Airport Separation

Airports around the world have mostly relaxed their overbearing security measures, except for Australia. Here is an overview of the current processes and important tips for travellers entering or leaving the country.

Exiting the country has just become a little more tiresome from Melbourne Airport with their removal of the pens at the counter tops to fill in the passenger cards. Travellers can now find themselves passed through the one way security screening and facing border control with no way to complete their documentation.


Tip 1, obtain an outgoing passenger card from the desk of your airline and fill it out before checking in your baggage.

The trouble here is that the list of prohibited items is wildly broad and does not specifically exclude writing implements, having been harassed in the past for carrying a pen I stopped bringing them along while travelling. For now the plain link to prohibited carry on items is here:
That link is likely to break change frequently and summarises the Aviation Transport Security (Prohibited Items) Instrument 2012:

Tip 2, before checking in your bags move anything vaguely hinted at by the prohibited items list into checked luggage.

All these groups of prohibited items are left to the judgement/discretion of the officer you are seen by, and interpretation can vary. If the officer rejects any items in your carry on luggage they have to be surrendered immediately without compensation (and are sold off for profit). This includes innocuous items such as water bottles full of water, while other countries will helpfully empty your bottles or provide somewhere to do so in Australia they will simply pilfer discard it.

Tip 3, make sure your water bottles are empty before walking into international departures (there are taps to refill them once you reach the lounge).

Once the passenger card is deposited at border control you are released into the waiting lounge and duty free shopping area, although some passengers or destinations may include further security “enhancements” before embarking. A flow chart of the process (not to scale) showing the flow of the passenger cards highlighted in purple.


Incoming passengers are now in for a particularly entertaining problem as there are no free pens on an aeroplane and no pens in the terminals after disembarking. Entering with an electronic passport issued from any of the following countries;

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

allows travellers to use the fully automated border control without needing to show the incoming passenger card, but after collecting checked baggage all travellers are routed through the customs check. Here passengers are sorted by their declarations on the passenger cards and sent via quarantine inspection if needed. Quarantine rules are extensive and throughly enforced, as of now a short list is available here:
This includes some notable oddities, such as bee products (honey, wax) and wood.

Tip 4, declare anything on the arrivals card that is even associated with the checkboxes of the arrival card.


But also the often overlooked.. dirt, yes bringing dirt on you without declaring it is an offence. If your shoes are not clean enough you can be charged a fee to have them cleaned to an acceptable standard (usual disclaimers of officer discretion apply).

Tip 5, clean all your shoes before departure.

Travelling without a pen and asking a customs officer in the baggage area we were told we could not use their pen and should proceed directly through customs where we would be able to fill out the incoming passenger form. Instead we were harassed by a customs officer saying that new laws are being introduced allowing them to apply “demerits” (a nonsense application of the word) for passengers not filling out their cards before approaching the customs gate. When questioned about the problems facing a passenger, such as security not liking pens the reply was roughly;
“Customs are not associated with Security operations”
And that there were no longer pens provided for passengers to use;
“The Airport management has decided to no longer provide that facility”
But we continued to get a talking down about how in the future we would need to fill out the form beforehand, despite being given no warning or opportunity to use a pen.

Tip 6, when flying to Australia have a pen in your hand luggage.

Having then filled out the incoming passenger card much friendlier quarantine officers asked details about the declared items and deciding they were acceptably safe (including the dirt) we were sent to freedom.

Despite great advances with biometric (electronic) passports Australian bureaucracy once again wanders off into complete contempt for the public through a maze of isolated decisions that result in incompatible requirements and general frustration.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s