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Cash for speed: Dive instructors Kerstin Gundia and Karsten Paetzold

Cash for a Fast Lane at Phuket Airport

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
PHUKET: Immigration officers who suggest that tourists at Phuket International Airport take fast lanes for cash are ''bad for Thailand,'' two Phuket diving instructors say.

Germans Kerstin Gundia, 41, and Karsten Paetzold, 42, told Phuketwan they were asked for $5 Singapore to move to a fast lane after their flight from Singapore landed at Phuket on Thursday.

The arrival hall was crowded with passengers from three or four incoming flights. About 100 people took up the offer and paid.

''I am not sure where the money goes to,'' said Ms Gundia. ''It's a wrong picture. Guests are talking about it. It makes me angry.''

Ms Gundia and Mr Paetzold have visited many parts of the world and never before seen Immigration officials asking for cash on arrival.

Is it corruption? ''I cannot say,'' said Ms Gundia, ''because I do not know who took the money.''

The first-person account by the German dive instructors, who have been working on Phuket for seven months, follows reports from other sources of Thai Immigration officials asking for cash at Phuket International Airport.

Social media is also buzzing with reports that Immigration officials on Phuket ask for cash. Here's a recent one from world's largest travel site, TripAdvisor:

''Finally, when you arrive at Phuket Int Airport, Immigration is very slow. However, two suit clad gentlemen will suggest you join the ''fast queue'' for 100 baht per person ($3.50AUD). A lot of people took advantage of this, however if you wait the processing gets quicker when they realize all the people left aren't going to pay.''

The allegations come as the National Council for Peace and Order cracks down on scams and rip-offs and insists that all Thai officials do their jobs professionally.

Reports this week alleging Immigration officials are now also asking for money as tourists depart Phuket have been denied by a senior Immigration official.

However, Thursday's suggestion by Immigration officials that new arrivals take a fast lane for cash remains fresh in the mind of Ms Gundia: ''What made me really angry is that people go to the new arrivals and ask, 'Where are you from?

'''Do you want to go faster through the lane? You have to pay $5 Singapore for it.'''

Ms Gundia said she thought it was reasonable for people with small children or the elderly to be offered a fast lane service, but the two people moving through the long queues in the arrival hall were making the suggestion to everyone.

Mr Paetzold said the hall was crowded because three or four flights had arrived about the same time.

''It was a long row with little movement,'' Ms Gundia said. ''Then the people came and asked for money. I said, 'What the hell are they doing?'''

Mr Paetzold: ''The male asked, and the female took the money.''

Ms Gundia said there were four fast lanes.

Mr Paetzold: ''You could see people pay and go through in the space of three to five minutes.''

Ms Gundia: ''And the others were standing, standing, standing . . . at least 100 took up the offer. We didn't want to do this.

''It's not because of the money. I had $10 Singapore in my pocket, but I was angry that this happened. This is an ugly picture.''

Guests on other dive excursions have had similar experiences and told other dive instructors about what was happening at Phuket International Airport, Ms Gundia said.

''This is what tourists first see in Thailand,'' she said. ''OK, you can pay, you can do anything here . . .''

The dive instructors were among the first off their flight but as they stood in the queue, they realised that passengers further back were paying to go through the fast lanes.

''And when there were no more takers for the fast lanes,'' Ms Gundia said, ''then everybody was allowed to use all the lanes.'' The pair said it took them 45 minutes to move through to the baggage collection zone.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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And they give these officers the discretionary powers of who enters Thailand? What a joke

Posted by rich on August 12, 2014 06:55

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welcome to Thailand..where you are asked to hand over money the second you get off the plane...starting right at immigration, then moving on to the taxis who are hawking you as you exit the airport. Once you get to the beach you have jet ski scam artists and other people shoving cheap merchandise under your nose..and don't forget your evening stroll down Bangla where you'll have slo lories pushed in your face and their owners trying to stick you for photos for some ridiculous price...The Land of scams

Posted by sky on August 12, 2014 07:25

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Admittedly unorthodox and most likely unapproved. However, when I fly in and out of BKK I access the fast lane because of my type of air ticket. There was supposed to be a fast lane at HKT. The service is paid for by the airlines and is included in the cost of the ticket for those who pay. There is nothing wrong with the concept as it is a user pays service. Unfortunately, the local immigration officers prefer to pocket the money and not remit it to the government of Thailand, the entity that pays their salaries and benefits.

Posted by Ryan on August 12, 2014 08:07

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I'm waiting for the Col's 'I know nothing abut this, I've only just taken over, I'm sure its not true' response.

Some reporting indicates this is happening OUTBOUND now as well, and not just with the Chinese tour groups. In the current climate immigration are playing a dangerous game buts its the passengers and Phuket's reputation that is suffering. Bangkok's Airports always seems to have pleasant Immigration officers, Phuket's are more dour than those in Communist countries.

Posted by Mister Ree on August 12, 2014 08:11

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This scam has been going on for a while now. The Phuket Airport Immigration chief was asked about this not s long ago and he claimed it wasnt happening. Clearly it is.

Posted by Ciaran on August 12, 2014 08:16

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most important aspect is that they are not afraid of army

do I recall it correctly that immigration got a duty to explain to Army evet incident when not all lanes are open..?

Posted by Sue on August 12, 2014 08:46

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Not just Immigration,taxis or jetski scams, our villa complex is charging us 200 Baht per unit for water!!

Posted by Col on August 12, 2014 08:57

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It's not that I particularly mind paying a small fee(100bt) to report my 90 day visa stay at Immigration Patong. Just that there was no receipt and it's the first time I've ever been charged.

Posted by Hugh Jarse on August 12, 2014 09:07

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We have had a lot of reports from cutomers of this happening the last couple weeks. The immigration boss at the airport has made it clear this is not policy, so of course it's a side earner for the officers, like when they were offering taxi rides as well. It's pretty disgraceful.

Posted by NomadJoe on August 12, 2014 09:16

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On Saturday a friend of mine, a commercial pilot that has lived here for many years, told me he paid to use the "fast lane". I was very surprised to hear that they were still doing this blatant scam with the Army supposedly still in charge. It seems that the scammers, beach people, jet skis, taxi and tuk tuk are not afraid of the Army now. Some things are already going back to business as usual.

Posted by Tim on August 12, 2014 09:22

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This happened to me several months back but its so easily fixed.
The entire place is wired with CCTV - All the people have to do, is watch the CCTV and see who is collecting the money.

But the question begs, does anyone want to investigate? The answer is probably not.

As for asking money for outbound, this has happened to me, and i refused. So the guy took about 15 minutes to wave me through.

Posted by Tbs on August 12, 2014 10:17

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Denied has always been the best defense.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on August 12, 2014 10:45

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Its an absolute disgrace - welcome to Thailand, now hand over your cash.

The chief of immigration says he doesnt know about it. I have been asked to pay, friends have been asked to pay and its in all the news outlets. A disgrace to Thailand.

Posted by Amazing Thailand on August 12, 2014 11:03

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never have used it but in bali where it takes 2 hrs to through immigration it has just gone up from 25 aussie dollars to 35.00 to use the fast lane

Posted by brian on August 12, 2014 11:11

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Bla Bla Bla....Bangkok i pay fast lane service 1000 Bath so 100 is ok. UK 30?? ,Sweden 1000 Kron, Germany 45???.....

Posted by 313 on August 12, 2014 11:51

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@313:
The fast track lane at all UK airports is free to first and business class passengers. Passes are handed out by the airlines. To whom did you pay UK 30??

Posted by Pete on August 12, 2014 12:15

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There are a number of companies advertising VIP services at Thai airports including fast-tracking through customs and immigration, limo pick up etc. Just google it. Is that legal or a scam? Certainly they charge more than 100 baht for the service and someone at the airport is surely taking their cut. It happened to me at HKT airport recently. The man taking the money is hiding behind advertising hoardings - away from CCTV. He was actually laughing when he took the money. Is it a scam? People don't actually HAVE to pay it. And with all things in life, (like say, TOLL roads) you do have the choice and you pay a bit more for a quicker service or more convenience.

Posted by Mr Man on August 12, 2014 12:32

Editor Comment:

The principle with toll roads is clearly understood. To have four airport lanes set aside for fast service when several planeloads of people are crowding the arrival hall is an insult to Thailand, and all passengers. Where does the money go? We are all anxiously awaiting answers.

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100BHT to get through immigration within 5 minutes, I would happily pay 500BHT to get through that quick!!!!
That's just what Thailand is, everything has its price. That is the why thousands of tourists go there, myself included.

Posted by Simon on August 12, 2014 12:39

Editor Comment:

Most tourists to Thailand expect to be dealt with fairly and not have to pay extra. Money may rule your life, Simon, but many of us don't share your priorities.

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"Is it corruption?" No, it's Thailand.

Posted by The Night Mare on August 12, 2014 12:41

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My friends were asked 5 euros for both one week ago......
VIP lane !!!! but airport immigration officer never heard about it !!!
what a shame !

Posted by Anonymous on August 12, 2014 12:55

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(moderated)

Posted by Fiesty Farang on August 12, 2014 12:56

Editor Comment:

Your opinions have little value and are seldom constructive, ff. Don't trouble us with them.

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If I'm on my own then I won't pay it. When I have my family with me after a trip back from Europe (as per last week), I happily paid 200 B to get 5 of us through (they don't charge for kids) rather than wait 45 minutes. The real problem is not the emergence of a fast lane but rather the laborious immigration procedure for each person. Anyone seen how fast the process is in Singapore, HK, Tokyo etc...all of whom I would wager have more arrivals. If the process was faster there would be no need for a fast lane. Frankly, as things currently stand, I welcome it as an option, because that is what it is...an option.

Posted by Marco on August 12, 2014 13:04

Editor Comment:

If there are receipts, it's an option. To devote excessive lanes to ''fast service'' in a crowded arrival hall is a scam.

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Please grant me the chirps of my experience. In Singapore last month my que signaled 35 on the LED Board. After waiting 6 mins my friend I were called to go to a new counter and woep wap we were through.
On arrival back in phukey, we stood in the line like all other cattle class flyers, a woman called my friend and I out the que and again, kul jou hier...kul jou daar, ( now you see it now you dont), we were through immigration. Holy flowers I asked a middle aged immigration women about the special treatment..... the bloody answer was we always see you at immigration for 90 day report, then pointing with the bend finger notion, you Sir are older man because of white beard... giggle giggle. Flip is than an insult or a childlike bit of respect. I did not pay anything other than broard smiles and and s fatherly grin towards all officers.
Hang folks make the folks smile and grin, jt makes others wonder what they been up to? It must be a really crappy job. Flip I smile and the politeness doors open at my feet. So if you have to pay to get in or out, don't BS these folk at immigration, they can smell disrespect from 22135 paces. Stop bleating please.

Posted by Graham on August 12, 2014 13:54

Editor Comment:

It's odd how people who benefit from discrimination are, when the tables are turned, the first to bleat about it. Perhaps the problem is . . . discrimination? (Plus a few other things.)

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This happened to my visiting friend when going home. Waiting for the queue to check in he saw a much faster que. When approaching the que at the check in area a man in a suit approached him and asked for money in order for him to use that particular que. My friend said no thank you.

Posted by Richard on August 12, 2014 14:11

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You run the comment section just to massage your own ego. Let comments be comments otherwise re-name the section AM allowed comments. Get my point Alan.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on August 12, 2014 14:25

Editor Comment:

I don't have an ego, FF. We run the comments section so that readers can share their own experiences and add reliable information. Opinions are not wanted, especially when they're uninformed or based entirely on self-interest. Get the point, FF?

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Reminds me of my trips to Angola and the DRC, hope we are not heading in that direction in other aspects too...

Posted by cosmopole on August 12, 2014 15:16

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(moderated)

Posted by Laurie Howells on August 12, 2014 15:35

Editor Comment:

I don't have an ego, Laurie. Until now, this comment has been unpublished, but let's make it your last:

Ed makes often cowardly comments, simply because he can and knowing he has the last say.

Part of it is true, Laurie. Goodbye.

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My husband and I arrived late on Thursday evening on Air Asia from HK . There were lots of flights from Shanghai and the mainland and the arrival area was packed with visitors including my husband and I who are not tourists as we have a retirement visa . There was no movement in any of the queqe , we waited patiently in a queue for over an hour and moved about 2 meters! I stepped aside as I needed some space while my husband stayed in this long queqe. I did ask a man dressed in a suit who was an Immigration official how long the wait maybe? He said if we paid 100 baht we could use the 'fast lane".

When I said that General Pathyuth would not be happy and we do not break rules he quickly scurried away . His assistant wore a mask and his cap was pulled down so all one could see were his eyes .

It was soo obviously that the Immigration Officers were on a work slow so that the waiting masses would pay to get through this "nightmare" .

Woman with young children were sent through the Diplomatic channel no money was collected! As the throng of mainly Chinese visitors stood in disbelief and watched the slow and inefficient process of gaining entry into the "Tourist Capital" of Thailand we stood wearily , shaking our heads in disgust seeing hoards of people happily paying ( behind a screened off area) meters from the Immigration Officers a lady with fistfuls of 100 baht notes and the man in the suit politely ushering them through with a huge smile on his face .

I wanted to slap him and if I had a camera take a picture of this whole farce and send it to the powers that be !

Posted by Small deeds on August 12, 2014 16:53

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AOT has a Immigration Fast Track program in place.

If you fly Business or First class with certain airlines out of BKK, you will be given a brown coupon resembling a boarding pass with your details printed on.

With this pass you can then go through the dedicated immigration fast track lanes.

The pass is kept by the immigration official and no money changes hands at any stage.

Beyond the obvious, another negative side effect of this Phuket-exclusive arrangement is that by artificially slowing down immigration procedures these officials increase the chances of under the table income.

Hardly a visitor-friendly incentive I'd say.

The fact that camera usage is forbidden in the immigration area works in their favor too.

I wonder how my permission to enter Thailand would be affected if I would attempt to file an official complaint with the person in charge at the airport.

I'm guessing this is the main reason why most do not confront the officials on the spot.

Kudos to this German couple for having the courage to come forward.

Posted by ThaiMike on August 12, 2014 17:13

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FAO: MORISON THE MARTYR aka MORONSON
Censored in your usual childish manner but I think I've read and interpreted it correctly
This will definitely be posted elsewhere ... I call it artistic licence ... ha5ha5ha5
"Editor Comment: [I confirm that] Ed makes often cowardly comments, simply because he can and knowing he has the last say."
PS: Goodbye [again] Laurie ... See you on the other side [again] in the real world ... ha5ha5ha5

Posted by Amazed in Thailand on August 12, 2014 17:51

Editor Comment:

Laurie must be delighted to have your support, AiT.

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" Amazing Thailand! " If one lane can do fast operation and procedure, why the other lanes can't do the same? The reason is easy: if all lanes can do the same faster job, the odd one can't collected money! " The illusion of cute Thailand! "

Posted by james on August 12, 2014 20:12

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I am the volunteer Tourist Police officer at the airport - been working there in my free time for almost 10 years, (I live very nearby).

Despite numerous requests over the years to the airport authorities, I have never been given a security pass to access the immigration hall where these scams occur.

I wonder why......

Simon

Posted by Simon Luttrell on August 12, 2014 21:23

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Ed, the fact you published my comment, simply so you could, once again, make your usual critic is only proof that I am right... I'll wager no one disagrees with me, except you. I really don't care if you post my comments or not, as you well know, it doesn't stop me writing. How an award winning journalist has drop so low only you know why, but I suspect your grasp of reality is slipping.

Posted by Laurie Howells on August 12, 2014 21:58

Editor Comment:

This item is published only to warn well-hinged readers of your state of mind. Your future comments will go unread. Byee.

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Free tip, if you can then do the passport control in Bangkok, for luggage in Phuket you then walk in through the door to international arrivals and then clear it through customs .... most times you save a lot of time this way.

Posted by Sailor on August 12, 2014 22:36

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I was in a queue with literally hundreds of people in the arrival hall Phuket International & I saw many people pay Immigration Officials 100Baht/$5 to go thru a "FastLane"
I went and paid it to get thru otherwise I would of been there for over an hour,
Next time (2 weeks later) I arrived & same deal 4 flights landed at once and Immigration only had 50% of the desks manned - only one man per desk & going very slowly,
Once again I saw the fast lane so I went for it and was told as soon as I got there "finish finish Army come",
Sure enough the Army turned up about 7-8 minutes later,
I went back to join the queue again and it took me 1 hour &45 minutes to clear Immigration,
On the Arrival TV from 21:15 to 22:30 there was 10 more International flights scheduled to come in with once again only 50% of the Immigration desks manned,
Many many people were well and truly pissed off and I even heard some say next time they will go somewhere else.

Posted by Greg on August 12, 2014 23:58

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FAO: MORISON THE MARTYR aka MORONSON
If after all this time and numerous "bans" [and being told never to return as it will not be published] you cannot ascertain whether I'm male or female ... Dimwit or what? ... Not publishing anything [as threatened] gives you the last word you ... "D'oh ... What a dummy"
It confirms my suspicions that you are an obsessed power/control freak and not a team player with serious "attitude" problems that you have failed to control or address ... Numerous examples from other readers relating to this are available on request
Q1: Why would anyone at PW write an article leading readers to the conclusion it was penned by someone other than what could be assumed as being initially factual in the article ... A1:?
Q2: Why would a staffer at PW "leave" a well paid post with [I assume] a future to run a small blog ... A2:?
Your "invention" of the rotating images [allegedly copied by others] was yet another laughable "WORLD EXCLUSIVE" ... Not ... Who did you steal the idea from? ... A real points winner that one ... NOT
The invention of "Caroline" was not your smartest move and left you very exposed regarding your future conduct ... You have left yourself further exposed to litigation and/or other forms of legal action on numerous occasions [again numerous examples available on request] ... At least you now seem to have grasped the importance of using the word "alleged" ... You have ultimate responsibility or what?
Now would be a good time for a PW LEADERSHIP VOTE OF CONFIDENCE POLL? ... "The Group" will even allow you to run the Poll unsupervised [the only concession you will receive] ... Bear in mind though that Laurie [and numerous others] will have a lot more fingers to count than you
Here endeth [for now] with my signature ... ha5ha5ha5

Posted by Amazed in Thailand on August 13, 2014 04:54

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@editor I agree with you about tourists being treated fairly, which is why the majority of the comments on here the tourists did not take up the offer for the paid "fast lane". Money does not rule my life editor but it is what makes the world go round. 100BHT in Australian currency is very very little money, hence why im more than happy to pay it. Ill be travelling through Phuket International airport in November with 5 mates and we are all hoping that the " fast lane" is still operational when we arrive. The quicker we can get through the airport, the quicker we can spend our money in Patong to give the economy a boost!!!

Posted by simom on August 13, 2014 06:19

Editor Comment:

Prosperity without thought has made many Australians slaves to self-indulgence, Simon. Morals no longer matter.

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Amazed in Thailand:
Quite obviously you treat people the way you want to be treated, so doesn't that make you some sort of oddity? I'll go along with Dimwit. I presume the Ed published the comment to stress that, otherwise it's worthless.

Posted by Pete on August 13, 2014 07:19

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As Laurie and the gang Howells (or howls, to be precise) at the moon in frustration the world still turns,and the (wolf) pack mentality falters yet again. A lame, thinly disguised form of bullying aimed squarely at the editor, to attempt to make up for an inherent lack of self-esteem-yech. No thanks.

Posted by farang888 on August 13, 2014 08:47

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A few months back i had the privilege of standing in the immigration line at Phuket airport for an hour and a half. I would have paid 1000 THB to fast track out it.

Posted by Ciaran on August 13, 2014 09:26

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@ Amazed in Thailand "FAO: MORISON THE MARTYR aka MORONSON"

How old are you, seriously? Pathetic. Although I have had some of my comments not placed when I wanted them AM and I move on and the next comments are treated on their merit or not. Amazed in Thailand the world, inc PW is not a utopia and the sooner you learn that the better for your blood pressure. If you do not like PW and/or AM don't read it.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on August 13, 2014 13:44

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FAO: Fiesty Farang
As a matter of courtesy I would advice you that your comments have been read and noted
The only point I would make at this stage is why did you considered it necessary to include in your heading "FAO: MORISON THE MARTYR aka MORONSON"? ... Seriously how old are YOU :-) ... I will ask my teacher if we attend the same school ... ha5ha5ha5
Note to MtM: Should be worth a few more clicks if published ... Every little helps ... "Advertisers please note"

Posted by Amazed in Thailand on August 13, 2014 16:41

Editor Comment:

What's the connection between the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Fiesty Farang? Are you conducting an undercover campaign to promote the UN body on Phuketwan? It's plain, AiT, that subtlety is not one of your strengths. Come to think of it, do you have any strengths? All we continue to see are loopy comments that have no meaning to anyone, except perhaps you.

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OMG, is this comment section about fighting with the Editor or Airport Immigration?
Focus people.
There is another scam at the airport to warn people of.

Posted by John on August 14, 2014 00:34

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To be honest I cannot understand the big deal ! Those who wants to pay a fee to use the Express lane "then go for it, I would....those who are not in a rush then queue up and wait an hour to go through the document check. If you want quick service you always pay for it...perfect example....need a package posted quickly use a courier service , it will arrive max 5 days from abroad...dont want to pay use normal post takes a month or more !

Posted by paul smith on September 10, 2014 09:40

Editor Comment:

There are no receipts and no transparency, paul. If you post apackage you get a receipt.


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