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Tweet forces Suvarnabhumi immigration to explain long lines

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PHOTO: Travel Daily Media

“Suvarnabhumi hell for tourists. Look at queues today. Never seen this long.”

In response to English-language teacher Andrew Biggs complaining about the long queues at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the Immigration Bureau says it had already mobilised more personnel to facilitate immigration clearance.

Biggs, the owner of Andrew Biggs Academy and co-director of andrewbiggs.com, an English language-learning website for Thais, posted a Twitter message in Thai on Wednesday: “Suvarnabhumi hell for tourists. Look at queues today. Never seen this long.”

“Several counters are closed during rush hours. Don’t understand.”

The day after Biggs posted another Twitter message in Thai.

“Suvarnabhumi is not hell but it is the gateway to our beloved Thailand. Yesterday, I was very dissatisfied with what I saw because I was worried about Thailand’s image in the eyes of foreign tourists who have just arrived. I would like to ask the authorities to consider this issue and I believe we could solve it.”

Pol Colonel Choengron Rimpadee, deputy commander of Immigration Police Division 2 and spokesman of the division, responded yesterday saying he ordered an inquiry into the issue. He noted that Biggs had arrived at the same time as 44 flights with 4,500 passengers between noon and 2pm.

“Immigration Police Division 2 always mobilises all its immigration officers to be stationed at all counters in all zones to speed up clearance of arriving passengers when many flights arrive at the same time.”

Each immigration officer is in charge of carrying out seven steps for immigration clearance: checking each passenger’s face with the passport photo, checking visas, checking possible blacklisting, scanning fingerprints, taking a photo, stamping the entry approval, and interviewing the passenger. He said each immigration officer took about 50 seconds to handle a passenger’s clearance.

“During rush hours, the immigration counters at Suvarnabhumi Airport could clear about 2,000 passengers within an hour, but the immigration officers also had to be on alert for foreign criminals trying to pass themselves off as tourists, and many passengers were not allowed to enter the Kingdom.”

He said their inquiry found that Biggs had waited for about an hour to pass through an immigration counter.

He said Biggs used a Bus gate, coming by a bus from his plane to the arrival terminal at 1.01pm. He said Biggs started waiting in his queue at 1.06pm and he passed through the counter at 2:06pm.

Choengron said the hall where Biggs had waited for immigration clearance could accommodate some 500 passengers but some 20 flights arrived at nearly the same time and hence more than 1,200 passengers had to wait in queues in the hall, causing the lines to extend beyond the hall.

He added that officials managed to shorten the lines within 30 minutes.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Police Division 2 added that the bureau had contingency plans to handle the overwhelming number of passengers arriving at the same time. For example, officials resting after their shifts are called in urgently to help, and volunteers are also called in to advise passengers on filling the immigration forms.

The spokesman said the bureau appreciated Biggs’s concerns and would invite him for consultation and his opinions would be referred to when the bureau consults with other concerned agencies on how to deal with long queues at the airport.

(The Thaiger notes that the additional process of taking imprints from each finger and the thumbs adds another 20-30 seconds to the processing time of each passenger)

Original story: The Nation

 

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