Bahrain International is typical of many Middle Eastern airports. It serves a fast-growing, oil-rich country, in this case the island Kingdom of Bahrain, as well as a dynamic, flourishing low-cost carrier in the shape of Bahrain Air. Only launched in February 2008, the airline already flies to 29 destinations across the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Inevitably, given these hothouse conditions, this medium-sized airport, (which currently handles fewer than 7m passengers a year), has ambitious plans to expand as fast it can. To that end, in October this year Bahrain airport announced a $680 million, 30-year master plan, which will see passenger capacity reach 27 million by 2038.
Work has already begun on realising this grand vision. Two new terminals are set to open • Terminal 1 by 2012, and Terminal 1A a year later (the existing terminal building will then be demolished by 2014). The new airport will boast plenty of luxury features: top-class hotels, a swimming pool, and of course, a greatly expanded shopping mall packed full of designer boutiques.
Exciting stuff, but what’s the shopping like at present, I hear you ask? Not half bad, actually. Bahrain Duty Free is a well-established and professional retail operation, run for the past 18 years by Irish airport duty-free retailer Aer Rianta International (ARI). Now the Irish have something of a reputation to live up to when it comes to duty-free shopping, having practically invented it back at Shannon airport in the late 1940s, but the ARI team have certainly not disgraced themselves at this Persian outpost.
In fact, Bahrain Duty Free is a multi-award-winning outfit with good customer service, well-known luxury brands, and a useful online, pre-order service, which travellers can access through the retailer’s recently revamped website, www.bdutyfree.com
. The company boasts a loyalty card programme, and hosts regular, high-value promotions and raffles, which offer much better odds for participants than most national lotteries.