High-tech Saudi initiative to ease airports’ passage for pilgrims hailed a success

Saudi passport officers are able to check the identities of passengers from anywhere inside airport departure terminals.

:: A high-tech Saudi initiative to speed up airport departure procedures for more than 30,000 pilgrims has been hailed a success.

The Eyab scheme was set up to enrich the experience of pilgrims passing through the Kingdom’s airports, and thousands of pilgrims from Malaysia, Indonesia and India have been among the first beneficiaries.

The wireless Banan (meaning fingers in Arabic) system is connected to the Kingdom’s National Information Center (NIC) database and can process information within seconds, saving long waits in passport control queues for travelers, particularly the elderly.

Capt. Hamid Al-Harthi, the spokesman for the Saudi General Directorate of Passports at the Jeddah airport, told Arab News that new services provided under the recently launched Eyab initiative included more efficient systems for the transportation of pilgrims’ luggage from their places of residence.

“The initiative helps to make the whole departure process for pilgrims faster,” said Al-Harthi. “Some 30,000 pilgrims are benefiting from this initiative, with 16,000 having been served at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA) and 14,000 Hajj worshippers getting the advantage of the service at Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.”

“We are conducting an exhibition aimed at introducing the role of the General Directorate of Passports in the initiative. We also have a passports majlis (a private room allocated to beneficiaries of the Banan electronic machine) which is being used for the first time to ease the pilgrims’ departure process,” he said.

Director of passports at KAIA, Col. Suleiman Al-Yusuf, said Banan machines could scan a pilgrim’s passport and verify their biometric identification within 25 seconds.

“Once a pilgrim’s index finger is scanned, all their information is collected and their exit procedures are completed in seconds without the need to wait in front of an immigration check counter like other pilgrims who are not included in the initiatives,” Al-Yusuf added.

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