There is no doubt that the pictures of people standing in long lines at the immigration counter at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is something that can easily be avoided but is it fair to criticize the work that the immigration staff are doing, and my answer would be a big no.
The long lines that have been circulating on social media outlets about inbound passengers having to wait for a long time and crowds gathered around the immigration counters and into the hallways leading to the immigration, is not a new phenomenon in Thailand and to be fair to everyone, not uncommon around the world.
Pictures of how crowded the Suvarnabhumi airport’s immigration counters were when nearly 80 flights landed on Sunday circulated like wildfire to a point where the Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT) came out to accept that these were real pictures and not fake news.
The situation was similar on Monday as well, when I landed in Bangkok’s famed Suvarnabhumi airport and sadly when I took the pictures, I was asked by one of the staff at the immigration to delete them as ‘taking pictures in that area was not allowed’.
But to be fair to the immigration department in Thailand, our country is not the only country where visitors have to go through long lines to get through the immigration.
A visit to United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany or even Singapore, a country which is considered to be highly ‘efficient’ one has to wait in lines that in many of these places could take hours to clear.
Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to travel all these countries and more, and I have seen how the staff shortages in London’s Heathrow airport made me wait 90-mintues to clear immigration and another 40+ minutes thereafter to get my baggage, not to mention that the outbound immigration out of Heathrow nearly made me miss my flight and I was traveling business class, which means I had the ‘express’ lane to go through the process.
Germany’s Munich and Frankfurt airports were not that much different and nor is Singapore’s Changi which has been facing a surge in travelers entering and exiting the airports.
London’s Heathrow airport arrival lines in June 2022
London’s Heathrow airport departure Line
What’s the Big Fuss About?
The long line at the immigration therefore is not a big deal, after all tourism numbers are gradually coming back to normal levels with more than 44,000 people visiting Thailand each day during the month of September and the numbers are expected to continue to rise.
Immigration staff are not in short supply but then the process of checking each person entering the country is a relatively tedious process and immigration staff should take their time to do the fact check on each individual entering and exiting the country like it is done in other countries.
There is no rush to approve every entry into the country so as to avoid being criticized on social media.
But yes, there are things that needs to be improved such as the logistics at the airport.
The sheer number of visitors means that the AOT needs to get its act together and make changes to the easy life it has had for the past 2-years.
The long wait to get the baggage is one area that the AOT can try to sort out, as that is one area that people should not have to wait in case, they finish their long wait at the immigration.
The other area the AOT needs to sort out is the long wait for the transport, hour long wait was seen just a couple of weeks ago at the Suvarnabhumi airport.
These are the areas that should be made seamless because that is something within the controls of the management of the AOT and are areas that we as Thais excel in, service.
Areas of immigration control should not be rushed and because each person entering the kingdom needs to be checked thoroughly and that is a job that needs details but other areas that are more to do with service and hospitality can be expedited and made seamless to give a better experience to the visitors.
This is the way things happen in other countries as well, and it is an area that we surely can make up for the long lines of the immigration.
UAE’s Dubai International Airport (DXB) arrival immigration in October 2022
For Thai people they should not criticize because the automated lanes are now back in action (after nearly 1-year of glitches) and they can use these automated lanes to get their way out of the immigration system.
For foreigners who are critical of the way Thailand’s immigration is functioning, well, they should look at their own country first and if not then compare it to the other countries.
Criticism of inefficiencies is okay but unfair and inconsistent criticism of the way the immigration system of my country is not acceptable. I am not being nationalistic, but I am comparing apples to apples, from my experience that I have seen in some of the most sought-after destinations to go to and they have similar if not worse immigration system than we in Thailand have.
Pictures of people standing in line and some statements saying that the line for Thais is longer than those for foreigners is inconsistent with the realities on the ground. The scan & go system for Thai nationals is back on track and frequent travelers know very well that criticizing the system just to be in trend is nothing but opportunist to be in the limelight.
Singapore’s highly ‘efficient’ immigration line in October 2022