You hope off a plane and the first person you come face-to-face with is an Immigration Officer. This time, they were all dressed in black— a colour that can be so intimidating at times. At John F. Kennedy Airport, there are more than 30 immigration booths, with sub-booths at the sides. Most were vacant at the time. You approach the area, a line is formed but are immediately told that there are officers at other booths awaiting persons to be seen. These booths look after foreigners or non-U.S citizens.
You have a choice of booths to choose from and eventually an officer calls out to you. You step up to the booth and are warmly greeted. He takes your passport, asks one or two brief questions. “Is this your first visit to the U.S.?” “Yes”, is the response. “What took you so long, man?” he asks with a smile. You respond; he scans the passport and then stamps it and says, “Well, enjoy, have a good one”.
The exchange is warm and cordial; professional and befits the best police force in the world. From stepping off the plane to getting through Immigration takes no longer than 3 minutes.
Cheddi Jagan International Airport races back to your mind. You would be standing in a long line; two booths with about four officers in operation. The long, drawn- out process is tiresome and gets on your nerves. You remember one time when you arrive at the immigration line and then see officers coming in to occupy positions in booths. The average time to clear immigration is about 30 minutes in Guyana, with much of that spent waiting in an immigration line. Sickening.
You say that it is unfair to compare a third world airport with a first world airport. But both airports are international airports that process international passengers daily.
Tourists get a bad impression for the country for the first time when they go through situations like this. Immigration officers are the first people tourists, visitors and passengers interact and interface with in any country. The attitude and efficiency with which they approach their jobs is of importance.
We in Guyana have a very, very far way to go. Even in other Caribbean nations, the standards are higher. America is a great country, with a name to uphold. They give the best to the world. Their systems are the best and of the highest quality and efficiency. No argument there. The thing is, how will Guyana and other countries learn to improve its own services, starting with the quality delivered at its international airport.
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