It’s a bad first impression at TIA

Kathmandu, September 10

The year’s peak tourist season has begun, but Tribhuvan International Airport continues to leave a lasting terrible first impression for those flying to Nepal for the first time.

Long queues, rude behaviour of immigration officials and mismanagement greet passengers at TIA, which handles at least 30 incoming international flights daily.

“I had to wait for nearly one-and-a-half hour to get a 15-day tourist visa on arrival at the airport,” a traveller from the United States said.

There are 20 counters at the immigration hall, but only three officials are assigned to process hundreds of passengers who arrive in Kathmandu just for a 15 to 30 days’ stay. “The 15-day visa line was very long and everyone there looked very confused and tired,” said the American passenger.

To begin with, passengers have to wait for an hour to fill a visa form as there are only seven electronic kiosks at the immigration hall. “After filing the form, foreigners have to stand in queue again to pay visa fee at a bank counter. They again join a long queue to get other visa formalities processed,” a TIA officer said.

Travellers also complain about the poor communication skills of immigration officers. “They often ask only one question – are you a first-timer? They do not even look at the travellers’ faces,” a station manager for an international airline said.

Lack of coordination among different departments also makes the situation worse, said Madhusudan Acharya, president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents. “Immigration officials must mend their ways,” he added.

Apart from this, baggage collection is another nightmare, according to tourism entrepreneurs.

“TIA is utterly chaotic with stinking toilets and congested seating areas.”

A long wait at the immigration counters is inevitable for arriving passengers, admitted Uddhav Bhattarai, chief of TIA Immigration department.

This is because of the lack of sufficient number of visa registration machines at the immigration hall, he said. “Getting through immigration can take more than an hour, depending on the pressure of arriving passengers.”

Asked what the department was doing to address the problem, Bhattarai said he wanted to add at least 10 more machines to facilitate passengers.

“But, passengers must wait to pay the visa fee at a bank counter,” he said, adding that those who arrived with valid visas wouldn’t have to wait for a long time.

In a recent move, the department, banned the use of Facebook and YouTube at the immigration hall after most immigration officers were found to be busy with social media activities instead of serving travellers.