A Really Odd Experience With Australian Customs; They Run a Tight Ship!

After disembarking off of my plane yesterday in Brisbane (from LAX), I figured it would be a simple walk to the immigration officer queues and then off to the transfer desk to continue on to my connecting flight to Melbourne. Not so.

My Qantas 747 that flew me from Los Angeles to Brisbane

My Qantas 747 that flew me from Los Angeles to Brisbane

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I tend to think security in the United States is fairly stringent, though I think a lot of of that is psychological. Between the advanced warnings they put out there, the video you watch on the plane just prior to landing, the paperwork you need to fill out, and the presence of uniformed officers in the terminal, I think the US does a good job of letting you know what you can and can’t bring into the country. However, the Australians seem to do a lot better….

We got off of the plane, and walked for maybe a couple yard down a hallway with no other exit options. About halfway down the hallway, we were greeted by a customs police officer standing in the middle of a gate designed to force passengers to walk narrowly down the middle. When I walked through, he advised to not talk, and line up on a taped white line on the floor ahead. Watching the other passengers do the same, I figured this was legitimate and placed my toes on the line, side by side with a US couple, whom I jokingly asked if we were about to be shot, since it almost resembled a firing squad. We were told to place our bags behind us and to not touch them. There were two lines, one across from the other, so after more passengers arrived, there ended up being two rows of passengers starring at each other in the hallway. Once the two lines were complete, a head police officer came out with a camera, advising us to remain still. Two other officers with drug detecting dogs appeared and began sniffing us and our belongings in a very organized, yet tactic format. Nothing was left “un-smelled.” As the dog progressed down the line, he was filmed by the head police officer, presumably in case he actually detected and alerted to something. Once the dog had sniffed our entire row, we were told we could leave, though kept purposely away from the passengers still standing on the opposite side, since they had yet to go through the process and they didn’t want any mingling.

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I found this process to be very intimidating, especially for someone not from this country, since originally, I did not know what was going on. I was lucky enough to be standing next to some more Americans with the same thought process, and it would have been more comforting to know what this procedure was about beforehand, though I can certainly understand and respect the reasons why that isn’t done. I just find this process very interesting, and haven’t seen it done before. The first thing that crossed my mind is that this would never be done in the United States, though I actually walked away wishing it would be done, since I think it would curtail the drug and smuggling problems that always seem to be present. Long story short, if you want to smuggle things you shouldn’t be into Australia, don’t. Their border protection force is on their A-game.

Have you ever seen this process before when traveling, or is this something unique to Australia?

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  1. JGM says

    I’ve seen armed police with sniffer beagles walking around the departures area and the dogs were sniffing peoples bags. I ♡ beagles so I had no problems with it. 😉 By the way they sniff bags before they come out on the carousel… normal operating procedure.

  2. A says

    They’re not drug sniffer dogs, they’re looking primarily for food. Australia has vry few of the diseases and pest that rat reat of the world has, and if they were brought in it would devastate our economy and environment. So yes, that salami or apple in your bag is a really really big deal.

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