Immigration asks travel writer to leave Bali over 5-hour queue at airport claim

File photo of the Bali airport. Photo: Coconuts Media.
File photo of the Bali airport. Photo: Coconuts Media.

Be careful with what you write.

A foreigner is in hot water after making claims about hellish immigration queues at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport upon his arrival last Friday, in an article titled, “Bali Airport Has Become A Nightmare With Up to Five Hours Immigration Lineups”.

The article was published on travel blog Loyalty Lobby. On a Twitter post promoting the article, the headline and URL link read “Bali Airport Has Become A Total Hellhole With Up To Five Hours Immigration Lineups Stay Away”.

The author of the article is Sebastian Powell, who, according to the website’s About section, is a contributing editor who is originally from Germany and resides in Japan. 

In the article, Powell wrote that he had witnessed what he said was the “the worst situation regarding lineups” he had “ever experienced anywhere in the world”, adding that he has been a frequent air traveler for two decades.

Powell wrote that he had pre-booked an arrival concierge as he was warned about facing long queues, and saw others ”were close to a breakdown after over five hours of standing in line”. He said that he used a fast track service for a fee of IDR420,000 (US$28) and got out of the airport one hour and 15 minutes after arrival. 

“After hearing of other traveller’s tales of woe, it was the best money ever spent in Bali,” he wrote.

Powell mentioned that his colleague, John Ollila, Loyalty Lobby’s founder and main author, arrived in Bali in May this year and also faced a long airport queue (Ollila said in his own article that it took him 90 minutes from landing to exiting the airport after spending one hour in the immigration queue).

Both Powell and Ollila in their respective articles criticized the long process, with Powell saying, “I cannot see any of the people who were stuck in this line today ever coming back to Bali”. Ollila wrote, “Why can’t Indonesia and Bali get their act together, and why are visitors willing to put up with this arrival hell?”

The article caught the attention of Indonesian authorities.

The head of the Bali office of the Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights Affairs, Anggiat Napitupulu, said yesterday that Powell’s claims were untrue, adding that the writer is still in Bali.

“He holds a visa on arrival [valid for] 30 days. We ask him that before 30 days he has to immediately leave Bali or the Indonesian territories,” he said in a press conference at the airport.

Anggiat said based on the bureau’s investigation, it actually took Powell less than an hour to pass through the immigration check.

“During the incident, he did not experience what he said [in the article]. Based on the records from the CCTV cameras provided by [airport operator] Angkasa Pura, between leaving the plane and getting out of the immigration lineup, the time was 53 minutes,” Anggiat said.

“He only told a story based on what other people told him, but he could not verify when it happened [and] where it happened. He only retold what others said. So, we can say that this is a little bit of a made up story,” he added.

Coconuts Bali reached out to Powell via Loyalty Lobby for further comments, but the site responded by stating they “cannot comment on the issue right now.”

Meanwhile, Powell himself has written another article titled “UPDATE: Bali Airport Situation Improving & Arrival Queues To Normalize According To Authorities”, in which he said that he had received statements from the airport’s immigration head who told him that last Friday was “an extremely busy day with almost 9,000 arrivals.”

In the follow-up article, Powell said that Bali authorities “have taken note of the congestion” and “there are now improvements made to ensure the airport experience will be smooth as far as possible.”

“I believe they are trying to do the right thing and things will hopefully get better now,” Powell wrote in his conclusion.

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