Having recently taken an international flight from Suvarnabhumi airport, it reminded me just how long it can take to get from check-in to the boarding gate, so I thought I’d relay my own experience.
I flew with Emirates and arrived nearly 4 hours before my scheduled departure. Fortunately, Emirates operate all flights check-in which seems to cut down on queues and meant that despite my early arrival I didn’t have to wait around for an hour or two with my baggage. So far so good.
Despite all desks being manned there were long queues. I waited in line for just under an hour before passing through passport control. I’m not complaining and I’m not sure whether this is normal for Suvarnabhumi, but purely from what I noticed it seems the following 3 factors had a bearing.
1) Passengers not filling out their immigration departure card
For those that may not know, the immigration card is the small piece of paper that you fill out on arrival in Thailand and which is then attached to your passport for the duration of your stay in the kingdom. The reverse side has to be completed upon departure. It’s easy to forget to fill this out, but it did seem to be a major reason for the queues as people waited for pens to complete the form instead of doing it in advance. It only takes a minute to fill it out, but I would say that well over 50% of people filled out the form when they got to the immigration officer; no wonder the immigration officers look so grumpy.
2) New technology
New computer and camera scanning technology does seem to have slowed things up. One thing I did notice as I waited was the varying speed at which immigration officers processed their particular line. The younger female officers seemed more comfortable with the technology and were going considerably quicker than their older male counterparts. I’ll pick my queue more carefully next time.
3) Visa overstays
This is a bit of a bugbear of mine because I don’t think there is any excuse to overstay your visa. I know people do it and there is a counter set up specifically to deal with overstayers, but it still holds things up for everybody else. So, not only do I manage to join the queue with the slowest, grumpiest immigration officers, but I also join the queue with the 5 backpackers who have overstayed their visa; jai yen yen.
Long walk to boarding gate
This also applies to domestic flights out of Suvarnabhumi airport, but it is even more noticeable with international flights. The only reason behind it appears to be the opportunity to maximise retail sales. Passengers have to walk past a long, long, line of shops trying to tempt them to part with their money. I know these retail concessions pay a large amount for the privilege of prime positions, but I just wanted to point out that it’s easy to think you’ve got time for that last minute bit of shopping when in fact what you may think is a 5 minute walk to the boarding gate may well be closer to 25 minutes.