Browsing 'hamad international airport' News

MOI

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For the first time, citizens of Russia, China, South Africa, Lebanon, Indonesia and dozens of other countries will be able to purchase visas on arrival in Qatar.

The move comes as Qatar seeks to boost tourism amid a boycott from some of its most frequent visitors, who hail from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

According to a circular from Qatar Airways issued to employees this week, the Ministry of Interior has approved the entry of more than 30 new nationalities with immediate effect, based on the following conditions:

  • Their passports are valid for six months or more;
  • Visitors have a return/onward ticket; and
  • They have a hotel booking and $1,500 in cash or credit card.

Previously, Qatar had an agreement with only around three dozen nations and territories to provide visa on arrival services. A one-month stay costs QR100 (roughly $30).

Ministry of Interior

Previous list of visa on arrival nationalities

These include the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia, as well as European and East Asian countries.

New countries

Last year, Qatar authorities said they were working to add China and Russia to the list, as well as Indians.

But according to the recent Qatar Airways circular, only Indians who meet certain conditions are eligible for visa on arrival, such as those with a permanent UK address or US green card.

Qatar Airways

Additional list of visa on arrival nationalities.

Other nationalities that can now enter Qatar without applying in advance for a one-month visa include several South American countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and eastern European nations like Croatia, Latvia and Estonia.

The loosened restrictions come after Qatar has already made four-day transit visas free and available to Qatar Airways passengers transiting through the country, regardless of nationality.

Online visa service

The full list of 71 nationalities that are eligible for visa on arrival is available on a new visa application website unveiled by Qatar Airways yesterday.

The airline in conjunction with the Qatar Tourism Authority said residents from any country can now apply for tourist visas though the portal, which is currently in a pilot phase.

Hamad International Airport

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Hamad International Airport

This saves time as the process no longer has to go through hotels or tour operators.

Passengers will need passport scans, personal photographs, their airline ticket information and the address they will be staying at when in Qatar to submit their applications.

It usually take about 48 hours to obtain visas via email. And the application can be tracked by visitors online, authorities said.

Applications will be submitted automatically for those who book with Qatar Airways.

The tourist visas cost $42 (which includes a credit card booking fee).

Thoughts?

MOI

Egate service

E-gate services in Qatar were used some 865,000 times in the first three months of this year, officials have announced.

That’s compared to about a million usages in all of 2016, when e-gate used to cost an annual fee and require prior registration.

The numbers reflect a tremendous increase in demand since the service, which fast-tracks residents through immigration, was made free and available to most expats in December.

Officials are now urging Qatar residents to use the service when possible to speed up processing at the airport.

Expansion

The aim is to triple e-gate usage by the end of 2017 to some 3.5 million passengers, said Col. Mohammed Rashid Al Mazrouei, Director of Airport Passports Department.

Currently, there are 21 e-gates at departures, and 20 at arrivals. Each will be increased to 40 in the coming months, he said in a statement this week.

Jiseon Shin/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To use the service, travelers should head to an electronic gate and present their Qatar IDs or passports. After passing through the first gate, they then offer a fingerprint or iris scan and then leave immigration.

The process usually takes about 10 seconds, the Ministry of Interior said.

It added that anyone who has trouble using the service can log biometric data like an iris or fingerprint scan at kiosks set up at HIA.

MOI

E-gate service

Free e-gate is part of larger efforts to automate most travel services within the airport, from bag weighing to boarding pass printing to boarding the aircraft.

The move should help with wait times, as well as reduce costs for operators.

HIA opened in 2014, but due to the rapid expansion of Qatar Airways has seen a surge in transit passengers and is already operating beyond capacity.

Do you use e-gate? Thoughts?

MOI

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Despite security concerns from the US, a recent audit of Qatar’s Hamad International has found it to be one of the safest airports in the world, officials said.

The results come amid an indefinite ban on laptops and tablets onboard flights from Doha and nine other Middle Eastern cities to the US.

The US Department of Homeland Security said the move was made in response to concerns about potential terrorist attacks.

Richard Lee/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, Qatar apparently scored highly in a February audit by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO).

According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), here are some of the scores Qatar received from the ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Program (USAP):

  • 99.1 percent for protecting aviation against unlawful interference (i.e terrorism and smuggling);
  • 96.76 percent for implementing safety management; and
  • 100 percent in a section that related to customs and immigration processes.

The USAP results “proved that HIA is one of the safest airports in the world,” the head of the Qatar Aviation Authority (QCAA) said.

Caveats

However, it is difficult to assess how Qatar measured up against other nations.

This is because results of ICAO security audits are usually kept secret.

Speaking to Doha News, a representative from the organization said, “we cannot make public or otherwise confirm anything to do with security audit findings.”

Hussain Didi/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In the past, only a few nations have chosen to share their scores with the public.

In November 2015 for example, Indian aviation authorities disclosed that they had been given scores of 99.23 percent and 99.59 per cent in two ICAO audit areas.

And in April 2016, Nigerian authorities said they had scored an average of 96 percent in a similar audit.

MOI

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s MOI did not respond to requests for more details about the country’s scores or world ranking.

Another notable fact about the audits is that countries are given at least four months notice before they are conducted.

And they have the opportunity to accept or reject suggested audit dates, according to USAP guidelines.

Significant improvement

Still, the average of the three scores shared by Qatar officials – 98.6 percent – is a big improvement from the nation’s 2012 overall score of 78.76 percent.

That was when flights were still departing from Doha International Airport.

MOI/Twitter

Ministry of Interior office at Hamad International Airport

Speaking to QNA, Director of Airport Security Brig. Essa Arar Al Rumaihi credited the higher score to a combination of better training and an investment in new technology over the past five years.

HIA has has apparently trained more than 1,000 security personnel since it opened in 2014.

It has also purchased new “inspection” devices that airport officials say will speed up the movement of passengers through security checkpoints.

More details about these devices have not been shared, but officials said that they were being used “for the first time in the world” at HIA.

A ‘smart airport’

Meanwhile, officials continue to work on introducing a “smart traveler” system at the airport, plans for which were announced last year.

The goal is to automate almost all processes at the airport, from bag weighing to boarding pass printing to e-gates and boarding the aircraft.

Speaking about the plans this week, Airport Security Department director Brig Essa Arrar al-Rumaihi said:

“The vision is that travelers can complete all travel procedures electronically without any human interference.”

The move should help with wait times at the over-capacity airport, as well as reduce costs for operators.

Immigration queues

Among the new processes is e-gate, which fast-tracks residents through immigration. This service was rolled out free of charge to adults living in Qatar late last year.

According to airport officials, making it free has caused many more people to avail of the service in the past several months.

But because it is not open to children, some travelers still face lengthy waits at immigration.

Thoughts?