Clearly, Chiang Mai’s Airport was designed in a quieter age, when back in those days not so very many tourists passed through it. Nowadays, the maintenance and the facilities there are both grossly inadequate to cope properly with the vastly-increased passenger traffic. It is high time that some of the money all these additional, free-spending tourists bring to Chiang Mai was spent on upgrading the airport – which, after all, they all pass through.
To begin with, and especially now that there are huge and growing numbers of group and individual passengers transitting this airport on direct flights to and from Mainland China, the physical facilities there are simply not built to a scale to cope with them all. There’s generally a long queue to even enter the departure halls, as not enough luggage scanning areas are provided. The same can be said for Immigration and Customs – there aren’t enough desks, and anyway very often some of the few desks that are provided are unmanned, even during busy periods. More desks and more staff on duty are obviously needed, especially at peak times.
Waiting in the departure hall is too often a nightmare. There are nowhere near enough seats for the thousands of passengers awaiting their flight. People have to sit on the floor. In that departure hall, there’s nowhere to exchange currency. There’s nowhere to get a meal, only a few coffee shops, of course with no empty seats available. The only signboard provided there lists flight arrivals – a completely useless provision in the departure hall!
When I recently took an early-morning flight from Chiang Mai Airport, to my horror I found that there was nowhere open in the whole airport to even get a cup of coffee!
The departure hall, filled as it is very often with hundreds of seat-less people milling around, has many sections blocked by piles of discarded packing boxes left out in what should be walkways. Few airports in the World, even in the Third World, would be so poorly-managed that such a mess would be allowed. So why does it happen here?
On a recent day, only a couple of the 14 bright overhead lights were actually switched on in the teeming departure hall, meaning the lighting was too dim for waiting passengers to be able to read. Perhaps that’s why there is nowhere in the departure hall to buy a newspaper, book or magazine, to help kill time while awaiting your flight?
The state of the toilets, of which there are nowhere near enough to cope with such great crowds of people, were a scene of horror! Long queues are seen awaiting them. Until more are provided – many more – then those few that are used need to have almost constant maintenance (i.e. cleaning) to cope with such high usage.
All these areas for improvement, listed above, can and should be addressed soon. An airport is the first and last place seen by travelers. What does it say about the otherwise nice city of Chiang Mai, to have travelers experience the many problems currently besetting the airport here?