Abu Dhabi International Airport at 27th.

* Ola Salem