Beirut Airport: Absolutely Awful

Filed Under: Travel

When I mentioned on the blog I was going to Beirut, there were two main themes in terms of reader comments:

  • Beirut is awesome, you’ll have a great time
  • Beirut Airport is the worst thing in the world

Prior to visiting I believed the first point, but I was skeptical of the second point. I’ve flown about five million miles, and I’ve seen some really bad airports. Like, my tolerance for bad airports is really, really high.

I fly through a lot of not-great airports, though they don’t really faze me. So, when people are like “good luck at Luanda Airport” or “good luck at Colombo Airport” or “good luck at LaGuardia Airport,” I don’t put much thought into it, because I don’t consider any of those to be that bad.

Well, I’m happy to report that Beirut Airport is every bit as awful as people told me, and then some. It’s not that the airport itself is ugly. It’s actually reasonably nice, at least airside (the check-in area is a different story).

Rather it just has the longest lines I’ve ever seen at an airport, and apparently the experience I had was a good day at the airport.

You know how airlines often say you should arrive three hours before departure, but no one listens? Well, at Beirut Airport you’re lucky to make your flight if you arrive three hours before departure.

First there’s a security check to even get into the check-in area, which is the case at many airports. However, I’ve never seen a line snake quite like this. There were East and West entrances, but the lines were so long that they met in the middle. It took about 30 minutes to even get through that line.

Then after check-in there was the departure immigration line. The line looked long, but usually these lines move fast. Nope, in this case the line was apparently shorter than usual, and we waited for about 90 minutes to get through.

There were a total of five immigration counters (fortunately they were all staffed) for foreigners, which included a vast majority of passengers. Not just that, but it took them a really long time to help each passenger.

90 minutes is a long time to stand. There were quite a few people who were running late, and then they tried to cut the line. However, given how long everyone was waiting, no one wanted to let anyone in. So there was argument after argument.

I’ve never been so happy to get to a lounge as I have here at Beirut Airport (and it’s actually quite a nice lounge).

And the crazy part is that I haven’t even cleared the main security checkpoint yet — that’s at each individual gate.

So while Beirut Airport isn’t the ugliest airport, it’s the worst airport I’ve ever been to in terms of wait times. If you’re flying out of Beirut Airport I’d personally recommend arriving four hours early if you don’t want to be rushed.

If you’ve departed from Beirut Airport (not connecting, but with travel originating in Beirut), what was your experience like?

  1. Ben – were the security lines ok after all of this, and, was the security check as bad as you and Matt experienced at Manchester (in the United Kingdom – the code is MAN) Terminal 3 four years ago? Or, after the immigration debacle, was it not very thorough at all?

  2. Beirut’s problem is too many passengers for it’s size. Due to the situation in next door Syria, lots of Syrians fly in and out of Beirut. That doesn’t also factor all the Iraqi refugees living in Lebanon also. Plus, they don’t seem to have lines for premium passengers…

    Beirut Airport might be one of the few airports where having a Lebanese passport at immigration is a bonus, since the lines for Lebanese citizens at immigration at BEY seem to be much, much shorter.

  3. Your line cutting comment reminded me of my last Europe trip over a year ago. We were flying from Germany to Brussels to IAD on Lufthansa/United but we were delayed leaving Germany due to snow. Then, of course when you are in a hurry to catch a connection, we deplaned remotely and had to wait for a bus.

    Then once inside there was this long line to go through immigration to catch the next flight. People were cutting lines and myself and another guy tried to stop them and point out that almost EVERYONE was late due to the weather and you have to stay in line. It worked somewhat. The sad part was the lack of security at the Brussels airport to maintain line control.

    We ran, somewhat hopelessly since we had no chance to get to the gate in time to board. The only good part is that the United flight was delayed and the door was still open, and we were in the new business class seats so when we board we were treated well, got water, used the bathrooms, etc. and I actually watched the entire Dunkirk movie BEFORE the plane left the gate. It was one of the few times I wasn’t upset about the long delay and thankful I wasn’t stuck in coach.

    Good luck with the rest of the trip.

  4. Yeah, I remember EXACTLY that! And you forgot to mention, you have to put all your bags (even the check-in bags) thru scanners too before you go to the check-in counter area! And the numerous scanners (leaving the shopping area, individual gate, etc) even you are already in the air-side terminal!!

  5. Weird. I’ve never had a bad time at immigration there. Maybe 15min tops. I guess I got lucky. It’s been a few years.

  6. Good to know! If that’s what happens on a “good” day, I can only imagine how bad it is on a “normal” day… 😮

    Also, it’s “faze” and not “phase.” 😉

  7. I’ve departed from BEY twice but had early morning departures (before 8am) and never had an issue. Yes there were lines but not as long as you experienced.
    Good luck at the rest of your trip and glad to hear you had fun in Lebanon!

  8. @ joe chivas why is this racist ? It’s a valid report to confirm the disorganisation at Beirut Airport. This is normal in most of Africa too .. it’s a fact and not racist to say so

  9. @Chatter best not to argue with those types of people, they see what they want to see and attack you for not agreeing with them.

  10. Last time there it took over two hours to get through to the gate in early missed the flight. They just seem so incompetent

  11. I’ve been living in Beirut for more than 2 years now. Like I mentioned in my previous comment, I go through the UN/diplomat immigration line, so I luckily don’t have to deal with that line.

    I’ve waited way longer than 30 minutes for that first security line. It can be way worse than 30 minutes and much better than that too. The really bad times (think 1 hour+) is usually during the holidays: various Eids, Christmas, etc. Today is Good Friday, and there are many public holidays (Easter, Orthodox Easter, and Labour Day) coming up, so this may also be considered a peak holiday period for the Lebanese.

    In my experience, the long waits tend to be for the (rare) daytime flights departing BEY. There are many, many flights departing between midnight and 6 am, and the wait times for that first security check point for those flights have been pretty much nil for me.

    The other problem is the traffic going to the airport can be killer during rush hour. Since today was a public holiday/early release, traffic was probably better than normal.

    I’m actually flying out of BEY tonight (er on one of those 4:30 am flights), so we missed each other by a few hours. I think I’ll leave my apartment at the 3 hour mark and spend the rest of the time at the Cedar Lounge through Priority Pass.

    What security goes on at the gate? After immigration, there is the “real security” for each wing where you’re supposed to take out your electronics/liquids; you don’t have to at that first x-ray before the counters. If you are flying to London, there is additional security at the gate for electronics; at least that was the case for the only time I flew that route, which was closer to the beginning of the ban. For other flights, there is just that last check of the passport at the jet bridge, but I wouldn’t characterize that as “security at the gate”.

  12. I departed Beirut in February on Turkish for a 9 AM flight and it was not near this bad. Guess I was lucky. I did arrive three hours hourly. There were lines at each of the steps you described but near the length. Once I saw there were no shops and restaurants after the last security check I went back out again ate and went to duty free then went through security again with no problem. Got a great price on a 2007 Lebanese wine too. The lounge is very nice and large as you mentioned and only requires priority pass.

  13. The initial security check is being removed very soon, I think you missed it by a few days or weeks. The airport is going through some major expansion soon as well which should relieve the current situation in a few years time. The line cutting is a cultural thing unfortunately, and people in this region are some of the most impatient people I have encountered. I would pick a better time to depart out of the airport and avoid the times when the morning bank of MEA flights depart between 7am and 9am (you can see the departure lineup on flightradar24).

  14. I went to Beirut 5 years ago and on departure the only thing that was slow was the immigration line. Not 90 minutes slow, but maybe 20-25? Other than that everything was fine.

  15. You haven’t seen line cutting until you’ve been through Baghdad Intl. I’m a pretty tolerant person, but that place was every man for himself.

  16. What time was your flight? Also, I have the same question as TP about security at the gate, it appeared at least in my case that each wing had security.

  17. @Icarus, long queues are not just common in this part of the world, they are in fact part of the culture. Is this different than in the US? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s “absolutely awful”. Instead of insulting people of different religions and skin colors, let’s show some respect for their way of life.

  18. @Aaron

    What are “those types of people”?


    Actually, there are 2 restaurants in each wing after the last security check, with one restaurant in each wing having a smoking lounge.


    True, I’ll just add that the only other flights that offers a security check at the gate are flights operated by Saudia. Note MEA flights to Saudi Arabia do not offer that extra security check, though.

  19. The only time I’ve had really long lines was at EWR.

    Even at notoriously slow ORD, there was literally no one ahead of me at security in Terminal 5. I guess I was just lucky.

  20. @Joe Chivas, what you are saying makes no sense. Nobody insulted anyone here. Lucky just made a correct and factual observation that the airport is awful and the lines are long. If you think that means anything in addition to what it actually means, it’s your problem, isn’t it?

  21. How does one conclude that this article is racist? LOL. Im a minority btw. I saw an article criticize airport management/airport. Not a race or nation or what not.

  22. @Joe Chivas Lucky is criticizing the incompetence of the airport for creating such long lines, and you must be extremely “imaginative” to immediately relate this to criticism or discrimination against any particular race

  23. @Aaron I think you are correct and that was were I ate. Just remembered wrong. Must have just left that area to check out duty free and the lounge then went through security again.

  24. @ Joe Chivas — You’re forgetting that I’ve been to almost every major airport in “this part of the world,” and this is by far the worst. I’m not making this statement based on a lack of experience with airports…

  25. @ Dave — Ironically enough the actual security checkpoint was completely lax and took all of 30 seconds. The security officers weren’t even looking at the screen while putting the bags through the x-ray. Quite the opposite of the rest of the experience.

  26. @Joe…

    Now you are trying to equate lines and line length as cultural and racial. That is not only a stretch, it’s downright bonkers.

    There is absolutely no racism in this post. So what is the point in trying to read it that way?

  27. Chivas writes, “@Icarus, long queues are not just common in this part of the world, they are in fact part of the culture. Is this different than in the US? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s “absolutely awful”. Instead of insulting people of different religions and skin colors, let’s show some respect for their way of life.”

    I been through plenty of airports in “this part of the world” (Istanbul, Amman, Doha, Muscat, etc) and this is just sheer and utter nonsense.

  28. @Lucky. Thanks I will probably avoid earlier evening flights then since that would eat up a half a day at the airport anyway.

  29. Lol I have flown in and out of BEY a lot. The worst is immigration on arrival. I’ve never had issues leaving, line’s always pretty good.

  30. Focus on the good stuff and let it go the bad. Have you enjoyed your time in Lebanon? Did you try their amazing food?

  31. Unfortunately Ben your departure experience from Beirut is exactly what I was referring to in my comments on yesterday’s Israeli sticker issue post.

    Beirut Airport went from being one of the most pleasant airports in the Middle East to becoming absolute shambles. What a shame!

    Your experience gives a horrible and lasting impression for many visitors not to return to Lebanon again when the economy desperately needs the tourist dollars.

    The shortage of immigration counters is a continued inconvenience until the ongoing works for capacity expansion and a new dedicated fast track first/business class channel are completed for schedule end of May – I’ll believe it when I see it…

    Until the airport situation remarkably improves, I personally am avoiding as much travel as possible in and out of Beirut Airport to avoid the stress and frustration that I experience each time.

  32. I had no idea insulting someone’s airport was racist. I’d like to formally apologize for all of the ugly things I may have said over the years to all of the wonderful people of the LaGuardian culture.

  33. An inflammatory claim backed up by a logical fallacy is a tell-tale sign of a troll. It is best to ignore such posts rather than play into the troll’s paws by responding.

  34. If you think Beirut Airport is bad, wait till you visit Lagos International Airport. No words to describe it!!

  35. @ joe chivas you obviously have chip on your shoulder and find every excuse to see racism in everything. You don’t even know my ethnicity and background

  36. the lebanese president Michel Aoun confirmed that a new airport will be inaugurated in june 2019..

  37. I’ve flown into and out of Beirut twice now. I was never there for more than an hour from arrival to clearing the last security gate. However, I went in December and February which are not big travel months. I’ll be going again in July. It’ll be interesting to see the difference.
    I’ve found the Istanbul Attaturk airport the worst I’ve ever experienced this far. That airport is now closing to make way for the new airport there.

  38. @Joe Chivas

    I don’t know if we are reading the same article, but there is not a hint of racism in this article.

    What he described is 100% factual. Btw, I am Lebanese and I travel through the airport 10 to 12 times each year. Sometimes during high season, it is much worse than what he described.

  39. Lucky, this is off topic, but I don’t know where to post this: you should look into the situation at Dxb at the moment. Emirates has closed basically one half of each of their lounges (at least in A). And there is basically nothing on offer in Business right now, not even a french red wine, so I decided I should buy First Lounge access (as Gold member). By the way, up to this minute, Emirates states on their website, that it is USD 100 to upgrade lounge access for Gold members, but in fact it is 108 Dollars, and when, like me, you want to stay 5 hours, you have to pay for two slots! 800 Dirhams. Little did I know that also the First Class Lounge is closed by half, making the other half basically a zoo with so many guests I am just shocked. They also have only one page of food offerings in Fine dining, and it is decidedly NOT a First class experience. Cost cutting?!?
    This would NEVER happen with Lufthansa, which makes me realize I should just go for HON and give up on Emirates!

  40. Beriut is one of my all time ‘It’ cities but the airport is a complete disaster. If arrival isn’t bad enough the departure is as close as I have ever got to an organized mass evacuation. Your spot on with 4 hours needed to get out of here. With that being said, I would go back to Beirut in a heartbeat.

  41. @Rob… I too feel I should apologise to all the JFKians and Newarkians for my comments about the airports in those type of places….

  42. I’ve always found Joe Chivas’ posts to be worse than Debit’s posts. Usually Debit is just so over the top, you can’t help but laugh and find it entertaining. And you know he’s sometimes partially joking. Joe’s posts are just lame all around, usually completely off the mark (racist, really??), and just lack any logic or sense. I’m not a liberal, but I’d rather have a beer with debit than uptight and lame Joe!

  43. As soon as you say anything bad about developing world airports people say your racist. I guess we might be racist but we don’t like filth and the fact that ever everybody who works at these airports are thieves or on the take.

  44. This chivas person must be on something. If you think saying Beirut airport is awful is racist then you are a comedian. The place is bloody awful.

  45. Beirut immigration is the most outwardly racist, and I’ve been to many different countries on all six continents. I’ve gone to Beirut twice, both for weddings, and each time immigration was a miserable, unprofessional, embarrassing situation taking hours. The first time an immigration officer made disparaging remarks of my accent even though he himself barely spoke English and didn’t believe me when I said I was American even though I was using by US passport (I’m of East Asian descent). The second time I was held in custody for two hours because they accused me of being a trafficked person because unlike other Asians coming into Beirut I didn’t have a local handler (seems that generally Asians who come to Beirut come to work as domestic servants). Beirut immigration is like traveling back in time when it was still a colony.

  46. As I understand it, this is the very first time that you have experienced a trip to Beirut. Reasonable, level-headed and accurate assessments are not normally relevant when based only on one single experience. I too have flown millions of miles and through thousands of airports – many times through Beirut – and have never had any problems in Lebanon before. Manchester UK is the pits yes but certainly not Beirut.

  47. @lucky i am a lebanese and holding a British passport and i travel twice every month to lebanln and i have to queue like you as foreigner and i never experienced what you describe except in peak summer season jully august or time of muslim pilgrimage to Mecca,i just returned from beirut last monday 15th april and it took me less than 30 min from entering,business check in and clearing passport.
    You simy had a bad day.

  48. With long slow lines at this airport, and others, sometimes the best-laid plans for catching your flight can slowly unravel. To make your flight is it so horrible to seek assistance of fellow passengers in moving ahead in the line? I have experienced at a few airports (not Beirut) where controllers ask for would-be pax on this-or-that flight to break line and proceed to the head of queue or to a new control which is opening. Civilised and sensible behaviour in other words; but pretty rare unfortunately.
    I notice a few posts here where passengers are unwilling to give someone a break so they can make their flight. If you are in the same situation, then it is reasonable to say no, but if you have plenty of time, then would it kill you to help out? Karma will have its way when you least expect it!

  49. Ben, try waiting nearly 3 hours at JFK just to get your passport checked by immigration (followed by 2.5 hours to get to Manhattan because it was then peak hour traffic). I’d never experienced anything as bad in all my travels. It’s my number 1 worst airport to fly into.

  50. Worst airport I have unfortunately dealt with and worst people ever! The whole country is not recommended for my fellow Americans…

  51. @Stephan
    Beirut immigration is the most outwardly racist, and I’ve been to many different countries on all six continents. I’ve gone to Beirut twice, both for weddings, and each time immigration was a miserable, unprofessional, embarrassing situation taking hours.

    I am traveling to Beirut for the very first time today, flying with Tk. Hope I don’t get into the same issues with you.

    Otherwise, I had a good flight from BKK – IST new airport. Nice TK biz lounge and managed to score a private suites here.

    Not looking forward to the long immigration in BEY

  52. @mo I just arrived to Beirut yesterday for about the 10th time and want to remind you that there are three lines at immigration: Lebanese, Foreigners, and Lebanese with foreign passports. The latter is you, and that line is MUCH faster than the line for foreigners. I know because me and another woman jumped our unmoving foreigner line into it only to be turned back by the officer minding the line. This post doesn’t address arriving, only departing, so I want to add, I agree with the diplomat commenting that early morning flights have shorter lines—bad but not as bad as described here, presumably because it was during the day. I don’t think the post is racist but I would also add that it’s deeply annoying to meet people who assume that a country or its services are dysfunctional because it’s not in Europe, and after awhile even a tiny signal of such an assumption is infuriating. But I don’t think this post is that; I warn people to expect a miserable wait in the passport line on arrival, the other lines I haven’t usually found as bad as described here. Once the initial east/west lines did meet in the middle but usually it’s about 20-30 minutes. The worst departure line in my experience was from Istanbul, there you do need to arrive 4 hours early. (Though I haven’t yet experienced the new airport and am excited to.) Beirut I have never had a problem arriving 2.5 hours early but all my flights have been late night/early morning.

  53. In my experience, JFK, EZE, HKG, and LHR are up there with Beirut in terms of waiting in lines. I’ll also add PEK for its confusing signage.

  54. PEK does not have any confusing signage unless you are unable to read Mandarin or English or are otherwise seriously visually impaired.

  55. Still doesn’t beat my 5 hours of waiting to clear immigration at ATL back in December 2009…

  56. With all my respect to your blog Mr Ben, but the Airport is under renovation.
    Do take a break and enjoy our lovely country :).


  57. My record worst was King Fahd Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. 5 hours in the queue to clear immigrations and my baggage still isn’t out at the baggage reclamation. The immigration officers were rude and discriminatory, selecting individuals of Arab background to process first despite them standing at the back of the queue. Individual women were also discriminated and processed last.

    You definitely have to try that place. Absolutely appalling

  58. Was in Beirut, Bekaa Valley and Byblos about 3 weeks ago. Drove from Byblos to Beirut airport for a 10am flight. Left Byblos at 6am. Arrived just before 8am (Beirut traffic on a weekday morning is heinous). Initial security into the airport was less than a minute. Check-in with Turkish Airlines was quick (I’m *Alliance Gold so maybe that helped). Passport and security were a breeze. Honestly, can’t say I had much of an issue at all in Beirut airport. Far better than most US airports.

    But I agree: Beirut (and Lebanon broadly) are fantastic. The Lebanese are very sweet people. And the food! And the Lebanese wine! Heading back soon…

  59. All these problems will be resolved by June 2019, good news for business class, you will have your own lanes for passport control.

  60. @Aaron thank you for your indepth knowledge and analysis. I personally find the editor’s comments about the airport a bit exaggerated.

  61. Well, that truly sounds bad … but don’t forget, in the US it’s particularly immigration which is equally bad (unless on GlobalEntry). Last time I arrived to IAD together with a friend on the same flight. With GlobalEntry I was through in 2 minutes … fortunately, I decided not to wait for him, because it took him more than three (!) hours (data point: March 2019, Saturday afternoon; he faced no particular issues such as secondary screeing).

  62. Hi all,

    Please read through the long thread as I explain my experience with Beirut’s airport.

    I travel every week in and out of Beirut, literally, and then around the region. Just to chime in on this, and in all fairness. Most of the days, the time it needs to get in/out is 10 minutes, but let me clarify few points. I am Lebanese, so my immigration checkout is a tide easier(read through for more details on this) and I don’t check in luggages. Beirut Airport is fairly small and quick to clear, but the problem is that the experience is not consistent throughout the year and you have to be a local to know when it’s bad, because when it is, it is really bad. So Xmas, Adha, Ramadan,major holidays or whenever there is something down at the airport (months ago, check in system was failing and it was a nightmare getting in) are dates to avoid. Luggage check in can also be bad because of the time needed for each customer, so I always try to avoid that. As mentioned by the author, Beirut airport has the highest number of checkpoints, but this is about to change now. A new area is being built and should be delivered around May, this will change things and reduce checkpoints. Due to construction works needed for this upgrade, the experience has seemingly deteriorated in the last month as there were less available counters for check-in. This was announced on local TV and people were recommended to go 3 hours early. Being sceptical, I went 2hrs early last week for instance, and got in without luggages in 5 min, literally. It was a shame having to stay in the lounge for 2 hrs rather than spending time in the great city that Beirut is. Speaking of which, lounges in Beirut are good and the cedar lounge is actually great, when you compare it to regional and even european lounges. The airport is quite small to walk through and gates are not distant. Bottom line, try to avoid checking in luggages, or watch the news prior leaving, call the airport on same day, talk to a Lebanese fellow(you can ask me and I’ll be happy to tell you how it was for this week) or simply go 2 hrs early, should be enough on most days. Beirut is an amazing city if ur here for fun and it would be a shame to miss it for that.

  63. All of you who complain about lines to enter the terminal have obviously never been in Marrakech (RAK).. Some days, you are lucky if it takes you less than 3 hours to ENTER the terminal. The fact that everybody tries to cut the line under the most ludicrous (and creative) pretexts doesn’t help. It’s actually a cultural thing in the region.

  64. Agree with some of the comments – it takes a local to know when it’s going to be *bad*, okay or quick. Can be totally hectic, and 30min later can be empty. Lucky, you went so early that you hit the passengers departing in the departure bank around 1600-1800. Had you arrived around 1700, still plenty of time for your 19:40 flight, you would’ve sailed through.

    While I agree that the airport is a bit of a mess, it would have been fair if you had acknowledged in your post that 1) the airport is the de facto airport for Syria, which it understandably was not designed for; 2) you were visiting during a very busy travel season; and mainly 3) half of the passport control area is closed off for expansion (adding a good 25% and a fast track zone), which should be ready for the end of May.

    Yes, some days can be hell, but I don’t agree with the tone of your post nor lack of understanding / recognition of the current situation. I’m sure you’ve looked up the airport before travelling, and you’ll see countless recent news articles stating the government’s frustration and the ongoing works. It’s not like it’s always been such a mess, that the government doesn’t care and that it’s down to the passengers to just ‘deal with it’.

    Disruption is always to be expected at an airport with a large proportion of the facilities unavailable, undergoing renovation, a busy season and an airport running over capacity to begin with.

    Again, not justifying or being an apologist, just asking you to give a perhaps more well-rounded review of the place.

  65. I L O V E Lebanon.. Beirut..and its quaint airport.. Please dont change it!
    Queues? You forget Amsterdam.. the old Denpasar Airport.. Istanbul SAW. AUH a few years ago
    Dubai still.. and I saw mention of RAK.. Luton!!
    Beirut is one of the safest airports in the world.. without all the creepy techno and scanners..
    Dear Beirut!

  66. Dear commentators,
    I think none of the people commented on Beirut airport had any idea about the disclaimer issued two weeks ago with apologies to passengers that there should be a rearrangement of security and immigration check points in both departure and arrival lounges and requested departing passengers to arrive 3 hours earlier rather than the normal 2 hours..

    In addition to this procedure, Beirut airport is still in high season for 3 more months.

    So, please don’t make an emergency status as continuous issue passengers will face at Beirut International Airport.
    Thank you

  67. Hi Lucky, I think you were just unlucky. I have never had such a problem at the airport. I do agree that sometimes lines are long when there are many departures at the same time. but not as bad as other airports I’ve been to.
    If you noticed the airport has a lot of construction and they are doubling the capacity by the end of this year.
    Happy you enjoyed Beirut!
    Thanks @Yugi for your comment re israelis destroying the airport again.

  68. Ahibai this post starts to look like a Twitter page..some comments (yes @Yugi yours too) not belong on a travel forum
    Though yes @Yugi the unmentionable ‘state’ bombed Beirut airport to smithereens in the past and repeated similar crimes on other civilian targets after that

  69. I am glad I am retired, I get to choose where we fly to , do the research and dump airports or countries that have problems . Middle East is off the list now , too many issues generally . Just having a marvellous time in Laos,Malaysia and Thailand

  70. Lucky, I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m flying out today from BEY. My flight is at 4pm. I arrived at the airport around 11:30am. I’m just now in the First class Salon lounge and it’s 2:30pm. The wait time at the security and immigration was ridiculous and chaotic.

  71. Apr 18. Arrival. 2 hours waiting in line. Longer than the flight.

    Apr 21. Didn’t think it could be any worse than arrivals. Man was i wrong! Departure, was like a riot. People pushing and shoving (including staff who at one point pushed everyone back, knocking over 2 small children). People cutting the line, resulting in shouting and arguments. Absolute joke.

    I appreciate the fact that they are expanding, but that is no excuse for the s#!t show that I experienced. The staff are unhelpful and rude, and do nothing to control the situation at all. In fact they add to the chaos.

    Despite this, Beirut was fantastic. I’d love to go back, but not until they sort themselves out at the airport.

  72. Travelled to and from Beirut back in April 2010. I had none of the experiences you mentioned. It was a moderately busy airport with average amenities and comforts. Certainly wasn’t the absolute best airport experience but wasn’t the worst. I’m surprised at your review.

  73. My second comment on this, and as I said, I travel in/out Beirut every week.

    April 21: Traveled out of Lebanon at 6 PM, took 10 minutes to exit, with only a carry on. Website doesn’t allow attaching images else would have shared my experience.

    Immigration clearance is usually busy for non Lebanese due to expansion (that was up until last week) but this week, they added immigration officers for non-Lebanese so it was actually clearing faster than the queue for Lebanese.

  74. Another data point. Arrived this morning at 07:20 for my 09:15 flight. Made a point of timing each step. Took 5 minutes to get through to the check-in hall, despite only one of the three lanes in the East checkpoint open.
    Immigration (non Lebanese) took 19 minutes. They called us forward to use Lebanese desks when those were empty, instead of just leaving them empty (which happens in quite a few airports!)

    There was a one minute wait at the security checkpoint to the gate area.

    Had 40 minutes in the lounge, and yet I arrived at the airport 1h55 before the flight. Hmm. Not exactly the same ‘absolutely awful’ ‘hell on earth’ you make it out to be.

    Yes, I do realise that had I gone an hour or two earlier, I would’ve been stuck in massive queues due to the morning departure bank. But I didn’t, and it’s up to passengers to be responsible of their timings up to an extent.

    Should I remind that LHR has immigration clearance on arrival for non-EU targets set at 45 minutes?

  75. Firstly, I find it really difficult to take any journalist who precedes a point he is making with “like”, seriously. That aside, I have travelled in and out of BEY many, many times over decades and never experienced the waiting times you’re referring to, even during peak periods. By no means is the airport as professionally run as others I’ve been to in the Western world, however, it’s never been as bad as you claim. I guess you were one “unlucky” fella on this occasion and if you didn’t like it, we probably don’t need your negativity back in the country anyway. Good day.

  76. Nope, he was not the only fella. I’m Jordanian American that unfortunately had to deal with unprofessional folks who work there and be in a such poor airport. I am definitely warning my fellow citizens to go to that country. It is DANGEROUS and does not meet the basic standards for a westerner… so yup never again and save your words speaking for myself, I do NOT need to visit such a poor country like that :/

  77. Another data point for you Lucky

    Arrived at the airport at 11.45pm, got through to the gate at 1.45am. A solid two hours.

    Cleared first security check in about 30 mins. Waited in the wrong immigration queue for about 15 mins (decided to queue with a bunch of Malaysian/UN soldiers in the diplomatic queue – I wasn’t thinking straight ). Then joined the right queue. Then took about 45 mins to finally clear immigration. Another 15 mins for the next security check. Some dawdling in the duty free area on the way. No secondary checks at either security station.

  78. @lucky

    just for info… BEY is undergoing expansion and phase 1 should be ready by 2020. It currently accommodates 9M pax instead of 5.5M (max. capacity).


  79. There is only one quick way to go thru passport at Beirut Airport in less than 10 mnts : go to MEA office at the airport and ask for a wheel chair ( excuses I used : can’t walk on 2 legs or I have heart problem).

  80. The airport is an example of gross mismanagement in the country as a whole. The security staff are extremely disrespectful… Security is very questionable… Groups of foreign workers (mostly domestic workers) being yelled at and insulted by security forces on a power trip… Customs officers hovering around the airplane door calling out names to usher people out as a favor to someone they know (or a mere 20 dollar bribe)… Overlapping announcements that lack any form of courteousy or professionalism to say the least… Not to forget the ever lingering smell of sewers when exiting the aircraft.

    My last two times going through the airport were mere chaotic. To the people on here offended by a negative report on the state of affairs at the airport, a mere google search can bring out countless articles from Lebanese media in that regard. Claiming that Ben’s article is racist or biased is completely unfounded. If anything it does not portray how much worse it usually gets in there….

  81. I just flew in and out of Beirut in late March and I had a different experience than you. Yes, the lines were long and the process was slow but it wasn’t as bad as it reads on your blog. I think it also depends on what airline you are flying. I was not flying MEA but was flying Kuwait, which goes out of a different terminal and the wait time was not that long. My flight was at 12:50pm and I got to the airport at 10:15am. There was no line to get into the airport, and the security line to get to the check-in counters was minimal (about a 10-15 minute wait — people were just moving slow). There was no line at the check-in counters which was a good thing.

    I do have to agree that the line at the immigration counter was RIDICULOUSLY long and moved sooo slowly – that is what took most of our time. I probably spent about an hour in that line so that by the time I was through immigration it was just enough time to make it to the gate where the plane was already boarding.

    Just a different perspective

  82. Although I do agree the lines are terribly long you should note that the immigration area is currently undergoing renovation and expansion works. This is to up the passenger capacity numbers from the current 6 million to 8 million by June, 2019 and to 20 million by 2030. The numerous security checks and closed off counters are a pain but hopefully all will be fixed soon 🙂

  83. The muslim religious seasons as well as Christmas, Easter etc def turn the airport into chaos. Don’t forget half a million Palestinian refugees, 1.5 Million syrian refugees , let alone Iraqi refugees make up one third of the population at least! The pressure on the country in demographics etc etc, let alone the poor airport are gruelling and the country is under immense pressure to say the LEAST. That said the airport is being developed to have 3 terminals. The existing one will be refurbed and two brand new wings built giving the airport 20-30 million pax capacity per year as opposed to the 6 million the current airport was built to handle after the civil war.

  84. Ive been flying in and out of Beirut Airport for the last 6 months for work, I do agree with the absolutely awful experience. I do understand some of the comments about “Refugees” And other reasons, small airport and so on.

    But as a business traveler, which mostly I travel without checked in luggage & “Light luggage” with “Skyteam platinum member” and most of my flights on business class.

    1- The first issue, you arrive to the airport and you have a long queue, does not matter if your flying business or economy, light luggage or 10 huge checked in ones with families or without. You have to stand in line at the first police checkpoint. (Disaster, it can take 45 minutes to an hour to pass that and sometimes the lines arent clear as people form them and irritation goes high)

    2- If you don’t have checked in luggage, the second problem you will face leaving the country at the immigration… You could be lucky if your Lebanese as sometimes it’s faster but as a Dutch citizen you have to stand another 20 or 30 minutes even more at immigration. (no priority for business or whatever alliance)

    — 40 to 60 minutes later (Depends on your luck and the busyness at the airport if its during the celebrations (Adha, Eid, Christmas and so on… )

    3- You pass the immigration, the next step is the lounge… the Cedar lounge for the MEA is nice, and you can enjoy your time… work, smoke, drink whatever you want to do. BUT, you have to keep in mind you have a secondary police check before going to your gate… (Which is stressful and sometimes busy!)

    4- Boarding announced, lets go to the gate! You need to pass the secondary police check mostly most of the times it’s less than 10 minutes but i had sometimes 25 minutes delay on those gates.

    5- You reach the gate, you pass the Airline boarding pass, than suddenly you get the secondary “General security check” it can delay you a minute or 2 or 5… you think your done… not yet! sometimes there is a secondary police check on the gate.

    So in total, if your a business traveler with all the priorities and light hand luggage you still need to arrive 2 hours to 3 hours in advance if you’re without luggage & don’t want to get stressed, stand in lines… and have your passport/passports checked 6 to 8 times.

    I do rate it one of the worst airports, specially MEA which is a SkyTeam member and has no priorities at all on this airport. Except sky priority checked in luggage and sky priority boarding… (none-sense)

  85. Part of the reason you have such security and such lines have been imposed on MEA and Beirut airport by the US. For good reason or not is highly debatable.

    On the other side of the coin, many American Lebanese are brought in for extra screening upon returning to the USA from Beirut, which is a lot more uncomfortable and awkward. You can be subjected to hours of extra questioning which step on your constitutional rights of privacy and freedom of assembly and speech. You may be asked to unlock your phone and hand it, and asked all types of questions about who you met and where you went, and and…

    I am not sure what the goal is, but it seems they want to turn some normal civilians into intelligence assets against certain factions in Lebanon that the US deems undesirables. The questions were so ridiculous and imposing that I had to call a lawyer and check what my rights are in those situations. You don’t have many rights it seems, even as a US citizen.

    So while I sympathize with travelers that pass through the Beirut airport and wait for hours on end without understanding the reasons behind their wait. I get it, it is frustrating. The blame doesn’t squarely fall on the Lebanese authorities, it squarely falls on the international policies and attitudes towards Lebanon in general due to its stance against Israel. That is the bitter pill each traveler through Beirut has to swallow unfortunately.

    It is easy to get lost in the liberal scenery in Beirut, and forget the political realities. This is but a gentle reminder that there are deeper issues and pains in this country, some we impose on ourselves, and some well, are direct implications of the geopolitical reality.

  86. FYI, I flew to and from Beirut this month and following the renovation, there is only one security checkpoint now, located just before passport control. There were about 15 kiosks for passport control and security lines are the European style bins and scanners.

    I’m not saying that your post is now obsolete. It was definitely representative of the frustrations travelers have faced back then. But things have improved significantly and I hope that you get to experience the new configuration and write about it someday.

  87. We will miss the chaos! Thank you for updating us.. Will go later next year.. Still think Beirut is nothing compared to some other airports I have been..

  88. I had my passport checked 5 times at Beirut airport.
    Initial security screening, check in, going to the border, border (immigration, etc.) and finally pre-boarding (policeman standing in the jetway).

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