What is it with everyone flying to Thailand recently? In the past 30 days alone, I’ve received three emails from three different readers asking questions about Bangkok airport security.
I’d like to think that the questions are sincere and there isn’t a sudden increase in the number of hooligans trying to smuggle stuff into and out of Thailand or anything.
Therefore, with that positive thinking in mind, the following is extensive guide for transiting through security at Suvarnabhumi airport as quickly (and efficiently) as possible.
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An overview of Bangkok airport security
Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is one of the “smartest” airports in the world. Millions of passengers and more than one million tons of cargo pass through BKK every year.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most flights, BKK was handling an incredible amount of passengers on a daily basis. According to the airport’s 2019 annual report, 64,711,010 travelers passed through security for international or domestic flights. That’s a lot of people to process.
As an international hub, Suvarnabhumi Airport features more than 150 checkpoints. Most checkpoints address passport control, but the airport also has 34 customs-control checkpoints (24 for arrivals and 8 for departures).
The checkpoints can be accessed on Level 4, the Mezzanine level. Of note, two new international checkpoints include body scans and passport checks with the ability to process 7200 passengers per hour!
In other words, BKK security is state of the art. It’s not a place where you want to test whether or not airport scanners can detect drugs.
Special requirements for the checkpoints
Bangkok airport security follows many of the same checkpoint requirements as you will find at other international airports, such as limitations on liquid. Some of the key things to consider include:
- Liquids, aerosols, and gels (LAGs) must be no more than 100 ml and sealed in a transparent plastic bag.
- Sharp objects must go in checked bags.
- Passengers carrying guns and bullets must have appropriate paperwork and notify airport staff at check-in.
- Passengers must remove belts and shoes to send through the x-ray machines.
- Portable batteries and power banks less than 160Wh or 32,000 mAh can go in a carry-on. BKK prohibits lithium batteries larger than 160 Wh or 32,000 mAh.
How long does it take to get through security at the Bangkok airport?
Before boarding your flight, you should leave ample time to pass through the numerous steps of security checks and baggage drop-off. Online check-in is possible and can expedite your experience. Many travelers report a typical wait time for Suvarnabhumi Airport from the time you arrive up to the time you take off. As expected, the times differ based on flight type.
Connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight
The average time for passengers switching from international to domestic flights at BKK is about 75 minutes if you have a single ticket. Travelers with two separate tickets should expect it to take closer to two or three hours to pass through the security checkpoints. Additionally, you may encounter some exceptions if you have unique items to declare with customs.
Connecting from a domestic flight to an international flight
Expect the same amount of time for switching from a domestic flight to an international flight. The general 75-minute timeframe can vary slightly depending on your carry-ons and customs declarations.
Connecting from one international flight to another international flight
Despite its massive size, Suvarnabhumi Airport boasts quick connections from one international flight to another. Unless you have unusual situations with your ticketing or baggage, the process is so streamlined that you can make the transfer in less than an hour.
For the record, the last time I connected from one Thai Airways flight to another (both an international arrival and departure), it took about 30 minutes to get through security. So basically, the best advice I have for you is to plan for the worst but hope for the best.
Arriving at the airport for a domestic flight
Heading to BKK can be overwhelming given all the amenities, but it’s easy to find your way around with its clear signage. Head for level 4 where you can experience BKK’s premium passenger services (which are top-notch I might add). Check-in counters for all airlines and information counters are located here, and you can access a variety of restaurants and shops before entering security.
I suggest arriving three hours before your boarding time to ensure you make it through security and customs with time to spare. Of course, once you pass through security and access the concourses, you can find shops and restaurants to fill any excess time.
Arriving at the airport for an international flight
Arrivals for international flights can expect the same entries and processes for security and customs. It’s best to arrive at least three hours before your boarding time and head straight for Level 4. Bangkok airport security is usually very efficient, but the smart thing to do is get through it as quickly as you can to avoid any potential issues.
Tips to get through BKK (Suvarnabhumi Airport) security fast
Traveling can be hectic for anybody – even seasoned travelers such as myself. However, it helps to have some insider tips for every city and airport you visit. That being said, the following tidbits about Bangkok airport security can make your trip faster and easier.
Choose your travel times wisely
Sometimes you’ll have difficulty scheduling convenient flight times, but if you can manage, try to arrive or take off later at night. The flights between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am usually mean short lines and quick rolls through customs and security.
Additionally, you may want to travel midweek because weekends can be busy at all hours.
Checkpoints might matter
Depending on what you want to do at the airport, you may want to choose a specific checkpoint. For example, the level 3 checkpoints access the lounges (and they usually move faster than those on the shopping level). Use the level 4 checkpoints to get to your boarding gate faster.
Take advantage of the VIP Fast-Track service
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport offers a VIP Fast-Track service to make things easier (and faster). An airport hostess greets you at the skywalk, and a personal assistant guides you through the airport. It’s available to travelers with any ticket class through any airline.
This service allows you to skip the standard immigration lanes, so you don’t have to spend time in customs. For guests arriving at BKK, your guide takes you through the airport, and service ends when they connect you to transport, like a taxi or car.
Travelers departing from BKK may find the premium service advantageous because the guides help you every step of the way until you reach your gate. Airport guides check you in, lead you through the fast track lines, and can even take you to the VAT refund center.
For an additional fee, you can upgrade the service to include a lounge access pass (where you can relax and get a bite to eat before boarding your flight). The VIP lounge option includes light refreshments, fresh fruit, comfortable seating, massage chairs, and even showers. You can spend up to two hours in the lounge.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t even know this service existed before doing the research for this article. Being escorted though an airplane like a rockstar sounds fun, and you can bet your bananas that I’m going to try it next time I fly through BKK.