Business and first class passengers along with top-tier frequent flyers on Star Alliance airlines will enjoy VIP treatment at the immigration desks of selected airports from next year.
The new Gold Track Immigration program will complement the existing Gold Track security lanes (below) already established at the hubs of many Star Alliance member airlines – a 28-strong roster which includes Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai and United.
"We are in conversation with a number of airports around the world where the immigration authorities do contemplate the possibility of offering priority services to premium customers" Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab told Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the consortium's six-monthly meeting in Chicago.
"We've done a worldwide inventory of where those possibilities exist at key (member airline) hubs," Schwab added, "and the conversations we're having at these locations are progressing quite well."
Schwab predicts the first Gold Track Immigration lanes will open "at the end of Q1 or the beginning of Q2 next year".
Although premium passengers can check-in for their flight at priority desks and can typically breeze through express security lanes, immigration checkpoints often become chokepoints where every traveller – regardless of ticket type or frequent flyer status – is herded into the same snaking queue.
That's something which Schwab wants to change, although he realises this won't always be possible.
All flyers are created equal..?
"Many governments think of this as an egalitarian process where they treat everybody the same no matter what class they're flying in, so the immigration authorities prefer not to offer premium services," Schwab admits.
"But you can imagine that for busy business travellers, the opportunity of whizzing through immigration is highly attractive."
Different countries also have different approaches to streamlining immigration, ranging from handing out 'express path' cards to registration programs for frequent travellers.
This will make for a far slower roll-out compared to Gold Track security, "but whatever can be done to speed your way through the entire airport process is really important," Schwab stressed.
The writer travelled to Chicago as a guest of Star Alliance
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