Tired of long queues at airport

| 17/10/2016

Why is so much money being spent on an airport expansion when all of the immigration booths are not even manned at peak times? I returned at 2pm on a Sunday. There were five empty immigration windows. Apparently it is not in their financial interests to staff all of the booths. Well, of course not everyone gets through eventually! But the tourists I hear from are frustrated by the wait and it constantly hits the tourist forums as a negative for Cayman. I think we should invest in manning all booths so that we can be “CaymanKind” and give them (and us!) the fastest way through possible. Also, once you get to customs, the “goods to declare” no longer has its own line, so those without goods to declare end up waiting/complaining/grumbling longer than ever. All of those booths were also not staffed at that peak time.

Auntie’s answer: I am sure that everyone reading this question has at one time experienced a long wait at the immigration and/or custom booths at the airport. The last thing anyone wants to have to do after a flight, whether short or long, is stand on a queue, even more so for tourists anxious for their holidays to begin.

Since the reader cited two different departments, I approached both immigration and customs for their explanations of this issue.

On the immigration side, an official explained that staffing at the airport depends on such factors as scheduled flights and approximate flight loads.

“Although we do have some challenges with the availability of human capital, we maintain our commitment to endeavour towards providing the best delivery of service possible,” he said. “In general, the weekend encompasses our busier travel days, and as such is an operational priority for us.”

The official added that there are 12 booths in total for immigration at the airport. While I was unable to confirm the arrival date that prompted the reader’s question, which the representative said would help to identify any “operational anomalies” that might have affected service at that time, he provided the following roster for personnel working the booths for every Sunday in October:

2 October  – nine officers
9 October  – 12 officers
16 October  – nine officers
23 October – 10 officers
30 October – nine officers

He also pointed to the ongoing expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport. “The immigration arrival hall has been downsized temporarily to accommodate construction, and we thank the travelling public for having patience with us during this time.”

I admit to feeling a bit cynical about the official’s expressed gratitude for everyone’s supposed patience, but I do appreciate receiving an explanation of sorts.

Now let’s turn to customs. A department representative said they are working to improve passenger flow without reducing the effectiveness of custom controls. He said that over the next few weeks the department will be establishing what is commonly referred to as a “red/green system”, which will separate the queues into “goods to declare” and “nothing to declare” to alleviate long wait times.

In addition, the official explained, “Customs has been conducting a series of simulation exercises to identify and address any operational issues prior to officially implementing the new system. This will include increasing the staffing level, in particular during the peak hours of arriving flights.”

The plan is to have this new system in place by the start of the high season. The department will be announcing more details of these changes “in due course”.

While there is lots I could probably say about efficiency, or lack thereof, at the airport, I am choosing to take the high road and adopt a wait-and-see approach in the hopes that the proposed improvements have the desired effect.

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Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I have never entered any country that immigration and customs lines are not long. It’s a process and every traveller expects delays when they get to this point in their travel so what’s the fuss about?

  2. Graham Walker says:

    A couple of months ago I flew in to Fort Lauderdale in the evening. The passengers were herded like animals (really) into buses to get to the terminal. Then immigration and customs. It took two hours, not a minute less and no exaggeration to be able to walk out of the airport to greet family. I hope I can say Never again even if it means not travelling on that airline again to avoid that airport. I will not complain about Oweb Roberts.

    Graham Walker

  3. Anonymous says:

    Expect even longer waits in Customs as they have the dog sniffing your baggage before you get it off the carousel. Especially on flights from Jamaica. Seeking the herb.