Indian travelers leaving for international holidays and foreign tourists arriving in the city have been facing long immigration queues as the city’s airport struggles to cope with the holiday rush.
An airport official said long queues and slow movement of passengers have become a common sight over the past week.
The number of passengers normally shoots up by 25% to 30% during this period and the average waiting time in immigration queues has almost doubled to 90 minutes, the official added.
Some angry passengers shared their experiences on social media. Rohit Sharma, a traveler from London, wrote on Sunday, “Parents and crying kids are standing for hours, e-visa arrival at Mumbai airport [has] very long queues, rude officials.”
According to his subsequent tweets, Sharma, his wife and their child almost missed their connecting flight because of the long queues.
“It’s an irony that the PM announces e-visa and visa on arrival but there is no groundwork to back it, officers don’t have a clue,” read another of his tweets.
Shortage of immigration staff has been one of the major problems the airport has faced since the opening of Terminal 2, 22 months ago.
Despite several requests by the airport operator to increase manpower, the problem remains, said an airport source.
Hindustan Times had reported on December 7, 2013 that the airport operator had foreseen problems well before the terminal opened. Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) had written
to the home ministry for 393 additional immigration officers after the number of counters in T2 rose from 81 to 142.
Frequent fliers said that ensuring smooth immigration is one of the primary responsibilities of any airport.
“What is the point having a swanky airport if the transit time is painfully long?” said Kartik Goswami, a Malad resident who often travels abroad on work. He added that as most international flights take off or land in the early hours, immigration delays add to fliers’ travel fatigue.
Aswati Dorjee, foreign regional registration officer (FRRO), Mumbai, who heads the immigration bureau at the city’s airport, did not respond to HT’s calls and a text message.