Lost in Transit somewhere in Beirut International

I recently encountered a rather odd scenario when I purchased a ticket from Larnaca to Cairo via Beirut. Everything seemed straight forward on paper and my reasons for selecting this route were based on convenience and cost combined, as it was the shortest route and seemingly hassle free for the particular day I was travelling, as no direct flights were available. After all what could go wrong?

Other options included via Malta and Athens which seemed to be going in the wrong direction.
As always I checked-in for both flights online to avoid airport queues and to ensure the minimum hassle. I only carried cabin luggage with me to avoid loss or delay of checked luggage.
The Larnaca part was perfect and it actually took me just 10 mins from the moment I arrived to the airport to get to my departure gate. This must be a record of some sort in Europe, considering security checks today!

Then it all went downhill as I arrived to Beirut a mere 30 mins away, but truly another world, certainly from an airport operations perspective. The first challenge was the airport signage to find the actual transit area. Following the signs religiously, they led me to the Passport Control area, which seemed strange to me, but it would not be the first time I had to go through Passport control to reach the departure gates whilst in transit. So I waited in line like any typical obedient Englishman in Beirut would, as my relatively short line took 30 mins to process.

The first thing the Immigration Officer asked me is for a Landing Card. I explained that I was actually in (dare I say it) "Transit", which seemed a foreign concept to the official. He sought advice from another official who came over towards me to say in horror that Fateful 6 letter word again "Transit?".

I wilfully showed my Online MEA (Middle Eastern Airlines) printed Boarding Card to the officials, which in reality meant 2 foreign concepts and more strange looks. After some Arabic discussion, which I am sure sounded worse than it actually was, a third official came on the scene. After similar questioning I was then escorted to the Transit area (yes it exists), which was situated well before the sign with misleading positioning.

The transit connection area consisted of one small desk with a 1990's styled Computer and a single security belt and arch. The Security Guard refused me entry and in broken English with a touch of a French accent he told me to wait there and sit down. I waited 20 mins and after getting a little nervous as I was Boarding in 30 mins time I stressed the Security Guard to call someone or hurry up.

Then arrived an MEA Lady who went directly behind the Computer and asked to see my Boarding card and Passport. She studied every page of my Business Passport and when she reached the end said "Transit?" Which meant no landing card.

After 5 mins of tapping the computer seemingly randomly, I asked "Can I pass through now?" and then she asked to check my Boarding Card again shaking her head in disbelief. By this time I had 15 mins to Boarding, which I highlighted and the young Airport Lady with a dark Red Jacket and light Pink nails responded "I will print a new Boarding Card for you". I replied "I'm happy with my Online Boarding Card", but she insisted anyway. Of course the pre-millenium printer at her disposal didn't work and after waiting 10 more minutes she let me through Security, a process which would be best described as a "non functional check".

Finally with 3 mins to Boarding I had made it to the Departure area, where the gate numbers are divided into 2 at opposite ends of the terminal with yet another security process to navigate. My wonderful Online Boarding Card Gate indicated "View Airport Terminals", so I walked 300M to the nearest one I could find and alas my flight was not indicated. Even though it was "Boarding Now" my flight number was slightly later than those featured on the small screen.

With no visible information desk I asked someone at the Duty Free who told me to look at the screens and wait, yet my flight was Boarding! Not very helpful! No Joy either with 2 other officials I found, so I decided to take pot luck and head for one of the two departure areas, which are Terminal poles apart. Now 7 MIns. And counting overtime, I barged my way through to the Security Guard dressed in Camouflaged Military wear to ask if I had the right gate. He referred me to someone else who had to make a phone call, called someone else. Eventually it was concluded 12 mins overtime that I was in the right area.

So I rushed like a man who feared getting stranded in Beirut to Gate 6. Upon arrival to the Gate 6 there were only around 15 passengers waiting. I checked the status of my flight to Cairo with the counter staff and they spotted my Online Boarding Pass and said that I had to get a proper one printed! The obvious question arising being "What is the point of having an Online Boarding Pass if one needs to change it anyhow". The dreaded word "Transit" was also stated on 3 more occasions before I eventually embarked passed the last security to board my MEA plane.

On board we waited around 45 mins by which time the plane was amazingly nearly full. And there you have it "The simple process of navigating through Transit in Beirut".