Want to breeze through the fast lane at Hong Kong immigration? If you've been to Hong Kong three times or more in the last year, you're eligible to join the Frequent Visitor e-Channel program instantly at the booth in arrivals -- but frequent flyers with Qantas or 33 other airlines can enrol after just one visit!
Hong Kong is hardly the worst airport for immigration queues, but as such a busy hub with flights arriving from all directions it's easy to get caught in a 15 minute line -- especially if you've done the smart thing and packed carry-on only.
If only you could waltz through the uncrowded fast track lanes and then head straight onto the Airport Express train to the city.
That's where the e-Channel comes in. It lets you use the 'e-Channel' line instead of the regular queue for visitors.
The system has replaced Hong Kong's Frequent Visitor Card, previously a boon to business travellers, but don't worry: the new system is even easier to enrol in, and your old card has been extended in validity.
Eligibility and application
The Frequent Visitor e-Channel is available if you've been through Hong Kong three times in the last twelve months -- or if you're a frequent flyer with certain airlines, including Qantas and Cathay Pacific.
Hong Kong's government e-Channel page suggests that you "enquire with your airline" whether you're eligible, but a Hong Kong Immigration spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that Qantas and 30 other airlines' frequent flyers will get the nod. (A full list is at the bottom of this article.)
APEC Business Travel Card or HKSAR Travel Pass holders are also eligible.
Head on over to the instant enrolment office locations in Terminal 1 once you arrive in Hong Kong. They'll give you some paperwork, take your fingerprints and attach a barcoded sticker to your passport, and then you're set to go.
(We know you know what a sticker looks like, but the Immigration people apparently think people needed telling in their how-to guide...)
If you already have one of the now-discontinued Frequent Visitor Cards, its validity has been extended by three years. If you haven't received an email telling you so, follow up with the authorities.
Those airlines in full...
Frequent flyers with these airlines can skip the "three-visits" requirement by producing their frequent flyer card, a Hong Kong Immigration spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller:
Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, China Airlines, China Southern, Delta, Ethiopian, Eva Airways, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, Kingfisher, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Brunei, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Thai Airways, United, and Virgin Atlantic.
Check whether your particular Silver/Gold/Platinum tier is eligible.
Did it work for you? We're keen to know whether it's as easy as the immigration spokespeople are suggesting. Share your experiences with us and with other readers in a comment below!
For more top tips on speeding your way through airports and immigration, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.