Bangkok Airport Back To Its Old Tricks: Immigration Understaffing & Endless Lines During Peak Times


After two years of calm, it seems that travelers arriving at Bangkok Airport are in for some pretty bad arrival experiences during peak times, as reports from the airport revealed this weekend.

For some reason, Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi Airport still suffers from inadequate staffing, which has been a problem for quite some time as, during peak arrival periods, the few officers on duty can’t handle all the passengers to be processed expediently.

In the past couple of weeks and months, arrival numbers in Thailand have started to surge again and as a result, one would expect the immigration department to be adequately prepared to handle these passengers – apparently not.

I first noticed something wasn’t right when I last arrived at BKK in mid-October and the line already stretched from the main immigration area down into the concourse:

It was already pretty grim at this general line but the Fast Lane for Business Class passengers wasn’t much better as the Airport has now closed down one of the two Express Lanes and bundled them together into one.

The Thai Airways Fast Track has also been discontinued some time ago:

Either way, even getting processed at the Fast Track immigration lanes took 45 minutes as these counters now accept pretty much everybody starting with Business/First Class, Special Board of Investment Visas (authorization letter required), as well as officials, Thailand Elite Visa holders etc. To top it all up, only every second counter was staffed which is probbaly what caused this bottleneck to begin with.

The same picture when I left BKK a couple of days ago. Huge lines at the exit immigration and every second chair at the immigration booth was empty.

And then there was this posting on Twitter about the current situation in the Bangkok Airport Arrivals Hall this weekend:

Immigration usually knows in advance how many planes arrive and airlines also submit preliminary arrival data with passenger numbers. The government should know full well when sufficient staffing is absolutely needed but still, nobody seems to care much which is rather sad.

I don’t know how long these people stood in line but it must have been horrible. Thos who know the layout of the BKK arrivals area know exactly what it means if people are piling up here, as shown on this image. Total Armageddon!

I can’t exactly say what the reason is that they had to shuffle everything around, as it worked quite well in the past. Scenes like those in the photograph above are not good publicity, and who wants to come to a country on holiday if this is what greets you? The Tourism Authority of Thailand spends a ton of money promoting the country in glitzy brochures and ad campaigns but then the real-life experience is marred the moment you arrive. Not good!


From my own experience and recent reports from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, it seems that there is some disconnect between the airport management/CAAT and the immigration department as well as the airlines when it comes to the preparation for arrivals processing.

All entities should pool their resources to have sufficient staff and facilities available for arriving passengers to be processed expediently by immigration officials. The immigration department is ultimately responsible for keeping the flow of passengers going, but that’s only possible with sufficient officers on duty. One person can only work so much, and I have personally witnessed that even during peak times, counters were only 50% staffed. Does the immigration department have problems recruiting? That’d really surprise me as these are quite coveted government jobs in Thailand.

Another big deficiency here is the re-organization of the Fast Track for arrivals in Business Class and those eligible to use it with their other credentials such as special visas or official passports.

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