Australian eGate departure trial proves a real time-saver

By Chris Chamberlin, January 30 2015

Lengthy queues at outbound passport control in Australia’s major airports will soon be a thing of the past, with Customs’ new eGate trial already saving Brisbane travellers valuable time when crossing the border.

Currently available to passengers bound for Los Angeles with Qantas or for New Zealand with both Qantas and Air NZ, using the eGates is a breeze.

After clearing security at Brisbane Airport, you begin by placing your passport flat on a glass plate that automatically slides into the reader – no separate kiosks to worry about and no SmartGate-like tickets to lose.

After around ten seconds your passport is returned, and the first of two gates will open. Step forward to reach the next gate:

You’ll then spot a camera to the side which automatically moves up or down to meet your eye line – look directly into it as you would at SmartGate, and then take quick peek at the immediately-adjacent screen to see how good or bad your hair looks today.

Once a photograph has been captured, you’ll wait another ten seconds or so while it processes your departure details. Then the final gate opens, and you’ll present your boarding pass and hand your outgoing passenger card to a waiting Customs agent before cooling your heels in the lounge.

Prior to a recent Qantas flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles, I timed the whole process: from collecting my cabin bag at the security checkpoint to being completely airside took but 55 seconds.

Although eligible for the (human-processed) Express lane at passport control, with roughly ten Express passengers already queued up and many more waiting at the regular desks, I was through before they’d had a chance to shuffle forward – making the new eGates a real winner in my book.

So if you’re travelling on QF15, QF123, QF125 or with Air New Zealand over the coming months from Brisbane Airport, be sure to stop by the eGates and try them out for yourself before they start appearing in other major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne from “mid-2015”.

Also read: AMEX cardholders get fast track lane at Sydney Airport

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

What would save more time and money (we have a budget emergency after all) is the removal of customs formalties when leaving Australia altogether. 

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

So would the removal of all traffic lights. But some of these things do exist for a reason.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

Agree things exist for a reason. What exactly does exit control achieve? Isn't the concern of border protection stopping things coming into the country?

Removing traffic lights would probably cost the community additional money in congestion and costs assciated with accidents.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

A few things. Not quite as many as it does in the other direction, but a few things.

1. Those with warrants out for their arrest, or who are awaiting trial, et cetera, can be prevented from fleeing the country.

2. Catch people trying to smuggle koalas out of the country.

3. Catch people with huge suitcases full of cash which they're using to pay for something dodgy coming in the other direction.

4. Perhaps the most important actual task, when someone arrives on a visa with a given duration, we want to know that they've left again.

5. Other stuff: if a warrant goes out for my arrest, or someone reports me as a missing person, it's good if they can cross-check and see that I've left the country. 

Probably other good reasons as well, they're just a few that sprung to mind. 

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

100% correct. But how does the US achieve this? All the things you have mentioned,  minus the koalas,  are not unique to Australia. 

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British Airways - Executive Club

24 Jan 2012

Total posts 73

Neither the US nor the UK have outbound passport control.

The idea in those countries is that your booking details are sent to immigration 72 hours before departure by the airline, and the immigration authorities have 72 hours to process it, and advise the airline not to board said passenger. In reality, it doesn't work, and I've had police running down a jetbridge at LHR trying to stop a plane i've just departed. As an airline employee, we prefer outbound passenger processing by customs officials and are begging for it's return at LHR.

In addition to the points raised by Hugo, the biggest issue outbound customs officers prevented, when I was working at BNE was child custody disputes, where one parent tries the leave the country with kids, during a messy divorce. I'd get those occurrences at least once a week.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

I think it's absolutely better to have both inbound and outbound immigration control handled inside the airport at the time of travel. It just works better, and that's why I'm a big fan of SmartGate on arrival; I'm confident eGate will work just as well on departure.

Of course, it's important to have a manual backup, and certain passports shouldn't be allowed to use such gates, such as children's passports; so I think hard stamps are going to stay as well.

Unlike the US/UK system, there are no major weaknesses compared to the existing system because the existing system remains the primary system, with eGate and SmartGate being express alternatives for those applicable.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

hutch, what custom formalities you are talking about? I fail to see any - security and then passport control

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

I don't recall going through customs/passport control when leaving the US (or Canada). The most security adverse country in the world doesn't do it, yet we do.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

hutch, they indeed do passport control - how else I have departure stamp? And we do not do custom control when flying out, so I cannot get what you are talking about.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

Where's this depature stamp mate? I certainly have not had one in the US... including in 3 flights out of the US in Oct and Nov.

When ETSA came in, you had a little green tag in your passport which you handed over to a CBP guy at the gate. They don't even do that anymore. 

A TSA guy checks your passport to confirm its you and with their magic pen/uv light and then tsa does it security screening.

Fantastic that smartgate is coming in for departures as it'll speed it up... but again, why do we need it? What does it achieve?

Last time I left Australia I fillled in a litttle form with which country I am going to? How long I am away for? etc etc.... Why does it matter?

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Last time they did it. Though last time was quite a few years ago when I still have non-biometric passport. Perhaps now they simply scan passport into computer. I have no problem for them to scan my passport on entry and exit and I have no problem to fill green paper either. I cannot get your question "why they need it?" - to control people movement (and I am perfectly fine with that), and what did you think? At the same time I am very happy for them to install auto-servicing stations to speed up process.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

I agree with Hutch, what's the use of filling in those Departure Cards then? And I am pretty sure they did not stamp my passport when I went through Departure Customs, they just took a photo of me and looked at my passport and let me go.

09 Jul 2014

Total posts 31

I'm sure crims trying to flee the country would love that idea.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

Crims already leave the country. Most crims that have passports confiscated by the courts won't be able to get out. The ones who get fake passports etc, would have a very difficult time with smartgate due to facial recogniton technology. So in that sense, smartgate is an imporvement. But lets not kid ourselves to think that it will stop someone who wants to leave the country... the serious criminals will adjust their behaviour.

I'd prefer the government increase customs checking of shipping containers at ports, as we only screen a minority of containers entering Australia... that concerns me more than the odd crim going overseas.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

It's odd that the procedure (holding onto your passport for ten seconds?) seems to be lengthier than the one on arrival.

That said, I'll still be super glad when these things are finally rolled out. It can be a pointlessly hellish experience getting out of the country sometimes, made all the more frustrating by the knowledge that it'll be a two-second procedure to get back in.

Time to use up my small stash of express departure cards I've been saving for a rainy day! (I managed to get 'em to accidentally accept an express arrival card last time, hooray!)

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

This system already works incredibly effective when you came from overseas – my personal record 15 min from aircraft touch down to someone pick me up outside airport :-). Nice to see that they start implementing outgoing system.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Wow in 15 minutes you managed to get through customs and all that crap. It takes us 15 minutes just to get off the plane haha.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

My major beef with immigration controls on Australian International airports, as it relates to Australian Nationals, is not checking identity against my passport (because we don't want people using other people's passports, and evidence suggests E-Gate is far better at picking up identity fraud than human inspectors) but the antiquated Incoming and Outgoing Passenger Cards systems (and now, everyone having to give Ebola check forms, even if they've been nowhere near Africa).

In this day and age, we should move beyond hard copy Incoming and Outgoing Passenger Cards that, for a majority of items, collect information that the Federal Government already get from the airlines and other sources digitally. We can surely speed that activity up, and move it to digital collection (maybe while your passport is inspected), with the need to ask redundant questions dropped. It's a process begging for improvement.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

You know what's hilarious? Malaysia, supposedly an inferior country, abolished inbound passenger cards several years ago, and this was from a much simpler form that citizens didn't need to fill in.

Singapore retains inbound/outbound cards but at least both (which are actually two halves of one card) are much more concise than the silly Australian ones and only need to be filled in by visting foreigners.

21 May 2012

Total posts 11

Gotta love the 'supposedly inferior' call - not sure I'd be game to make that one..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Could be reading more into that, then what's there. "supposedly an inferior country", prefaced as it is with the challenger of "supposedly" before "inferior" infers the author did not agree with such a value judgement - at least from a technical analysis of the text.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

Oh, it's from a lifetime of listening to Malaysia vs Australia comparisons; Malaysians often believe everything is better here, which is sometimes true and sometimes not, with outbound (and until recently inbound) immigration being very not.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

The grass always looks greener from afar, it's only up close you you see the patches.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Whether it's automatic or the classic systems, each will fail at least on some rare occassions.

I heard in the UK that a british citizen tried entering the UK with his wifes passport (she was travelling with him) and it let him through - he was subsequently prosecuted for crossing the border on a document which wasn't his.  His argument, which is perfectly logical imo, was that he was testing the border security....and it failed haha.

Qantas

10 Sep 2011

Total posts 162

Need something like this in Bali combined with Paywave to pay VOA fee.


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