I’m happy to report that I was able to have a detailed conversation with the Immigration & Government Authorities of Denpasar-Bali Ngurah Rai Airport where I experienced extremely long lines last Friday.
According to the Head of Immigration at the airport, who was able to provide me with current arrival data, authorities are working hard to improve the situation, including having already opened more staff counters.
Last Friday was apparently an extremely busy day with almost 9000 arrivals and there are several peak times we were able to disseminate while looking at the exact numbers and immigration capacity.
International Arrivals are always stretched through a time period between ~ 08:00am- 23:55pm, based on the carriers frequency and newly resumed routes. Many of these are serving as feeder flights from long haul arrivals in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur (among others).
Here is my article from Friday where I used a Concierge arrival service provided the local handling service Gapura. The issue was, that during the peak time I unfortunately hit – with Thai Airways arriving at 14:43 – there were still way more than a thousand people filling the arrival halls with the three stages
- Document Check
- Visa on Arrival Purchase counter
- Immigration Counter Queue
You can also follow all Bali International arrivals on the official website (access here).
In my case, from the time the plane touched down to the time my passport got scanned by the immigration officer it took exactly 1:03h thanks to the pre-booked arrival service that was guiding customers to the crew lane. After that, a few more minutes to leave the airport entirely.
Others were not as lucky. I talked to and overheard passengers in the other, general lineup and tensions flared the further you got to the front with one passenger becoming very irate. Some of these passengers said “they were in the arrivals hall for nearly 5 hours” and while they apparently had some time stamped credit card receipt with that time, I found that an extremely odd and long time.
I was shown actual arrival numbers by the Head of Immigration that make it difficult to believe someone who arrived at 10:00am would still be there at 3pm. At least I wouldn’t know why. As I said in the previous article: Where are all these people coming from?
That being said, to stay with the truth here, if it’s two and a half, three, or five hours (and that’s the realistic minimum for all wait times combined) it’s still way too long, as evidenced by how people were getting out of control.
Here are some interesting stats the airport and immigration authorities were able to provide:
- Total Arrivals on Friday July 29th: 8924
- First flight arrived at 07:57am and the last one at 23:55pm
- Denpasar Interntional Terminal has 32 immigration counters of which 6 were closed entirely on Friday, they have since been reopened as I was assured
- The average time to process one passenger at passport control is accounted with 1 Minute
- On Friday, if the 26 counters were staffed and operated as normal they could have processed 1560 passengers per hour, that is if everything runs smooth. It doesn’t include the time for document check and the visa on arrival purchase procedure.
Last Friday was an anomaly according to the authorities and while the arrivals numbers are known in advance to the airport, things always fluctuate which is totally normal. But several hours wait time to get out of the airport at a holiday destination is too much.
With the additional six counters now opened, 360 more passengers could be processed per hour when all goes smooth, bringing the total capacity to 1920. This is the maximum that can be achieved and if all bottlenecks are removed it might even be possible. I would still reserve the concierge pickup in advance just in case, it’s very little money to have an assurance.
The good news is that the authorities are now taking this matter seriously, and even the highest levels are currently dealing with this situation. I was assured the six counters were already being reopened as of yesterday and staffed as well.
The Head of Immigration, Officer Rachmad, was able to provide me with the following time schedule where passengers can expect things to be busy at Denpasar Airport:
- 06:00am – 13:00pm – Normal
- 13:00am – 15:00 pm – BUSY
- 15:00pm – 20:00pm – Normal
- 20:00pm – 22:00pm – BUSY
- 22:00 > – Normal
Based on this, you might be able to time your arrival in Denpasar at a more convenient time slot IF you’re not coming from overseas and arrive by connection. There are several flight options from regional airports each day in case you originate there, and based on the experience at the moment, the afternoon and late evening are periods to avoid. Nevertheless, flights can always be delayed, so nothing is set in stone.
Friday is definitely the peak day according to airport authorities, another data point to consider.
I had two friends who coincidentally arrived this morning via Scoot from Singapore and arrived at 9:50am. It was smooth, much better than last week, and not even a comparison. With the Concierge Service, they were through in 15 minutes. Some readers also reported their varying experiences in the comments. This proves the point, the arrival time is what matters.
Bali started to welcome the first tourists post-pandemic in January, then with a short quarantine that was later reduced to simply showing a vaccination certificate and purchasing a Visa on Arrival for US$35.
Bali did take the right step to now welcome vaccinated international tourists. As I said previously the island has suffered for two years, and many hotels are even abandoned. I met many Balinese people who were working on cruise ships since July of last year and their stories from back home were heartbreaking.
I also think that the central government in Jakarta has not supported Bali as much as they could have. Insisting on one policy for a country as big as Indonesia, let alone with an island exclusively depending on tourism, never made sense. Even Thailand separated Phuket, Samui and the Mainland, realizing they need a simplified approach and entry procedure for tourism destinations to restart the industry. The result was the Sandbox.
Finally, Bali was allowed to formulate their own arrival and visitor plan. Now let’s hope all these bottlenecks are being improved (hopefully exiting the Island will be faster) and be happy that BALI IS BACK!
Bali authorities at the airport as well as the airport administration, have taken note of the congestion that occurred last week on at least one occasion (Friday) and there are now improvements made to ensure the airport experience will be smooth as far as possible.
This situation was of concern to me. I’m surprised that the authorities were very approachable and able to provide me with figures. The Head of Airport Immigration with whom I met personally was able to show me data with flow figures that helps to plan a bit easier. I believe they are trying to do the right thing and things will hopefully get better now.