Does the Express Pass for arrivals have any value at all?

15 replies


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 24 Aug 2018

Total posts 25

Does anybody still actually use the arrivals Express Pass which Qantas routinely provides to its international business and first travellers?

This is an observation based on Sydney and Melbourne, so it may be different elsewhere. But it strikes me that if you use the Express Pass to go through immigration you’re going to end up with a much longer wait than simply using the machines.

For infrequent flyers who don’t know that, I’m not sure Qantas (or any other airlines with the same practice) is doing them any favours giving them the pass in the first place.

I realise that the outbound Express Pass is still a timesaver, but using it to get through immigration on arrival seems to be a mistake you only make once.

The airline must realise that, so I’m wondering why it persists...


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 11 Jan 2011

Total posts 22

The express pass is not much use for immigration, but usually gets you in a much shorter line at customs (at MEL anyway).



Member since 27 Jul 2016

Total posts 21

having had hit/miss success both outbound and inbound on previous passport (and even first time traveling on new document), I have found it useful as it's still possible to get caught in lines/queues at machines and gates

it's definitly a bonus at customs when you geninely have nothing to declare


Member since 05 Mar 2015

Total posts 24

I think you're on the money about SmartGate vs. Express Path--I haven't used an inbound Express Path card in years. I imagine there's still a benefit if you hold a passport that's ineligible for Smart Gate processing--I'm sure there are a lot of premium travelers who are in that situation. As others have said, Inbound Express Path can also be used to jump the queue at customs--if you're on a tight connection and the lines are extraordinarily long, I can see that being a valuable benefit. That being said, I can't remember the last time I had to wait more than two or three minutes at customs, so it's probably marginal in most cases.

I don't know what the fee structure looks like for the airlines, but I can tell you with reasonable certainty that the airline isn't paying for Express Path cards that aren't used. There's significant variation in the express path cards between airlines, so I'm as certain as I can be that the airlines produce them. None of the Express Path cards I can recall receiving (NZ, VA, QF, SQ) had a serial number, and a quick image search suggests that the same is true of other airlines. Without a serial number to verify production limits, airlines must either pay only for those passes collected, or must pay a flat rate for a production license. If it's the latter, I'm sure that breakage rate statistics will push down the cost in the same way that the former cost model would. Either way, it makes sense for the airline to provide premium passes to everyone, in the knowledge that they might be useful to some passengers, but that in many cases, they will go unused and unpaid.

I'm personally a big fan of inbound Express Path for a completely different reason, though. At least on VA and NZ, the arrival and departure cards are identical. I have quite a pile, and I hand them out to friends and colleagues if they mention they'll be going overseas. They make great little gestures, and of course they can be used at the departures Express Path, which is very useful indeed.

Last editedby SilverBromide at Oct 15, 2018, 05:57 PM.


Member since 07 Jan 2011

Total posts 201

Departure pass can be very handy flying out of Sydney as it can be a zoo.

The incoming smartgates have essentially made them redundant. Getting through immigration and customs is a lot faster now, even when there are big crowds.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 05 Jun 2018

Total posts 10

It took me a few trips to figure out the Inwards Express Pass can be useful at Melbourne, but as other posts have mentioned above it is only when passing through Customs (not Immigration). That said, you need to be aware of how the Pass can be of benefit. Usually this would be obvious, but the way the exit queues are arranged at Melbourne then you could be forgiven for missing it. ie Once you collect your bags from carousels various in Melbourne then the masses make a bee-line for the exits: this is where the trouble starts. There isn’t a whole lot of real-estate on the exit side, leaving that it can get quite congested depending upon how many flights have just landed and which carousel you’ve collected your bags from. As people try and clear Customs the signage isn’t great and they don’t always setup those retractable belt queue stand pole barrier stanchion thingies nicely. Eventually I have realised that there is actually a separate queue for Diplomatic Pass holders, Cabin Crew and Express Path holders, although you could easily be forgiven for not even realising the separate exit exists until you’ve waited in line for 15 minutes with the masses ;-)

Chris C.

Member since 24 Apr 2012

Total posts 1,118

I fly into Brisbane most often, and find the express cards particularly useful in the mornings (before about 12pm) on the way out at the customs/quarantine checkpoint, after first using SmartGate to clear passport control.

Later in the day, however, the dedicated express channel at customs/quarantine generally closes for the day because the airport is a lot quieter and it's not really necessary.

There's always an express lane open at arrivals passport control for those who can't use SmartGate, but on my most recent trip I noticed the signage said "SmartGate ineligible Express Path cardholders" or similar, suggesting Australians should generally use that where available.

There's one big exception, however, and that's if you've been Africa, Central/South America or the Caribbean in the last 6 days (Q11 on the arrivals card, and also asked again at the SmartGate kiosk if you go there). If you have been, you're ineligible to use SmartGate on arrival because an immigration officer needs to check your Yellow Fever immunisation certificate, so you have to go to the desk - that's where the express card at passport control can also be useful. It's not just for non-stop flights from those places, either (e.g. from Johannesburg and Santiago) - you can be arriving on any airline at any time, and the airlines won't necessarily know your travel patterns, so they give you the card in case it's useful for your trip.


Air New Zealand - Airpoints

Member since 31 Oct 2016

Total posts 206

Passport control, it has no benefit, however customs is a whole different kettle of fish.

Makes it really easy to jump the line, and if you're quick enough to tuck it away, you can save it for next time.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 22 May 2018

Total posts 61

Haven't flown into Melb international in business..did in Syd ex QF2, early and didn't use it, have used it in Bris on an early arrival, but one place where it is helpful is Heathrow (you need to show your boarding pass) and that line moved very quickly.

New Mint

Member since 24 Feb 2012

Total posts 66

Have flown into Melbourne many times with the express path card and never really knew it’s value until my last trip when I returned and the customs queue was horrendous. The queue was dove tailed all the way back round the baggage carousels. After 20+ hours flying the last thing I could be bothered with was waiting 1-2 hours in a customs queue! While waiting for my bags I decided to look and see if there was a place to use my express path card and thankfully I found it. I was through in less than 2 minutes. It’s the only time I’ve had to use it but was so thankful that day! I would have been out and home by the time some of the poor souls in the usual queue would still have been in line!


Member since 23 Feb 2015

Total posts 269

I’ve found the passes useful when travelling with the family, back when kids were too young for e-gate. Now no big deal.

I have to say though that I did t realise there was an express customs exit (in Melbourne)! Will definitely for it next time!


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

Member since 20 Nov 2017

Total posts 45

Where are the SYD customs (exit) express paths? I've never noticed them because generally I'm flying in at reasonably quiet evening hours, but have a couple of morning arrivals coming up soon, when it is presumably much busier. Express path might be useful then. Thanks.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 25 Nov 2016

Total posts 93

Sydney Customs Express path is sometimes open and most times not. When open I have found it on the far left. But its Sydney airport, anything is possible. Good luck with landing in Sydney early in the morning, It can be a real cattle call.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 09 May 2013

Total posts 426

In Brisbane, they have stopped giving out express cards for some airlines, it says express on the boarding pass! I wish they had a separate security line for express card holders, which in my opinion would be the biggest advantage of any option.

Chris C.

Member since 24 Apr 2012

Total posts 1,118

In Brisbane, they have stopped giving out express cards for some airlines, it says express on the boarding pass! I wish they had a separate security line for express card holders, which in my opinion would be the biggest advantage of any option.

They do, it's the second-most left doorway as you approach the security screening area, shared by APEC cardholders (the one to the right of the staff line, and to the left of the two 'main' lines).

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