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Pay your way out of airport queues

Massive airport queues: the bane of every traveller’s existence. Picture: John Normile/Getty Images

Staff writersnews.com.au

GETTING stuck in long queues at border clearance at airport is a huge pain for any international traveller.

But would you pay for the ability to breeze your way through, VIP-style?

That could be future for cashed-up foreign visitors under new measures introduced by the Federal Government.

The government is seeking to raise revenue through what’s been dubbed a secret “high-roller fee” — a charge to airport operators that let international passengers access “premium border clearance services”.

As outlined in this week’s Budget, the new measures would be introduced initially at airports in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

The government has not revealed how much would be charged, or how much revenue is likely to be raised, “due to commercial confidentiality”, according to the Budget papers.

But a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Fairfax the measures could boost tourist numbers to Australia.

A spokeswoman said: “The services would be on a user-pay basis and travellers using these services will be processed under established clearance procedure.

“They would not be exempt from customs, immigration, biosecurity or aviation security screening.”

Some passengers can already skip the queue — if they can pay.

Some passengers can already skip the queue — if they can pay.Source:News Limited

Similar fast-tracked border clearance services are offered at overseas airports.

Tourism and Transport Forum Australia chief executive Margy Osmond told Fairfax the experience was increasingly expected by “high-yield travellers” — such as the growing number of wealthy Asian travellers visiting Australia.

“Australia must cater to the needs for all traveller demographics … for a growing number of Asian travellers, which is Australia’s key growth market, premium border facilitation is an integral component of the travel experience,” Ms Osmond said.

Australians travelling overseas via Sydney can experience fast-tracked passage through border control with the government’s SmartGates, which allows some e-passport holders to self-process their way into the country.

There are other ways Australian travellers can enjoy the VIP treatment at airports at a cost.

Domestically, Virgin Australia offers premium entry to its Sydney airport lounge, which includes a dedicated security screening point — meaning eligible passengers can bypass the usual queues.

Qantas business travellers and upper-tier frequent flyers can enjoy premium security lanes at some domestic and international terminals.

Passengers seeking to avoid the unwashed masses filing through security and immigration checks can even pay for private services, such as Australia Fast Track — a service purported to be for “VIPs and celebrities” that promises to meet passengers at the aeroplane and whisk them away from long queues.

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