Travel Comment

Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Jim Eagles: Airport queues in the firing line

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Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

There's nothing worse than at the end of a long, largely sleepless, flight to be greeted by a long, slow-moving immigration queue.

You're tired and grumpy and all you want is to get to your hotel, have a shower and crash. But instead you have to queue like cattle with a lot of other tired, grumpy people who also need a shower waiting to be processed by immigration officers who feel pretty much the same.

I was reminded of this the other day while chatting on the ferry to a fellow traveller, recently returned from the United Arab Emirates, who complained that at Dubai Airport "queuing for immigration for 50 minutes is pretty much standard".

Worse still, he added, "at one or two in the morning you sometimes have to queue for over an hour".

I haven't experience that myself because - and I hope I don't sound smug - the last time I went to Dubai I got VIP treatment and was whisked right through all the controls, into a limousine and off to the airport hotel and a comfortable bed.

The worst immigration queue I've ever experienced was at London Heathrow where the line of passengers went all the way through the cattle-stalls, across the hall, down the corridors and almost back to the arrivals area. And to make matters worse the air conditioning had broken down and there was a line of off-duty immigration officers watching through a window, drinking tea and laughing. They're lucky it was armoured glass.

I've also had to put up with long immigration queues at both Sydney and Brisbane Airports and at Sydney _ though hopefully that may be easier now I've got one of the new passports so I can use the SmartGate _ on one occasion when I was only in transit there was even a long queue for the X-ray machine.

In the past I've had similar problems at Auckland Airport, especially when delayed flights have resulted in a mass arrival of passengers, but since the new immigration area opened and the airport introduced a new streamlined system of processing I've been very impressed. Singapore and Hong Kong are also places where you rarely have to wait.

I simply can't understand governments and airports who fail to understand how important it is to make tourists feel welcome on arrival (and, for that matter, on departure).

Where's the sense in spending a whole lot of money inviting tourists to your country and then getting their visit off to a bad start (or finish) when they do?

What airports have the worst immigration queues in your experience?

- NZ Herald

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