FOR THE second week running, visitors to Cyprus have complained about the chaos at the passport control area at Paphos airport on a Wednesday, with no let-up in sight as the summer season looms.
One of Wednesday’s arrival, a frequent visitor who did not wish to be named, told the Cyprus Mail on Saturday that hundreds of arrivals were subjected to delays of over two hours “just to reach the border control desk” this past Wednesday, the day with the heaviest traffic in charter flights in and out of Paphos.
“Even before we took off and still sitting on our plane in the UK we were informed that there was a delay of 50 minutes in taking off due to delays at Paphos airport because of a backlog, making our journey an additional two hours and 50 minutes longer,” the tourist said.
“This treatment of tourists is fast becoming the norm for those who wish to holiday in Paphos.”
He added that the chance for Paphos to grab a larger section of the tourist trade was an “opportunity missed” by those in authority at a time when turmoil and threats to tourists in many volatile holiday destinations were making people look to safer holiday havens. “Paphos is ensuring that they [tourists] don’t come here with this chaotic treatment”.
Photos provided show in one instance queues of tourists on arrival, waiting to actually enter the airport, but does not show another 50 metres or more of queue on the tarmac “before the cattle pens”, the visitor said.
Another photo shows the mayhem that greets the tourist when they eventually get into the airport building to find 10 rows of zig-zag cordons with hundreds of people still in front of them, before eventually getting to an immigration desk. The visitor said only 7 of the 12 desks were manned on Wednesday.
“Many of those in the queues had remarked that they were coming to Paphos for the first time as they had regarded it as a safer choice of destination but now vented their regret and dismay at having chosen Paphos and remarking they would not be back again,” he said.
“This was torturous treatment of tourists, and in particular the elderly and the very young.”
The tourist said during two recent visits he experienced similar delays. On a previous occasion last November, having arrived at the airport two hours before take-off, people were standing in queues for almost two hours and had still not reached security checks when the PA system called for remaining passengers to board the flight.
“With the assistance of a security official we were dragged with hand luggage in disarray and half-dressed through the scanning process then rushed to the head of the queue through the immigration checks and hastily dashed holding one’s trousers up with passport and tickets clenched in teeth up to the departure gate,” he said.
He also said it was not enough of an excuse to blame it on security due to terrorism. “We all appreciate that some addition security is necessary but not two hours and 50 minutes extra.”
The visitor said tourists were not really interested in the culture of blame between the parties concerned for the mayhem, be it the holiday companies that fly too many planes in and out at the one time on Wednesdays and Sundays, or airport operator Hermes allowing too many holiday companies to operate during one short window of time while they cannot cope. “Just get it fixed, and quick, or lose your much needed tourist trade,” he warned.
Last week the Sunday Mail highlighted a similar scene the previous Wednesday. Passengers, many of them frail and elderly, were herded into a confined space towards understaffed passport control desks and kept waiting for hours.
Wednesdays and Sundays are particularly busy days for Paphos airport as most of the budget airlines such as easyJet, Thomson and Ryanair fly on those days. Paphos had handled 15 flights that Wednesday, a number that will increase when the summer season officially kicks off next month.
Hermes has expressed sympathy for the passengers and highlighted the need for more staff and updated software to facilitate swifter passport control checks that they had long asked for.