Tips to fast-track your journey through Brisbane Airport

By Chris C., February 27 2018
Tips to fast-track your journey through Brisbane Airport

Whether you fly once a year or every other day, one thing’s for sure: nobody likes standing in line at the airport, but you don’t always need a business class ticket or a shiny frequent flyer card to fast-track your way through the terminal and onto your flight or your ride home.

Here are just some of the ways travellers can speed-up their journey through Brisbane Airport, to spend more time relaxing or be on their way sooner.

Brisbane Airport’s domestic terminal: Qantas flights

Taking a Qantas domestic flight from Brisbane Airport? If you’re eligible for lounge access, you’re also eligible to use the Qantas Premium Lounge Entry facility.

Open seven days, this is your pathway to security screening in a private area, rather than clearing security at the main and usually quite crowded Qantas checkpoint; it also provides easy access to priority check-in desks for business class passengers, eligible frequent flyers and Qantas Club members.

Upstairs from the premium entry area you'll emerge inside the Qantas lounge precinct, with a barista coffee station conveniently nearby where there’s almost never a queue.

In that same area is also a Qantas service desk: useful for requesting things like frequent flyer upgrades, but also for checking-in for connecting international flights when you’re not bringing checked baggage.

For instance, on a recent Brisbane-Melbourne-Los Angeles trip with only a carry-on bag, I chose to skip the queues downstairs at the regular assistance desks (behind everybody with suitcases to check), and completed check-in upstairs instead: obtaining both my boarding passes within moments.

Brisbane Airport’s domestic terminal: Virgin Australia flights

Virgin Australia also offers a private lounge entry at Brisbane Airport, known as Premium Entry, although its door list is more restrictive than Qantas’, there’s no facility here for checking-in luggage and it’s also closed on weekends.

Welcome are business class passengers, Gold and Platinum members of Velocity and Virgin Australia’s partner airlines, and Lifetime Lounge members – although everybody else entitled to lounge access, including other paid-up lounge members and AMEX Platinum charge card customers, don’t have this option and must clear security via the ‘normal’ checkpoint instead of gliding up those gilded escalators.

Read: Who can use Virgin Australia Premium Entry in Brisbane?

However, because the Premium Entry doors are located a fair way from the airline’s check-in desks, the walking distance between taking this approach or going through ‘normal’ security and wandering to the lounge upstairs is about the same: but it’s an option to keep up your sleeve if the regular priority security screening queue is lengthy.

Brisbane Airport’s domestic terminal: all airlines

Unlike other airports such as Sydney and Melbourne, domestic flights departing Brisbane all leave from the same terminal – and as all the departure gates are within a single ‘airside’ zone, you can walk from one end of the terminal to the other after clearing security.

That’s handy if you’re accessing the Qantas lounges as a Jetstar passenger, for example, but also means you can use any of the airport’s general security screening checkpoints: you don’t have to go through the checkpoint nearest your airline.

For instance, if you’re flying Virgin Australia, not able to use Premium Entry and the lines are long at the 'normal' security screening area – which I often see on long weekends and during school holidays...

... you might choose to wander in the opposite direction: towards the Jetstar check-in counters, where, up an escalator, there’s another security checkpoint.

Although more commonly used by passengers flying with Jetstar, Tigerair, Rex and other regional airlines, you could clear security here instead, and simply walk back to the Virgin Australia gates once upstairs. While that walk may take a few minutes, you could still be through security in less time than if you’d joined the back of the long queue.

When (and where) to call for your Uber ride

On landing in Brisbane when taking an Uber, I also save time by ordering the car while walking up the aerobridge from my flight (assuming no checked luggage), even when arriving at one of the terminal’s ‘satellite’ gates.

That’s because the drivers don’t wait for pick-up requests at the terminal: they wait at a different part of the airport, not knowing whether they’ll be sent to the domestic or international terminal, and usually take 8-10 minutes to arrive at the pick-up road once your request is received.

By ordering a car from the aerobridge, I’m still at the pick-up area a couple of minutes before the driver arrives, but this avoids waiting any longer than necessary – and standing outside in very hot or cold weather, or when it’s raining.

Brisbane Airport’s international terminal: all airlines


Wherever possible, you are taking advantage of online check-in, aren’t you?

It’s a great way to skip the queues – especially if you’re not otherwise entitled to priority check-in – because even if you still need to visit the airline check-in desks, there’s generally a separate line for online check-in passengers: often much shorter than the general economy queue.

For example, I recently flew with Hawaiian Airlines from Brisbane to Honolulu in ‘Extra Comfort class’, which doesn’t normally offer priority check-in in Brisbane, and despite Hawaiian being a partner airline of Virgin Australia, a Velocity Gold card counts for nothing here either.

However, because I’d completed online check-in, I was able to join the same line as the airline’s Premier Members – rather than the general queue which had over 100 people waiting – and zipped through to the lounge in not much time at all (lounge access being courtesy of a Priority Pass membership).

Security on departure

You already know to use the Express Path line at security if you’re entitled to: but in my experience at Brisbane Airport, the Express line can actually move quite slowly, because the queue emerges at the same checkpoint used by airport staff and cabin crew, who habitually push in front and make the ‘Express’ line anything but.

To get around this, I’ll generally still take the Express Path channel when first entering security, but when reaching the X-ray where you can turn left or right, I’ll turn right if possible, because the left-most checkpoint is the one favourited by airport staff as it’s the easiest to approach: the one on the right, not so much.

SmartGate on arrival

When returning to Brisbane, most travellers wander from their gate, through duty-free, and then queue for a SmartGate kiosk to have their passport scanned and to receive a ticket to move through the SmartGate barriers.

However, the line for these kiosks can sometimes take 20 minutes or more – or if you join the arrivals ‘Express’ line for manual processing in the mornings when many flights land at the same time, I’ve timed waits of over an hour – so instead, I grab a SmartGate ticket before going through duty-free, using one of the kiosks located along the arrivals concourse.

That allows me to make use of a third, separate line – the ”Already have this ticket?” line on the far right – which cuts straight past everybody else and puts you directly at the SmartGate barriers, which you can of course approach and wander through, as you already have your SmartGate ticket.

This approach has never taken me more than three minutes between getting that ticket and crossing the border, even when the airport is bustling with travellers, and on the rare occasion I actually travel with a checked bag, I’m always at the baggage belt before it even starts spinning: otherwise, I'm straight out and home.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 703

Just thought it would be worth mentioning that the Qantas premium entry can't be used by those using a Single use voucher like the ones that come with a credit card or silver status.

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 87

The tip about the domestic terminal being one, contiguous terminal is a good one.

It really baffles me that you get herds of sheep lining up 10 people deep in the JQ / TT security section, when if they opened their eyes, they could have walked straight through the nearby VA security screening.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Aug 2017

Total posts 17

I used to dread the waiting in line at BNE but used the Premium Lounge entry in early Jan and it was fantastic, I was in the Business Lounge within 5 mins.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 134

I nearly always use the Jetstar entrance when in economy, it always seems relatively quiet compared to QF/VA's. Last time I did it, it was Christmas and Tiger was handing out free Jelly Beans.

It's also more central to the better food outlets than the QF entrance.

Fantastic tip on calling Uber, Chris, I always struggle with the right time and place to call Uber at different airports due to the very different pickup arrangements. These types of really practical articles are one of the things I really enjoy reading on AusBT!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 91

I accept that this isn't something which just applies to BNE, but I have never once seen an airline staffer or security officer checking the credentials of pax using the priority line at security for either VA or QF. I have certainly never been asked to show my boarding pass or FF card to establish my entitlement to use the priority queue.

It would, therefore, seem that pax not entitled to use the line can use it with impunity.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 549

Sure, but some of us do have integrity!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 134

I get checked at BNE fairly regularly.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 91

Your experience is obviously differently from mine. I take exception to insinuation by "Doubleplatinum" that I do not have integrity. I have never used the priority queue without having a bona fide entitlement to do so.

I was simply commmenting that, in my experience, it is never policed. Whilst looks can undoubtedly be deceiving, I am confident that some of the punters I have seen using the queue certainly have no such entitlement.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

For what it's worth, I've seen the Qantas and VA priority security lines 'policed' in Brisbane at peak times: at other times when there aren't many people going through, they obviously don't bother because there's not much point.

28 Feb 2018

Total posts 2

Uber at BNE pick up either Qantas or Virgin end. Walk to either pedestrian crossings thru storage lockers turn left (Q) turn right (V) see signs. Note only big name hire cars on airport. Other companies pick up on calling from bus road - over Skywalk to last road. Stayng at new aport Pullman or Ibis easy 7 minute walk over Skywalk follow signs. Free bus to International from Orange coloured bus stops every 15 mins. Connexiion shuttle (outside Virgin) will drop to all hotel accommodation/wharves/hostels and services Gold/Sunshine Coasts.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 64

Chris, the Uber drivers are coming from the Airpark holding area, as seen in this Uber video for drivers (go to 1 min mark and watch until 1:40).

The video also answers the question about where are the QF and VA share ride areas are located, as outlined by Aportbuzz above. Watch from 2:28 and the QF zone is clearly shown at 2:50 and again between 5:25 and 5:40.

For international terminal pick ups, view from 4:05 to 4:13.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 64

Thanks for the article Chris, picked up a couple of tips that I was previously unaware.

12 Aug 2017

Total posts 75

When I went through BNE International before Christmas I tried using the Fast Track through security: big mistake - air crews arrive en masse and go straight to the front of the queue, not to the entry point. So 10 staff suddenly turn up and the rest wait. Likewise with families and pushchairs.

I spoke to BNE and they say they are ditching the FastTrack security.
Like the author, I use one of the other lanes and get through faster.

12 Aug 2017

Total posts 75

Chris, this is a great article - you really do know BNE and I have found it very useful. Iagree that you must get the SmartGate entry ticket before you get to the Duty free, even if there is a bit of a queue (mainly from crew members only as no one else thinks to use them)

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