A Japanese expat’s Facebook post about his painful experience with Suvarnabhumi airport’s immigration and taxi queues went viral Sunday, with netizens debating his assertion the airport is a blight upon Thailand.
Japanese educational volunteer Koki Aki, who said he has lived in Thailand for almost 10 years, posted his experience at the airport after arriving the night before. In Japanese and Thai, he called Suvarnabhumi expensive and disgusting, and asserted it causes shame for Thailand.
He said he touched down at the airport at 6.30pm and found several closed counters at the immigration checkpoint despite long lines there. He said he waited 30 minutes to pass through.
Passengers wait in line at a taxi counter at Suvarnabhumi airport in June, 2014. (Bangkok Post file photo)
With an ankle problem and carrying three bags, Mr Aki said he was exhausted by the time he arrived at the taxi queue. There he found another long line.
After securing his taxi and loading his luggage, he said the driver told him the fare to Bangkok's Saphan Khwai area was 700 baht, double what he normally pays.
"It is like cheating," Mr Aki wrote.
He said he told the driver to use the meter, but he refused, explaining that the volunteer had chosen a large car that didn't use a meter. So he got out and made a report to a taxi-queue official.
The expat questioned why the driver didn't follow rule on meter use, but the official denied any responsibility for drivers, saying only that Mr Aki was welcome to change cabs if he didn't agree with negotiating a fare. He was then offered an opportunity to file a written complaint.
Speaking with another woman, Mr Aki wrote that he again was told there were different prices for large and small cars and expressed his disagreement, concluding that no one cared about his complaint. He went back in the queue to get another ride.
On Monday, airport authorities banned the driver.
"Here is the national airport and it is the taxi queue at an international airport. There is cheating and no one cares for passengers. What are we, as foreigners, to do?" he wrote on Facebook.
Mr Aki ended his by saying there were many bad things at the airport, such as long lines, unusable elevators, poor service by officials using mobile phone, and taxis refusing to use the meter. Are Thais offering poor services to foreigners at the national airport, the gateway to the country, shaming Thailand, he asked.
Mr Aki's post spread widely on social media, with more than 12,000 shares and 2,600 comments on Facebook after 21 hours. Several media outlets also reported its content.
Among commenters, most Thais expressed regret for Mr Aki's experience, with several people saying they encountered similar problems. Many thanked him for sharing his opinion and said they hope it may draw attention from authorities so they can resolve such problems.
Others, however, viewed his post as unfair, as long immigration queues occur in many countries, including Japan.
On Monday, Mr Aki posted that he was surprised about the response to his Facebook post and said did not want to make Thais think they he wrote it because he hates Thailand. He said he considers the country a second home and thinks only 1% of Thais hurt the country's image.
Mr Aki said he has volunteered to work on help improving education in communities and has tried to encourage children to be strong and overcome poverty through education.
"This is my way of life and I have a reason to talk about the problem of Thailand," he wrote.