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.