Coffee, tea or passports? Garuda Indonesia extends in-flight immigration service to China

Coffee, tea or passports? Garuda Indonesia extends in-flight immigration service to China

Travelers can skip airport queues, and it's free
immigration on board
In-flight immigration takes 60 seconds, compared to an hour or more on the ground.

Garuda Indonesia (印尼鹰航) is planning to launch “Immigration on Board” (IOB) services on its Shanghai-Jakarta route in the second half of 2012.

Two Indonesian immigration officers will travel aboard the daily flight to process visa-on-arrival applications for non-Indonesian passengers.

The service is free-of-charge, and passengers only need to pay the standard visa-on-arrival cost (US$25 for 30 days) for Indonesia.

This makes Garuda the first airline to run IOB on flights out of China, according to a company spokesman. The Indonesian flag carrier has yet to reveal the exact month when it will commence the service.

So how does this work?

Garuda first launched this time-saving program in February 2010 on its Tokyo-Denpasar-Jakarta route and has since expanded the service to flights from Osaka, Amsterdam, Sydney and Seoul.

Passengers can opt to buy an IOB voucher while checking in at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

During the flight, the immigration officers conduct passport checks for passengers with vouchers and then issue a visa-on-arrival.

Passengers will receive a special pass card after they are granted visa clearance; upon arrival, they can skip the lines by submitting the pass card directly to ground immigration officers.

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According to a YouTube video filmed by a Garuda passenger, the officers push trolleys along the aisle of the aircraft and clear passengers' passports one-by-one. Each application takes around one minute to clear.

The “Million Chinese Visitors” plan

The Shanghai-Jakarta IOB service is not only a way of saving Chinese travelers’ waiting time in Jakarta International Airport and Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport -- where many Chinese travelers fly to via Jakarta -- but also to boost the Indonesian government’s “Million Chinese Visitors” plan.

The Indonesian government is hoping to attract one million mainland Chinese tourists annually by 2014. The target is double the number of Chinese who visited in 2011.

Mari Elka Pangestu, Indonesian Minister for Tourism and Creative Economy, told China Daily that the global economic crisis would not have a significant impact on the country's tourism as the government has diversified its market to emerging Asia, including China.

Bali ranked as one of the most desired travel destinations for mainland Chinese tourists in 2011.

Garuda Indonesia currently operates five round-trip flights between Jakarta and Beijing every week, and seven between Jakarta and Guangzhou.

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