However, the computer terminals critical for the officers to clear travellers through immigration have yet to arrive, Gen Arkhom announced during his inspection tour of the new terminal yesterday (Sept 23).
The new International Terminal has been plagued by long immigration queues of travellers waiting to depart since it was officially opened by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha last Friday (Sept 16). (See story here.)
“The issue we face now is immigration formalities,” Gen Arkhom said. “Every day we have approximately 36,000 people arriving and departing via Phuket International Airport. The most crowded section is the Departure Lounge because there are many tour groups, especially between 7pm and 9pm. This results in long lines at immigration.”
In response, Gen Arkhom said more immigration officers had been assigned to Phuket Airport. “Immigration staff have been increased by 31 officers, from 209 to 240, and these people are already working,” he explained.
“The Arrival Lounge has a total of 19 immigration counters for 38 officers in total, the Departure Lounge has 17 counters for 34 officers, who will work in six-hour shifts of 15 people per shift,” he added.
However, Gen Arkhom admitted that the computers needed to help process more passengers quickly through immigration had yet to be provided.
“The number of computers is not sufficient for personnel. There are only 13 machines,” he noted. “We have coordinated with Airports of Thailand (AoT, which operates Phuket Airport) and will provide more computers next week for the immigration counters.”
“According to statistics of immigration officers’ performance, 10-13 people can pass through immigration in one minute, which is quite fast,” he said.
Commenting on the overall readiness of the new terminal, the Transport Minister assured that every system, including check-in, baggage transportation, automatic doors among others, had been tested for at least five months before opening to the public.
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.
However, the new terminal is already heading for over-capacity. According to AoT data, from Jan-July this year, Phuket Airport served 8.9 million inbound and outbound passengers, an increase of 19.7 per cent over the same period last year.
The overall volume for 2016 is estimated at approximately 15 million passengers. (See story here.)