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Muscat Airport passengers face 'waiting' blues


Muscat: While airports across the world are getting smarter with no need to take out passports or boarding passes during the time of check-in, immigration, and boarding, travelers flying into Muscat, queueing at immigration for a long time has become a concern with the wait lasting up to an hour or more.

Currently, e-gates are not operational for technical reasons.

According to experiences shared with the Observer, the situation gets worse during peak late night and early morning hours. Single male travellers face the brunt of these queues because they generally do not get the exceptions offered to those travelling with families.

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Some passengers recently also faced the issue of the system taking time to read their passports. "Dedicated lanes are provided to families and women with children, but men travelling alone get no such concessions and they have to wait as long it gets. With the same lanes also used by first-time visitors, the waiting period at airports becomes a guessing game," said Pradeep Krishnan, who just returned from an official trip.

The waiting time is relatively less for outbound travellers but in the absence of gates, all passengers have no option but to stand in the queue for the immigration stamp.

"The e-gates have not been working for quite some time and things got worse with the sudden surge in the number of outbound passengers, which include those coming for work (expatriates), short-term projects, business meetings, and tourists," said Yolenda, who just returned from the UK after Christmas break.

Currently, the waiting period at the airport is a matter of speculation as sometimes the process can be done within in few minutes. "It is not just passengers, even the hotel or office representatives or family members waiting outside to pick them up have to stand in there without any clue, especially if the first-time passengers do not have a local mobile sim card for communications with us," said Mustafa, a hotel representative.

Some passengers also avail of the fast track option by paying a fee, which might be unaffordable to families and low-income expatriates.

New E-Gates have been installed at the Muscat International Airport, which are yet to be operational. Unlike the old ones, the new gates will have facial recognition and 18 of them have been installed in the departure and arrival sections.

Once operational, citizens and residents can use the system directly without showing their passports while visitors to the country will have to go through the normal immigration process.

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