Some simple technology would surely ease our passage through airport transit.
I was enjoying a tasty Bacon and Egg McMuffin breakfast at Auckland International Airport, and trying to avoid getting the grease from my hash brown on the departure card, when it came to me: Why, in this digital age, was I still having to fill out the form with the aid of a ballpoint pen?
After all, my departure from Auckland was recorded via SmartGate and my ePassport, as was my arrival in Brisbane. Alas, the departure from Brisbane was via a good old-fashioned queue, with only two officers to process the passengers from a dozen planes. But the digital age returned when we landed in Auckland.
So why the continuing requirement to fill out arrival and departure cards by hand? I'm sure my spidery writing would defy an OCR scanner and I feel profoundly sorry for anyone charged with entering the details on those cards into a computer system.
Why not, instead, give us the option of filling out the forms online and telling the SmartGate that we've done so, at which point it could retrieve the information electronically.
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A high proportion of travellers these days are permanently linked to the internet via smartphones and tablets. And the few like me who aren't can get free access at most airports ... or if the worst comes to the worst, we can always go back to the old-fashioned ballpoint.
The SmartGate cards are already able to alert the authorities to any Biosecurity, Customs or Immigration issues so no problems there.
I see Customs and the Ministry for Primary Industries are always looking for ways to speed up the process. That's good news for all of us.
As Judy Nicholl, Auckland Airport's general manager aeronautical operations, says, "That will make inbound tourism and trade easier ... New Zealand, because of its remote location, has a competitive tourism disadvantage to many other countries and has to work harder to keep up ... The ease and quality of the visitor experience at the border can play a significant role in travellers' overall impressions of New Zealand."
That's absolutely right. The shambles we experienced leaving Brisbane certainly gave me a motive to avoid the place. By contrast, the smooth processing at Auckland left a very good impression.
Let's hope the next step will include a look at digital arrival and departure forms. It would save money, speed up processing, make tourists happier ... and allow me to enjoy my airport breakfasts without having to worry about getting grease on the departure card.
Jim Eagles is a former Herald Travel editor.