The long delays continue despite promises by Transport Minister Lt Gen Arkhom Termpittayapaisith last month that more officers had been assigned to bolster immigration at Phuket Airport to reduce long queues of tourists waiting to enter and leave the country. (See story here.)
First-hand reports provided to The Phuket News over the past two weeks have detailed how travellers were forced to wait hours to be cleared by immigration officers.
“I picked some friends up on Wednesday night (Oct 19) and their flight landed at 11:16pm from Korea and I was still waiting for them at 12:40am,” one expat told The Phuket News.
“They said only three desks were open and 300 passengers had arrived on a 777 – and they had only three staff to get them through immigration! It’s crazy! They know what passengers and planes are arriving so why not more staff?” he mused.
A week later, on Wednesday morning (Oct 26), The Phuket News received a similar report, with the Immigration Arrivals hall crammed with passengers at 8:30am while they waited to have their passports stamped.
Apparently only four desks were open to clear the arriving tourists, despite the new International Airport terminal boasting a total of 19 immigration counters for 38 officers in total in the Arrivals Hall.
As recently as last night (Oct 27), one Australian tourist described pandemonium in the immigration arrivals hall as hundreds of tourists arrived in Phuket at the same time.
“Four planes had just landed but there were only two immigration desks open,” he said.
“Also, there were no immigration arrival cards for people to fill out. Finally, when one official did arrive with the cards, he was nearly mugged by a mob of passengers waiting to get out of there,” he added.
Pol Lt Col Arom Kwannet, Deputy Chief of the Phuket Airport Immigration Office, explained to The Phuket News today (Oct 28) that he was unauthorised to comment on the issue.
“We don’t have permission to reply media, only the chief can do that,” Col Arom said.
Phuket Airport Immigration Chief Col Supphachoke Yongstar, however, was repeatedly not unavailable for comment throughout this week.
Phuket International Airport Director Monrudee Gettuphan declined to respond specifically about the current long delays for tourists clearing immgration.
Ms Monrudee instead cited the Phuket International Terminal fact sheet as saying, “The terminal provides 17 passport checking points with 34 counters at Outbound Passport Control and 19 passport checking points with 38 counters at the Inbound Passport Control.”
The new terminal, built at a cost of B5.67 billion and offering more than 73,000 square metres of floor space, is projected to double the airport’s passenger capacity to 12.5 million travellers a year.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha officially opened the new terminal to much fanfare on Sept 16 during his first official visit to Phuket. (See story here.)
The long delays to enter and leave the country via Phuket Airport come as Phuket braces for the annual return of the tourism high season, which begins next month. (See story here.)