Tuesday, April 10, 2012

e-Gate here I come

Coming into Dubai this time I had the same problem as the last trip - a long wait at Immigration.

DXB is one of the world's busiest airports and even at the gigantic new Terminal 3, exclusively for Emirates, the queues can be daunting.

Getting stamped in took about two minutes (automatic visa on arrival for Aussie passports). But it took just under an hour inching forward in a queue before I got to the counter. And after a fourteen hour flight from Sydney you really don't need that.

So I decided to see whether I could get an e-Gate card.

As a resident I had one - it's plastic, credit card size, linked to a computer which has your details and fingerprint stored. You go to the dedicated e-Gate section at Immigration, insert the card, put your finger on the scanner and, hey presto, it lets you in.

It does refuse to recognise you every so often, but there's an officer at a desk alongside the gates who just stamps you in.

There are never queues and it takes about a minute.

So, off I went to the DNATA building on Sheikh Zayed Road which has my nearest e-Gate office.

There was a vacant counter, so no wait. I explained I was no longer a resident but as a frequent visitor with an Aussie passport, could I please have a new e-Gate card?

"Of course".

My details, fingerprint, photo were still in the computer. He gave me a printout, I took it to the adjacent cashier and paid Dh225 ($60).

By the time I got back my new e-Gate card was waiting for me.

Incidentally, there are constant whinges here from expats about Emirati officials being rude, arrogant and dismissive. That hasn't been my experience and this was another example. In view of what people say, it's worth just recording the transaction.

An important first point to note is that we're not talking in the official language of the country or the mother tongue of the national I'm dealing with, which of course are Arabic. The whole transaction is in English - can you imagine that in your country?

A male and female Emirati were on duty at the e-Gate office. Both were smiling and helpful, we chatted about how nice it was to have an Aussie passport, how busy DXB is these days and other chit-chat. Then the lady was called away, just as the office boy came in with two coffees. My man insisted I had the now spare second one.

He gave me the printout and pointed out the cashier desk, but told me to please finish my coffee before I went to pay. So we carried on with the pleasant chat until I'd finished the coffee.

I'm sure that some of them are rude and arrogant - every public service the world over has them. But my dealings with them in Dubai over the past six years have always been like this e-Gate experience.

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