ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai airport tries to shorten queues
Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) has earmarked 12 million baht to deal with long immigration queues at Suvarnabhumi airport over the next three months.
Long immigration queues at Suvarnabhumi greet passengers, even though a sticker in the terminal promises a 24-minute processing.
The money will be used to pay overtime for immigration officers to ensure that all of the counters are manned from March to May and thus able to cope with an expected further surge in passenger traffic.
An official source said the allocation is a temporary solution that AoT is adopting to deal with the top complaint by passengers passing through the country's gateway.
Since late last year, arriving international passengers have had to queue for as long as one hour and outbound passengers for more than half an hour as their numbers spiked.
Suvarnabhumi now handles up to 180,000 incoming and outgoing passengers a day, compared with only 120,000 previously. Immigration officials, citing limited manpower, budgetary restrictions on overtime work and an outdated computer system, have been unable to speed up processing.
AoT hopes the additional funding will enable the Immigration Bureau to man all 72 outbound and 124 arrival counters. So far, the Immigration Bureau has not commented on how processing could be accelerated and queue times reduced. AoT is stepping in as it has taken all the heat from passengers who are unaware the bureau is a separate government agency over which the company has no control.
The source said the company decided to act as it foresees the problem worsening, especially during the peak Songkran holiday in April, when local airports seem to burst at the seams. The long immigration queues were a topic at Monday's meeting of the committee tasked with investigating Suvarnabhumi's problems, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.It assigned transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom to head a group to come up with comprehensive solutions within the next two weeks.
One option is employing retired immigration officers to pre-check passengers' documents before reaching the immigration counters.
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