The crowd at Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s international departure hall recently. Pix courtesy of NST Reader

PUTRAJAYA: THE Immigration Department, which has been forced to grapple with massive congestion at the country’s main gateway during peak seasons, sees only one solution to the problem — more autogates.

Immigration director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said the autogates for Malaysian passport holders at Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s (KLIA) departure hall could not cope with high traffic.

He said the department had discussed the matter with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and autogate vendors.

“The long queues at security and Immigration counters, such as the queues during Hari Raya holidays, were because of the high volume of people.

“It has nothing to do with our officers failing to adhere to standard operating procedures.

“It’s normal to see crowds like that during festive seasons. Like traffic jams on highways, the same thing happens at KLIA.

“One of the measures to address this issue is to add more autogates.

“We have met MAHB and vendors. We hope this move will ease the flow of passengers in the future,” Mustafar told the New Straits Times.

He said the number of additional autogates would be determined later.

He said Malaysians who were barred from leaving the country due to their failure to settle payments with the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), Inland Revenue Board (IRB) and Malaysian Insolvency Department made the bottleneck worse.

“That is why we’ve made a deal with PTPTN to open a helpdesk at KLIA to help us deal with those blacklisted from travelling due to unsettled payments.

“We are also working with IRB and the Malaysian Insolvency Department to address the issue of blacklisted passengers.”

Mustafar said 128 Immigration officers were on duty during peak seasons at 46 counters at the departure hall and 40 counters at the arrival hall, adding that the department tried its best to clear queues within 30 minutes.

He was responding to videos and images of long queues at KLIA during the Hari Raya break that went viral.

An MAHB spokesman said the airport management had deployed a “customer experience management team” to manage the queue by ushering people and helping passengers, especially those travelling with small children and the elderly.

“We are also helping Immigration by giving them early information of passenger numbers to help them manage the counter load, depending on the peak waves for arrival or departure.

“The airport management is continuously monitoring the queue and alerting Immigration when the queue begins to build up,” the officer said.

The spokesman said passengers were reminded to be at the airport early to avoid disruption and delays to their flight processing.

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