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Airports express frustration with border protection arrangements

written by Jordan Chong | November 24, 2014

SmartGate gives eligible travellers the option to self-process through passport control. (Customs & Border Protection Service)
SmartGate allows eligible travellers to self-process through passport control. (Customs & Border Protection)

Although airports are doing what they can to streamline the way travellers move through the terminal, airport operators say border processing remains one factor that is beyond their control.

Perth Airport chief executive Brad Geatches highlighted his frustration with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service on a recent day when 500 arriving international passengers from Emirates, South African Airways and Qatar flights had to wait 53 minutes to be processed.

“Stand in a queue for 53 minutes and see how that feels. It’s appalling and it’s a disgrace to our nation and a discredit to our industry,” Geatches told delegates at the Australian Airports Association national conference on the Gold Coast on Monday.

“The service outcomes at our borders are unacceptable and need to be fixed.”

Geatches noted Perth’s international arrivals area was newly opened 12 months ago and was only half full despite the long queues.

Brisbane Airport chief executive Julieanne Alroe said the Australian government’s priorities were more focussed on tracking who was coming into and out of the country.

“I think the government is far more worried nowadays about anticipating who is moving through our borders, coming and going, and trying to anticipate and intervene early,” Alroe said.


“The problem is they have done that without sufficient investment yet in the self-service product.”

Alroe noted the departures self-service facility at Brisbane Airport was still in a trial phase, and predicted airports in the region were likely to invest in more of their own self-service products.

The chairman of Australia’s newest airport operator, Wagners, John Wagner, said there must be some way to come to some agreement with the government over these issues and the charges for services.

“The whole industry, and you are probably doing this, needs to really get together on this point and just sort of demand some change at a very senior level within government,” Wagner said.

Wagners built Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, which received its first regular public transport flights on November 17 when a QantasLink Dash 8 Q400 arrived from Sydney.


  • John Smith


    “Stand in a queue for 53 minutes and see how that feels. It’s appalling and it’s a disgrace to our nation and a discredit to our industry”

    Happens everyday in Sydney

  • Josh


    Try Los Angeles International, or Honolulu International, or Gatwick, or Heathrow, or Washington Dulles International, or Amsterdam Schipol, or NAIA International. That is pretty standard for any international airport worldwide.

  • Toni Skinner


    Happens every day around the world.
    It’s the times we live in.

  • Arcanum


    Conversely, I used the self-service kiosks for the first time on my trip to Melbourne last week. I was pleasantly surprised to see Canadians included on the list of trusted travelers, and was through Immigration in under a minute. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the customs and biosecurity queue.

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    It can be a joke at times – coming back to Sydney from Auckland with a colleague a few months ago, we arrived at the same time as two A380s and a 777…and found there were just three counters open for 1000+ pax arriving pretty much at the same time.

    As we approached the Smart Gates we could see they were playing up, so we got in the Australian passport holders’ queue which snaked back on itself 6 times and was barely moving because (as we soon discovered), there was just one counter open for that queue. To compound this, people with Smart Gate fails were being directed to that single counter by cutting in front of the main queue.

    After half an hour, we decided to risk it with the Smart Gate, and both of us got through ok, but when we got to the AQIS area my colleague was held up – apparently there was an issue with his Smart Gate ticket and he had to be escorted back through it. While I was waiting for him, I overheard CBP staff complaining about how “crap” the gates were and how undermanned they were.

    75 minutes later we were out…


  • David


    John Smith … which is one of the reasons to avoid bloody awful SYD airport like the plague.

  • marc


    Gee I thought Gold Coast was bad when 2 x A320s landed with one counter open and 4 officers standing around looking disinterested.

  • Simon


    Takes less than 3 minutes at the worst of times for Hong Kong residents in Hong Kong and that’s including arrivals and departures using a Hong Kong ID card.

    It should be easily done for Australian passport holders in Australia, freeing up immigration officers for foreign passport holders. A win win!

  • Lawrence Kushelefsky


    I once queued for an hour at Bangkok’s Immigration departures. With air travel expected to double world wide in the next 10 years it is definitely a sign of the times.

    Australia’s Border Protection Agencies’ prime concern is exactly that, Border Protection, preventing the illegal movement of goods and people across the border.

    In the case mentioned the authorities who run Perth Airport might consider the wisdom of scheduling three large capacity aircraft (over a thousand people) to land within minutes of each other when there is neither the staffing nor the infra structure to cope adequately.

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