ARAB NEWS: Operations at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport (North Terminal) returned to normal after a four-hour disruption in the computer system at immigration and passport control since around noon Friday.

The glitch caused major delays and long queues, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at the airport for hours. Around 4 p.m. the Passport Department in Jeddah began clearing the passengers one by one while engineers worked to get the system back online.

Officials in Jeddah collected details of arriving passengers and relayed the names, numbers and nationalities by telephone to Riyadh.

Passport officials called out names one by one over the intercom to clear passengers through immigration. The passengers then had to wade through piles of baggage that had backed up at the baggage terminal before proceeding to customs.

The Passport Department cleared the backlog of passengers quickly and the system was up and running by early evening.

Airport officials when contacted by Arab News said things were back to normal. “No flight has been delayed or rescheduled,” one airline supervisor said.

Another airlines official said as the afternoon is generally a non-peak time, there wasn’t much chaos.

Earlier, as the wait and the queues grew longer, frustrated passengers were seen shouting at each other and at airport officials, some complaining that once again the airport has been unable to deal with a seasonal increase in passenger traffic.

With no official announcement, the passengers’ patience wore thin and they began querying every official about the cause of the delay. It was only after some time that a passport official confirmed that the system was down.

During the hours-long wait, the elderly sat on the floor hoping for a quick resolution. Good Samaritans brought cartons of water and distributed them among the passengers.

The situation was exacerbated by the return of thousands from vacations abroad during the spring break of Saudi schools that ended Friday. “Why haven’t they prepared for the influx of passengers?” one woman angrily asked.

Others were demanding that a thorough probe be conducted and appropriate measures carried out urgently to address such recurring problems at the airport.

Calls have been repeatedly made in the past for the upgrading of the airport in Jeddah, considering the city serves as a gateway to the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.