SINGAPORE – Delays were observed across land and air checkpoints for more than four hours on Friday, due to a disruption to the immigration clearance system.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) announced the disruption on Facebook at 11.28am on Friday, adding that it “regrets the inconvenience caused to travellers and seeks their understanding and patience”.
The agency said in a 3.58pm update that immigration clearance at all checkpoints had returned to normal.
“We are investigating to establish the root cause of the system issue,” ICA added.
Earlier, ICA said at 2.03pm that travellers at Changi Airport were being redirected to manned counters for immigration clearance, as all automated departure lanes in all four airport terminals were affected by the disruption.
It added that some automated lanes at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints were also affected, but there was no disruption to immigration clearance at coastal checkpoints.
“We have recalled off-duty officers to provide additional support to manage the situation and to ensure law and order,” ICA said, adding that travellers at checkpoints were advised to cooperate with on-site officers and to factor in additional time for immigration clearance.
On Facebook and Twitter at about 12.30pm, Changi Airport said that “passengers should expect delays and approach our ground staff if assistance is needed”.
A spokesman said the airport was assisting passengers at its terminals and giving priority to those with “imminent” flights.
In an earlier update at 12.03pm, ICA advised travellers to postpone all non-essential travel.
Official updates would be put up on ICA’s Facebook page, it added.
Motorists entering Singapore through the land checkpoints before noon had griped online that they had been left waiting in the queue with no reprieve in sight.
In a Facebook group for Malaysians who work in Singapore, several people had posted photos of long lines of vehicles on the Causeway, and of people in the immigration hall.
At Woodlands Checkpoint, a traveller who wanted to be known only as Ms Misha observed that all the automatic lanes were down. The customer service officer left at about 2pm after clearing immigration, almost half an hour after she reached the Singapore checkpoint.
Long queues had formed at Changi Airport as well, with throngs of people waiting to enter departure gates.
When The Straits Times visited the airport just after 12pm, the departure area at Terminal 3 just before the automated clearance gates was packed, with an announcement blaring through the public address system apologising for the delays.
Two queues – each about 50m long – leading up to the departure area had formed as well.
In contrast, ST did not observe any queues at Terminals 1, 2, and 4.
Mr Steven Chen, 49, who works in the IT industry, was with a group of friends at the airport on Friday morning to see one friend off.
He said they had just finished their meal at an eatery in Terminal 3 at around 11am when they heard the announcement over the PA system about the system issues.
Their friend, who was flying with a two-year-old child, took about an hour to get into the departure area even though they were given priority.
“They started queueing at about 11.45am, and reached the front of the queue only at about 12.30pm,” he said.
“It took them another 10 to 15 minutes to clear the automated gates.”
Meanwhile, Ms Margaret Page, 58, said she had a much smoother experience while in the queue.
It had taken all of about 15 minutes for the Canadian to pass through the departure gate after she first started queueing.
“This is my second time in Singapore but, the last time I was here, things weren’t like this.
“Technical issues do happen now and again, and I think it was quite thoughtful of the airport staff to give those of us in the queue a bottle of water,” she added.
Changi Airport Group (CAG) said on Friday afternoon that “a small number of passengers missed their flights”, and CAG assisted these passengers with rebooking their flights and other arrangements.
“Changi Airport managed queues during the disruption and provided drinks and biscuits. We regret the inconvenience caused and thank our passengers for their patience and understanding,” its statement added.
Additional reporting by Jefferson Lin Zi Xuan, Judd Siow Rui Bin and Josiah Teo
ALSO READ: ICA to roll out more automated lanes for travellers at checkpoints
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.