It’s safe to say that customs queues at Australian airports are at times long and kind of annoying, but would you be willing to pay a fee to pass through them a little quicker?

A new study conducted for the Tourism and Transport Focum (TTF) by Airbiz identified several ways in which the Government can speed up the customs lines, one of which was to offer a fast track-type fee for those willing to pay.

According to Tourism and Transport Forum Chief Executive, Margy Osmond, the current state of Australia’s airport queues are damaging the country’s reputation as a welcoming destination, and changes need to be made if Australia wants to be equal to or better than global competitors.

In a statement, she explained that while the industry including gateways such as Sydney Airport, spend millions to attract visitors and improve the arrival and departure experience, the Government is yet to step in and do its part to turn around the current “forgettable border experience”.


““If we are to meet our goal of being one of the world’s leading visitor destinations, we need to ensure that every part of the visitor experience, including the critical first and last impressions, is equal to or better than our global competitors.”

Margy Osmond, Tourism and Transport Forum Chief Executive

“The fact that three in five people (60 percent) stepping off an aeroplane in our international terminals are return visitors to Australia, it is vital to our visitor economy that we provide the best experience possible to keep them coming back again and again.”

That’s where the TTF ‘Welcome to Australia! Improving the International Experience at the Border’ report comes in.

The study identified several problem areas where the Government could improve airport operations to meet international best practice, including new biometric technology that automatically identifies travellers and focuses on those of greatest potential risk; or an expansion of the current Smart Gate technology to enable passengers from ‘low-risk’ countries or children under 16 to pass through faster.

There was also the suggestion of digital data-gathering to eliminate the need for Outgoing and Incoming Passenger Cards as well as the merging of the four agencies within the Australian Border Force and the outsourcing of the Tourist Refund Scheme to free Australian Border Force staff for more pressing tasks.


A standout suggestion was the introduction of a ‘premium facilitation’ channel, through which travellers can pay for faster processing. TTF believes this service would reduce the number of travellers using general clearance queues, while also generating revenue.

And finally, the report suggested introducing a new baggage tracking system, which enables pre-cleared passengers to collect their baggage ‘on-demand’ instead of waiting for long periods at baggage carousels.

What would pay for all these changes?

Ms Osmond said revenue already generated by the Federal Government’s $1 billion holiday tax – the Passenger Movement Charge – as well as potential earnings from the proposed premium processing service and efficiencies from other measures, could go towards the technology improvements recommended in the report.

“The money is certainly already there to create more efficient borders, and much better passenger experiences.”

Margy Osmond, Tourism and Transport Forum Chief Executive

“It’s time for the Federal Government to jump on board and work with industry to make the Australian border experience one of the best in the world.”

So, would you be willing to pay a fee to fast track through airport queues?