SmartGates are now smart enough to handle long names on passports

By David Flynn, July 27 2016
SmartGates are now smart enough to handle long names on passports

Here's good news if your name contains more than 24 characters: you'll finally be able to use the SmartGates at Australian airports, rather than join the queue for manual processing.

Yes, it turns out that the SmartGates tended to be a little dumb when it came to reading passports where the name fields exceeded a total of 24 characters, due to some wonky programming between the SmartGate and the Department of Immigration's database.

Rejected would-be travellers had to line up at a  dedicated SmartGate 'assistance queue' rather than smile not smile for the camera and breeze through the automated gates.

That's now a thing of the past, with ITnews reporting that this bug has been mostly squashed.

The 'mostly' bit applies if you hold an Australian or New Zealand passport – foreign passports with those pesky long names are still getting the knock-back.

ITnews reports that "variations in the way other countries store name information in their e-passports has made rectifying the problem for all travellers 'technically complex', the Department of Immigration said."

"It said it was continuing to look at how the name algorithm in the SmartGate system can be adjusted to accommodate non A/NZ travellers with long names."

Read more: Immigration fixes character bug in SmartGate system

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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.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

The last time I went through SYD, one of the gates was rejecting everyone that used it. Rather then turn that lane off and work out what the problem with it was, they just kept sending people to the "assistance" queue.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 216

MEL needs video signage as you pass through security, explaining that you're about to be confronted by ePassport SmartGates, and how to use them.

The current space is small and chaotic, and the passenger movement process appears to be:

  • Passengers leave the security screening area.
  • Immediately enter the immigration area, and confronted (without warning) by a bank of Smartgates with insufficient queue space.
  • Passengers pause and mill around anxiously, unsure if they're eligible to use the service. They look around for instructions and signage that don't exist.
  • A lone border officer repeatedly (and annoyedly) stands nearby screaming, "Come on, keep moving, just walk up to it, come on!"

Sure, the SmartGates might be getting smarter, but the process itself (in MEL) is still certainly at kindergarten -level.

There needs to be a bigger investment in video signage before immigration... or sheep dogs.

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 85

Similar experience in Sydney recently, except there were more officers and at least two of them were grumbling about some people "not being able to read English" as they went to the wrong queue in amongst the confusion.

It's not just the process that is kindergarten level - some of those people I wouldn't trust to stack shelves at Coles

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 157

If you are referring to the outbound gates, yesterday when I went thru it seemed the gates were rejecting just about every 2nd person requiring manual processing.

Having used the outbound gates on previous departures, yesterday was the first time I've had acces rejected requiring manual processing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 414

about darn time.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

14 Jul 2017

Total posts 18

I have an NZ passport with 43 useable pages. This lasts me 2 years. Unless they bring back the 100 pagers I guess standard passports are cheaper to 'hold stock'. The real pain is having to carry 2 old passports with current 10 year multi entry visas in them. I don't see why we cannot have the same passport number for life. I'm sure when AU introduce an ID card it will be the same number for life. Worst thing is having to renew the HKG e-entry every couple of years, as the old passport is immediately cancelled when you apply for a new or replacement passport.

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