In response to complaints about long delays at passport control in recent months, Qatar Airways’ CEO has blamed staff shortages at Hamad International Airport for the problem.
Speaking to the Gulf Times this week, Akbar Al Baker – whose airline manages the airport – said that Qatar Airways, the Ministry of Interior – whose staff man the immigration desks – and other unnamed parties were “trying to resolve the issue as a team.”
Qatar Airways and HIA have not responded to repeated requests from Doha News about the queues at the airport.
Documents promoting the airport, which opened less than two years ago, boast that it has 50 check-in counters, but passengers have been telling Doha News that the majority of these sometimes go unmanned.
Responding to questions about their recent airport experiences, Filipina expat Rosemarie Herrera said she spent three hours waiting at immigration and passport control at HIA last month before boarding her Cebu Pacific flight to Manila.
“Many hundreds of people were waiting, but there were only two people on the desks at first stamping passports, then eventually two more came,” Herrera told Doha News.
“I had arrived at the airport four hours before my flight was due to take off, but in the end I had to run to get on it, because I had spent so long waiting at passport control.”
Meanwhile, Shoba Mariam John said her sister missed her flight to the Maldives earlier this month, despite arriving well in advance:
@Toryscott @dohanews It was QR 674 Flight to Maldives &they’d been waiting for almost 2 hrs @HIA. They’re already done with online check in.
— Shoba Mariam John (@ShobaAj) January 22, 2016
And Ildikó Francia’s husband waited so long at passport control in December that he decided to turn his laptop into entertainment for the kids in the queue:
@dohanews @Toryscott it took him more than 1 1/2hrs to pass through.Kids were having nice time.He called it "Doha immigration mobile cinema"
— Boby (@Boby_BiQ) January 21, 2016
One way for residents to avoid long queues is to use the airport’s e-gate system, but the cards are relatively expensive and they are only available to over-18s, meaning that passengers traveling with children are unable to use them.
For those heading out of the country for school break this week, consider checking in online and getting to the airport at least three hours in advance.