Travel turbulence

Mass outcry over chaos at Beirut’s airport has reached a peak after weeks of calamity for travelers due to technical, staffing and myriad other issues.

But for airport officials to describe what happened Friday as a crisis is an understatement. It was nothing short of a travel disaster, with employees jotting passenger details down by hand at check-in and travelers stuck inside with no food or water.

A meeting of high-powered officials was held, with assurances of tackling the problem.

But alarm bells have been ringing for weeks, with the media highlighting travelers’ hardships and the damage to Lebanon’s reputation.

As per the usual statements issued after similar fiascos, there has been talk of an investigation and punishment for those responsible. But no one has ever been punished, and the Lebanese have never been informed of the results of those investigations, except in the broadest terms, which has only sown further confusion.

With so many such crises to deal with on a daily basis – from trash to electricity, water and traffic, we can barely keep track of any follow-up investigations. And there are never any admissions of responsibility – whereas in other countries after such scandals, senior officials would be sent home – or maybe even to prison – or the events might even bring down the government.

So, the Lebanese must be excused if they are skeptical of any promises of finding those responsible. Someone or something else can always be found to blame. One official has even pointed the finger at the high level of passenger traffic, when even a fourth-grader knows summer is the airport’s busiest period. Treating it as a surprise is simply insulting.

For the sake of the Lebanese, for whom the airport is our only gate to the country, and who are scattered around the world – let alone foreign travelers – we need immediate action on this very serious problem, and for those responsible to actually be held accountable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 08, 2018, on page 1.




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