By Orville Williams
Travellers to Antigua and Barbuda could soon benefit from quicker airport processing times, as a travel authorisation portal is currently being developed to improve ease of arrival into the country.
Long lines at the VC Bird International Airport are certainly not a new phenomenon, but the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has certainly exacerbated that issue, due to new requirements like Covid-19 test results, vaccination verification and – not so new, but more important these days – travel history declarations.
“The object is to have [those documents] in electronic format, so that it could reduce significantly the number of minutes one spends in front of the port health authorities here in Antigua.
“For example, you may not think that two extra minutes would make a difference, but two extra minutes for [hundreds] of people disembarking from an aircraft on a Saturday afternoon would make a significant difference to the person who is at the back of the line, or for the airline that has just discharged [similarly, hundreds] of passengers,” Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst explained.
The staff at the airport, both from the port health and the operational side (customs, immigration etc) have had their hands full since Antigua and Barbuda reopened its borders to international travel and flights began to return frequently, so this portal could prove a vital tool from that standpoint.
“It would help to make the operations at the airport far more efficient… by submitting those documents electronically before your arrival, it will give the officials the opportunity to merely tick your name to show that you have [already] presented the documents to them.
“They would have seen [them] on the portal and there may not be any need for you to actually [present them physically] when you get to the desk,” Hurst said.
Other Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, have already established similar online travel portals toward the same objective.