In the last few months there has been an increase in the number of complaints from tourists about the queues and delays endured whilst going through immigration procedures at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. To a certain extent it can be pot-luck how long it takes to go through immigration at Bangkok airport, but since the New Year there have been a number of factors which have seemingly led to problems.
For their part, the Thai Immigration Bureau has said that an increase in the number of passengers combined with under-staffing has resulted in the longer than normal queues at the immigration counters at Suvarnabhumi. There have also been increases in security following the intelligence received before Christmas and the subsequent events in Bangkok last month. This has all resulted in longer processing times for passengers waiting to clear immigration.
Airports of Thailand (AOT) and the Transport Ministry have both acknowledged there are issues that need to be addressed and by April 11 a number of automatic international passport check machines should also be in place to ease the pressure.
If you are unlucky you could be queuing at Bangkok airport immigration for up to an hour. This is inconvenient if you are arriving in Thailand, but if you are departing it means you run the risk of missing your flight especially if you have already faced a long wait at the check-in counter.
Fill in Your Arrival/Departure Cards
Unfortunately, some delays still occur because people arrive at the immigration counter without completing their arrival or departure card. For the sake of other passengers and the immigration staff on duty, please ensure these are completed fully before you join the queue.
International Departures from Bangkok Airport
My personal advice is to check-in for your flight online if possible. This will help you beat the lines of people waiting at the check-in counter. The sooner you can check-in and proceed to immigration the better. If you can’t check-in online I would recommend getting to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport at least four hours before your departure and check-in as early as you can for your flight.
Once you’ve checked-in and got your boarding pass go straight to the immigration counters. If you want to get something to eat or drink I advise waiting until you’ve cleared immigration and security.
Connecting Flights via Bangkok Airport
Depending on your situation, you may be able to clear immigration at other Thai airports. It’s worth noting that many airlines will be able to check your baggage all the way through to your destination. For example, you have an internal Thai Airways flight to Bangkok departing from Chiang Mai at 09.00 and an international Eva Air flight departing from Bangkok to London Heathrow at 13.00. Thai Airways at Chiang Mai can check your baggage all the way through to London if you provide them with your Eva Air flight details when you are checking-in.
Not all airlines can do this. For example, low-cost airlines such as Air Asia and Nok Air are point-to-point carriers and you will have to queue for your luggage and check it in again yourself for your onward flight. However, if you have a tight connection time, anything you can do to save precious minutes and avoid possible delays has got to be worth it. You should also check whether you are eligible to travel as a CIQ passenger because this can also save time and prevent potential inconvenience at Bangkok airport.
This refers to international passengers in transit (CIQ covers customs, immigration and quarantine procedures). Depending on your flight arrangements and airline, you may be able to transit via Bangkok airport without having to line up in the immigration queues at Suvarnabhumi. For instance, if you are flying from Ko Samui with Bangkok Airways with a connecting international flight out of Bangkok, you can usually clear Thai immigration at Samui airport. Similar CIQ arrangements can also be found at other international airports in Thailand including Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai. Check in advance with your airline whether this will apply to your individual circumstances.