Delhi Airport immigration priority for Business & First travellers discontinued

The standard security and immigration template across airports in India has been to provide exclusive queues for business and first-class travellers. The underlying logic is clear. Mostly business people would pay for the premium cabin travel and they would arrive later than the tourists due to work commitments. Hence, the special queues help them go through the security theatre quicker and be at the gate in time for the flight.

Since they usually pay 4-5 times the normal economy traveller at least, they sure should get value for that money in terms of priority access and this is the norm in a lot of places. However, ever so often so, someone comes along with a more idealistic equalising viewpoint and then this pack of cards falls apart. Two years ago, the special security screening for premium passengers was withdrawn and then restored.

Now, it seems the Immigration authorities have taken a similar view at Delhi Airport. Immigration thinks that there is no need for special queues for business class passengers when economy passengers face heavy queues. Apparently, only crew and diplomats will now get priority clearance.

This move is ill-reasoned and I don’t see why an equalisation is being applied. And the apparent belief is that if Delhi will settle in with this move, the separate counters at Mumbai and other airports will also go away. What needs to be done is to move to a technology initiative where at least residents/Indian Passport holders can just pass through immigration with a smart card or scanning their passport.

Ultimately, airports which do not have separate processes for premium passengers do not leave a great image in my head. Like New York JFK or any other American airport, where I’ve queued up for two hours after some very long flights in Business & First Class more than once to get through immigration checks.


If you’re flying abroad from Delhi, come ahead of time now. This move won’t mean that the Economy queues go shorter. It just means they go longer because even premium passengers would join in. I’d have imagined more officers would sit in to clear the flights quickly, unfortunately, all this means is you wait longer.

About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. As a frequent ‘Business Class’ traveller out of Delhi’s T3 , I must clarify that none of these ‘dedicated’ immigration queues & counters are regulated by the airport staff , and EVERYONE ends up using them , UNLIKE the special queue at security , which is manned by CISF personnel ( who actually check whether you are travelling in premium class or not ).
    I have often seen the immigration staff telling people ( who “act innocent” after reaching the said counters ) , to read the signage above , but they oblige as expected , as sending someone away to stand again in a queue would be a bit extreme.
    In fact , when I was on my way abroad last month , the queue for the First/Business immigration counters was much much longer , 90% of whom were being sent away the moment they reached the dedicated security queue.
    Honestly , despite being a frequent Business Class traveller , I am AGAINST any such special treatment at government controlled checkpoints ( immigration or security ) , unless it is a proposition from their own end ( like Global Entry ) , open to ALL passengers irrespective of the “class” of your travel.

    • Agree with your first part – yes I have observed the same … But disagree in the latter part – Y shud govt controlled chekpoints not give priority to business Class… For example in London Heathrow and Gatwick the airline gives you priority landing cards … The airline pays the govt (the border force in UK in this case).. Its a revenue for the govt and a benefit to their business class customers who most likely wud be honest border crossing subjects… Whats wring in that? The problem is we have a socialist mindset … Cant stand a capitalist view on things!

      • Yes , I too benefit from the ‘fast-track’ services in London,Paris,etc. , but at the same time I believe in them being OPEN to any passenger willing to pay a ‘fee’ for them.
        I guess the end of Delhi’s ( “just for the sake of it” / “open for all” ) designated immigration counters would not pinch me much. I believe what you should be really worried about is the way this was reported by certain sections of the media ( front page news ??? ) , as if this was some sort of a ‘victory’/’relief’ for the ‘oppressed’ passengers at IGI , when in reality it is not going to change anything.

  2. This is crazy. 99.99% of these departure checks nothing abnormal is found … Why not speed up people who are clear and travel multiple times… Have a registered scheme and let them pass through automatically through immigration … If Abroad automated queues have been designed for arrivals (which is a more intense check) why cant they do automated departure checks here in India which is quite a basic check. Passport validity, valid visa for destination ( which anyway shud not be a GOI responsibility- this shud be more an airline responsibility during chek in) and any criminal checks or Interpol alerts. All this can be managed through automated gates.

  3. My understanding is that it will make the overall queues dry up faster because now you have all counters firing at full horse power. Earlier, the passenger/minute ratio on some counters was too less because business/first. It sucks for business, but for economy, they just got a bunch of additional counters for less than 2% increase in queue population.

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