Suvarnabhumi airport likes to call itself the "airport of smiles", an accolade that is being questioned by passengers using its facilities. While no one expects an airport to be a fun place, they do expect it to provide a seamless transition from air to ground with a minimum of fuss and as much convenience as airline, immigration and security regulations allow. The key to achieving this is good organisation and an absence of bottlenecks. But something is going wrong.
In the 66 months it has been open, the airport has generated plenty of controversy, scandals and complaints. Grievances have been tackled, solutions found and put into practice. The problem is these "solutions" are not always permanent and then the headache is back. There is one category particularly susceptible to this and it eclipses all others in sheer nuisance value. These are the huge delays many passengers are being subjected to while waiting to process immigration formalities and enter or leave the kingdom. Passenger numbers have grown but the number of staff at Passport Control apparently has not. It is a major source of concern to tourism operators because of the damage such terrible service does to the country's reputation.
At peak periods these queues become impossibly long and move at a snail's pace, causing tempers to fray and angry exchanges to take place as passengers suffer delays of up to two hours. That is a long time to stand in a queue, especially for elderly and frail tourists, parents with children and businessmen pressed for time. Since first and last impressions stick in the mind, a poor welcome or send-off gives a visitor a negative image of Thailand and influences any decision to return.
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