On Friday 29th June a travel blogger called Sebastian Powell published an article titled ‘Bali Airport Has Become A Nightmare With Up To Five Hours Immigration Lineups’. In the article, Powell shared images of the busy arrival and immigration hall at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. He made bold statements and shared stories from other travelers who he described as being ‘close to breakdown’ after five hour-long queues.
The article quickly traveled around the internet and caught the attention of Bali Immigration officers and the Deputy Governor of Bali. These accusations of long queues and distraught passengers are not good for the island’s public image.
Authorities launched a quick investigation to see whether Powell’s claims were true. After watching Powell disembark from his Thai Airways flight from Bangkok on Friday afternoon on CCTV, airport authorities could see that his wait time was just 53-minutes; from entering the arrivals hall to being stamped into Indonesia and moving into the luggage hall.
Bali Airport and authorities do not deny that there were longer than usual queues at Bali Airport on Friday afternoon and have spoken to local newspapers about their side of the story from an operational perspective.
The Bali Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Anggiat Napitupulu told local reporters ‘We give Sebastian a warning so that he holds a 30-day visa on arrival (VoA), we ask him before 30 days to leave Bali or Indonesian territory’. He has been asked to leave on the grounds that the five-hour queues did not happen to Powell, since CCTV can prove his processing time was just under an hour and that he didn’t have any first-hand evidence or experience of a 5-hour queue.
Naptiupulu said ‘The person concerned only tells what people say, but he can’t be sure when it happened, where it happened…So, you can say this is a little bit of a makeup story…the person concerned is a German citizen, an international blogger, and previously a tourist. Based on his track record, based on CCTV footage at [Bali Airport], from the time he got out of the immigration clearance [area], was 53 minutes’.
According to Naptiupulu, many people on Friday were processed within 13-minutes of standing in the immigration queue, although he did confirm that some people during peak hours were waiting up to 2 hours to be processed. Naptiupulu and his team could share reasons why queue time is variable and occasionally longer than they would like.
He explained how 16 of the Immigration Counters are undergoing renovations ahead of the G20 Summit in November. He also explained how Friday afternoon is a peak traffic period for the airport with a dozen big international flights all arriving in the early afternoon. He said ‘From 11 am to 2 pm, there are 10-12 large-bodied flights at the same time, so the queue is no more than two hours. However, this is still a normal situation’.
Bali’s Deputy Governor has also made comments about processing times for arrivals at Bali Airport. Deputy Governor of Bali, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, also known as Cok Ace, has visited Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport since Powell’s article was published.
Ace inspected the immigration queue and asked about wait times for passengers. He requested that Bali Airport teams install additional seating designated for those with disabilities in the arrival halls.
Cok Ace said ‘Indeed, the passenger’s goods [luggage] seem to take a long time to process, between 30 minutes to 1 hour. But I have asked and hope that the process of waiting for passenger goods can be accelerated. This is not anyone’s fault, but the mechanism is like that’.
Powell has published an updated story to share the information given to him by Bali authorities including passenger figures, wait times, and the number of arrivals. He praised the authorities for being approachable and sharing explanations with him.
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