Large Number Of Australian Travellers Use SmartGate

Large Number Of Australian Travellers Use SmartGate

The SmartGate system for processing Australians returning from overseas has proved very popular, with usage rates at Sydney Airport approaching 50%. Does that mean we’ll soon reach the point where it’s actually quicker not to use the electronic option?

Picture courtesy Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

In a press release this week, Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor revealed that Smartgate has proved very popular since its introduction in July 2009:

Since SmartGate began operating in July 2009 at Sydney International Airport, the number of eligible travellers using SmartGate has increased from 32% to 50%.

The Sydney SmartGate installation has recently been expanded, while there are also gates in operation at Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Cairns and Auckland.

While those are impressive numbers, we haven’t yet reached the point where so many people are using SmartGate that it will actually become the slower option. Firstly, note that the 50% figure is for eligible travellers, not all travellers. To use SmartGate, you have to have a new enough passport to include the RFID chip used by the service, and you can’t be travelling with children. That means that two of the slower groups for any airport — families and people who only use their passports every few years — will not be in that queue. I’ll certainly be sticking with SmartGate for the foreseeable future for my own travel, unless I unexpectedly end up landing in Darwin.

Have you found SmartGate improves your travel experience? Tell us in the comments.

Take the Smartgate option this holiday season [Home Affairs via ZDNet]


  • I’m not surprised the official usage rate is approaching 50% – given there’s an official standing at the entrance of SmartGate herding people into the cues, sometimes quite forcefully. I tell the Auckland people I have an old passport, but they ask to actually see your passport (and then direct you to smartgate. In Brisbane you can just walk around them if need be. Obviously there’s a directive from above, but they herd people into SmartGate even as the SmartGate cue gets excessively long and the manned checkpoints have short cues. Oh well, guess they can say “it’s working” – pity it’s often at the cost of convenience to the mug punter.

  • I tried it 2 days ago, but wouldn’t let me through for some reason. However, it did mean I got to skip the regular queue, so it wasn’t entirely pointless.

    • The same thing happened to me a year or two ago. My passport failed to be read by the Smartgate and I therefore got to be queued with the airline staff – either way, a much shorter queue.

  • i’ve still got a couple of years left on the old style passport, so am yet to experience the “smartgate”. Great for me as the line seems to be getting shorter and shorter at the traditional queues.

  • Have used it every chance I get which is 3 times in the last 3 yrs in Cairns/Bris. Cairns only has like 2 of them. I find I’m still not familiar with them, but it’s still quicker than the queue even when I’m slow. Cairns doesn’t have anyone standing around either. If it doesn’t work you end up having to go to a shorter queue.

  • I love it.
    A you have a massive financial investment that really just does facial recognition, then you still need a double check from an attendant, who in all reality could just check your photo…

  • You should probably add “And not fall afoul of the blatant racial profiling engaged in by Australian Customs and Border Protection” to your list of eligibility requirements.

    Upon returning from my last holiday, I was interested to test out my new RFID-enabled ePassport and the SmartGate system. After inserting my passport at the kiosk, however, I was told that I would need to be manually processed by an immigration officer.

    Unsurprisingly my Australian-born and bred partner who was with me on that trip–and obtained her ePassport around the same time as me–sailed through the SmartGate system in a few seconds.

    Why? It’s a safe bet it had something to do with the fact that I was born in Middle East. Despite having lived in Australia, having become an Australian citizen at the age of 18 and with no criminal record to speak of, I still get 100 questions from immigration goons whenever I leave and re-enter the country. At one point, a DIAC official has even questioned my loyalty for holding dual citizenship.

    There’s nothing quite so alienating as the constant need to justify re-entry into your own country, simply because you had the audacity to be born overseas. It’s particularly jarring when it’s an inaminate SmartGate kiosk that makes you feel so unwelcome.

  • The annoying things don’t seem to work if you’re wearing glasses… not a problem for people who can take off their glasses, but for those of us with terrible eyesight, it means we can’t read the text prompts that come up without them.

    • The two I usually get are ‘have you been to South America or Africa?’ and ‘Have you answered all questions correctly?’ I suspect the latter always appears, the first might sometimes swap with ‘Have you been on a farm?’ or others.

  • I believe that it is a flawed system. It is poorly designed and not “user friendly”. I have used it several times now. Getting the initial ticket sounds simple but there is insufficient information on the correct procedure. That means the process is not well designed. I stuffed it up first time and an officer had to help me. I have since helped several others. It is not intuitive.

    Then the gate itself. In Darwin they require an officer standing by the gate instructing people what to do. You wait for a period of time that is sufficiently long to be annoying while the photo is taken and then processed.
    Very poor software design, facial scanning and matching to the database should not take that long.
    I am not convinced that the benefits are there.

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