x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE residents sign up to get through passport control in 20 seconds

Abu Dhabi's new passport system, which allows travellers to get through passport control in less than 20 seconds, has registered its first participants.

Marwan Al Hemyari, left, waits while Mohammed Al Shehhi, centre, and Faisal Saleh, both with the Ministry of Interior register Marwan for e-boarder system at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
Marwan Al Hemyari, left, waits while Mohammed Al Shehhi, centre, and Faisal Saleh, both with the Ministry of Interior register Marwan for e-boarder system at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // A new e-gate system designed to get passengers through passport control in less than 20 seconds has signed up its first participants.

Eager members of the public queued up at a registration desk at Marina Mall so they could be among the first to use the new e-gates installed in Terminals 1 and 3 at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The brief registration process required only the scanning of their eyes, hands and passport information. Those who signed up should now be able to breeze through passport control. They will be required only to scan their passport, step through a gate and pause to look at a camera.

In seconds the camera will carry out a face and iris scan and check them against a database of registered passports before approving them for travel.

The system is fully automated, and is completed entirely by the traveller, without the need for border security staff, although several will be on hand to provide assistance to first-time users.

The aim is for the new e-gates not only to replace traditional passport control desks, but also the current smart-gates, which scan travellers’ fingerprints.

Authorities insist that security has not been compromised in favour of speed.

“The e-gate does all the security process, the same as the counter, nothing different, only that this is automatic and the other is done by a human,” said Major Mohammed Alzaabi, e-boarder project manager.

“We want to get as many people as possible to register for this process, because in future there will be more and more people coming to the country and we want to make it a semi-automated airport.”

The Ministry of Interior says that the process is open to “citizens, GCC residents, residents and visitors who obtained their visas from the border port of entry”.

The system will gradually be made available across the country.

“We are starting in Abu Dhabi and we will add it to all airports in the UAE,” said Maj Alzaabi, though he did not specify a time-frame.

AR Pais, a project manager with an office interiors company, was one of the first to register. “Whenever you travel, the problem is the long queues and this will help to clear it quickly,” he said.

“It is a great idea and I am very happy that the Abu Dhabi Government has thought about this and is helping the people by providing more facilities.

“I fly maybe two or three times in a year – it depends on the flight, sometimes you wait half an hour, sometimes more, it all depends how many flights are coming in at the same time.”

Also registering was bank worker Abdul Rahman, who said he regularly faces long queues at the airport.

“I am a frequent flyer so it makes me more relaxed when I go and come back and don’t have to be in the queue,” he said.

“I can go to work straight from the airport. When the flight comes in the morning there is a huge queue so I have to wait minimum of one hour, so this is good.”

Registration desks will be set up in malls across Abu Dhabi in a phased process until early September.

The Marina Mall desk will remain open until Thursday, before it moves to Abu Dhabi Mall (June 23-27); Al Wahda Mall (July 7-11); Khalidiyah Mall (July 21-25); Mushrif Mall (August 4-8); Delma Mall (August 18-22) and Bawabat Al Sharq Mall (September 1-5). Desks will be open from 10am to 10pm.

ksinclair@thenational.ae