The Daily Star
An overhaul of the Beirut airport meant to boost security and ease congestion is on track to be done by the end of the month, Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos said Thursday while touring the facility. The new system will be fully up and running by Aug. 1, a statement from Fenianos’ office said.
The renovation includes the addition of three baggage scanners to the six current ones, and 12 General Security counters to the 22 currently in the departures area. The new counters will help facilitate travel for departing passengers in the same way the 14 new passport controls opened last month in the arrivals area did for those coming to Beirut.
All 34 counters are already in operation, said Mohammad Chehabeddine, the general director of Civil Aviation. He added that the activation of the new scanners was the final stage.
In a bid to further improve travelers’ experience, the head of state-run telecoms company Ogero announced a plan to provide airport users with an hour’s worth of free Wi-Fi, instead of just half an hour’s worth, at fiber-optic speeds of 1,000 megabytes a second. He said the plan should be installed within three months.
Fenianos was accompanied on his visit to the airport by Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian, Economy Minister Mansour Bteich and Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Choucair.
Speaking with local TV channel LBCI during the tour, Guidanian said that “from Aug. 1, we will pass straight through the airport.”
“We’ll go directly to the check-in desks … There is a single checkpoint, then we stamp our passports and go straight to duty free,” he added.
The $18 million expansion of the airport, funded by the World Bank, was announced in October of last year as part of a larger, $200 million loan to improve various infrastructure projects in Lebanon.
Congestion at Lebanon’s only commercial airport has often been the subject of ire. Last summer, passengers were stuck in queues for hours as a result of system failures. In 2018, the airport saw almost 9 million people pass through its halls, despite having a capacity of only 6 million passengers.
But 24 counters were added in the departures terminal last month. Another 14 passport control counters were also opened in the arrivals area. Among other measures taken by airport officials to expedite travelers’ time in line was the decision to end a requirement for pink and white cards to be filled out before going through General Security.