Beat the queue and take the fast track with these airport travel hacks

By David Flynn, April 7 2018

Business travel comes with many hurdles and headaches which you just don’t need – so the more of those you can skip, the better.

Case in point: those long lines at airport immigration checkpoints, especially on arrival. You may be able to use the business class or first class check-in counters when you’re flying out, along with express lanes or fast track channels, but it’s hard to avoid the queue at customs.

That’s especially galling if you’re travelling in ‘carry-on only’ mode and you’re primed to walk straight off the plane and be on the way to your hotel or your first meeting (or duck into the airport’s arrivals lounge to freshen up first).

Here are four ways to scoot past the queue and be in a taxi headed for your hotel while other passengers on the same flight are still standing in line.

APEC Card

Formally known as the APEC Business Travel Card, this is the trump card for corporate high-flyers.

It’s available to eligible citizens of almost two dozen countries belonging to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. That roster includes Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taipei and Thailand… and, in a transitional agreement, the USA.

Not everybody is eligible: in addition to frequently visiting APEC countries for business you need to be “engaged in international trade or investment between APEC economies”, according to the Home Affairs Department.

But if you qualify, this card (plus a $200 payment) unlocks those uncrowded inbound and outbound APEC lanes at the airports of member countries. APEC lanes are often the same lanes used by diplomates and airline crew, so you know you’re on the fast track.

What’s more, in most cases the APEC card replaces a visa (even for China) and provides multiple entries of up to 90 days, with the card itself valid for five years. 

Hong Kong e-Channel

Also known as the ‘Enrolled Frequent Visitor’ program, this is free and available to all Australian passport holders – even on their first visit to Hong Kong – or top-tier frequent flyers holding the likes of a Qantas Gold or Platinum card, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold and PPS members and all Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club members.

The Enrolled Frequent Visitor scheme lets you use the airport's automated e-Channel gates, both inbound and outbound, and removes the need to fill out an arrivals form.

There’s no charge, and registration is valid until your passport expires – so there's pretty much no reason not to sign up!

Registration can be done at Hong Kong airport’s two e-Channel registration offices (located either side of the main immigration channel, before you reach the baggage belts).

If you’ve got checked luggage, I suggest enrolling in the Frequent Visitor e-Channel scheme while you wait for your bags to hit the belt.

An alternative is to sign up at Hong Kong Immigration Headquarters at Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai.

Read more: How to skip the queues at Hong Kong Airport passport control

Singapore eIACS

The ‘enhanced-Immigration Automated Clearance System’ (eIACS) is Singapore’s equivalent of Australia’s automated SmartGate passport system, and is free to Australians who regularly visit Singapore.

The criteria are fairly modest: you need to have entered and exited Singapore – not simply made an in-transit stop at the airport – at least three times in the previous 12 months, using the same passport.

That’s a doddle for most business travellers, and eIACS approval coverts you for up to five years.

Not only will you be able to use the automated eIACS or Singapore residents lanes at Changi Airport, you won’t need to complete those arrival cards. 

There’s an eIACS Enrolment Centre in Changi’s Terminal 3 – it’s just off to your right, immediately after clearing outbound passport control – and you can also register for eIACS at the head office of the country’s Immigration & Checkpoints Authority in downtown Singapore, at Lavender MRT station.

Read more: Your Australian passport can access fast-track Singapore immigration

UK Registered Traveller

Bound for Blighty? If you’ve visited the UK at least 4 times in the last 24 months, consider signing up for the Registered Traveller service.

You’ll be able to use UK and EU passport entry lanes or ePassport gates, and won’t need to fill in a landing card.

The Registered Traveller program covers a dozen UK airports (including the major gateways of Heathrow, Gatwick and London City) as well as Eurostar stations including Paris.

The only downside is the cost: it’s a steep £70 ($130) for the first year plus £50 ($90) to renew each year following.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

joshdolan

joshdolan

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

One key one that you've missed here is US Global Entry. While it's not available for AU passport holders, but for those with a UK (or a few other) passports, you can apply. The process is a little involved (includes an interview at a Global Entry office), however, for $100 for 5 years, including TSA precheck, it's well worth it. (Once you've obtained it, they can also enable it on your AU passport as well, so you can travel on that.)

On arrival at LAX with checked baggage only, it takes me around 6-7 minutes from stepping off the plane until I'm at the kerb at TBIT.

aggie57

aggie57

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 152

You can get global entry as an AU passport holder if you also have a US visa rather than use ESTA

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2951

Aggie57: Where are you seeing this information? We've previously had confirmation from CBP that Australian passport holders are not eligible, which is also what the CBP website indicates.

As a US visa holder myself (journalists need visas to travel there and can't use ESTA for those trips), if this were possible I'd jump at the chance to register!

aggie57

aggie57

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 152

I apologize Chris, my info was based on research related to the E3 visa type and it looks like that opening may be closed now as well. Blast!

rob01

rob01

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Nov 2011

Total posts 123

The Singapore eIACS system is great. I enrolled a few years ago and it's been great, particularly as the queues at T3 immigration seem to be increasing. Enrollment only took a few minutes.

Manganese

Manganese

10 Oct 2017

Total posts 5

You can still get an APEC card with a US passport but you will not get the visa free entry privileges and will also not get the list of countries printed at the back of the card as those with cards from other countries. This is a particular issue when trying to use the APEC card at CGK. However, the card still works fine at other Indonesian ports of entry as well as China, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. For Vietnam, US passport holders still need to get a visa on arrival.

Eli

Eli

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 90

The HK system is great, I believe its 3 visits. Arrival and Departure counts as 2! :-)

KelvinHuynh

KelvinHuynh

14 May 2017

Total posts 1

Don't forget the Japan frequent travellers card

samueljones561

samueljones561

17 Oct 2017

Total posts 13

Are there any impoters/wholesalers on here that have APEC entry cards? It looks very involved. I think I meet all the criteria, the only thing I’m not sure about it the international trade. I wonder if supplier invoices and customs documents would be enough proof of trade.

aravind

aravind

03 May 2018

Total posts 1

I am a importer wholesaler recently got approved. I have to submit my commercial invoice from my supplier and my frequen travel details..

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