Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Lebanon flyers celebrate end of Beirut airport form filling

Speeding up transit in Lebanon’s only international airport has travellers excited

A double-decker Airbus A380 plane lands at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon. AP
A double-decker Airbus A380 plane lands at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon. AP

Beirut airport has introduced new procedures allowing foreign travellers to skip time-consuming arrival and departure cards.

The new measure was welcomed by passengers who saw their waiting time reduced.

“No more pink cards. No more white cards. And #Beirut airport passport control (though it was relatively empty) was faaaaast,” tweeted one.

Before going through passport control, passengers used to have to fill out pink or white cards by hand that detailed, among others, their name, passport number, and place of stay in Lebanon, causing congestion amid a last-minute scramble for pens.

A source at the Interior Ministry told The National that a decree was published on June 7 cancelling the cards to “facilitate flows”. The new procedures are implemented by General Security, an intelligence agency also in charge of border control, under the supervision of Interior Minister Raya Hassan.

The elimination of arrival and departure cards is part of a series of reforms launched last February by local authorities to accelerate security procedures and avoid a repeat of incidents that took place during the summer of 2018, when passengers had to wait in line for hours.

In parallel to facilitating immigration procedures, the airport authorities will increase the number of General Security passenger control counters.

The European Union is financing these reforms at a cost of €3.5 million (Dh12.8m), local media reported.

Rafic Hariri International Airport regularly becomes overcrowded during the holidays when Lebanese living abroad return to their home country to visit their families.

Nearly nine million passengers used the airport last year though it was initially built to handle six million.

With Saudi Arabia recently lifting its travel warning to Lebanon, and the UAE announcing they will scrap their travel ban soon, Lebanon is hoping for an increase in tourists this summer compared to previous years. Tourism is traditionally one of the main drivers of the economy.

Updated: June 19, 2019 08:04 AM

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