Whether you fly once a year or every other day, one thing’s for sure: nobody likes standing in line at the airport, but you don’t always need a business class ticket or a shiny frequent flyer card to fast-track your way through the terminal and onto your flight or your ride home.
Here are just some of the ways travellers can speed-up their journey through Brisbane Airport, to spend more time relaxing or be on their way sooner.
Brisbane Airport’s domestic terminal: Qantas flights
Taking a Qantas domestic flight from Brisbane Airport? If you’re eligible for lounge access, you’re also eligible to use the Qantas Premium Lounge Entry facility.
Open seven days, this is your pathway to security screening in a private area, rather than clearing security at the main and usually quite crowded Qantas checkpoint; it also provides easy access to priority check-in desks for business class passengers, eligible frequent flyers and Qantas Club members.
Upstairs from the premium entry area you'll emerge inside the Qantas lounge precinct, with a barista coffee station conveniently nearby where there’s almost never a queue.
In that same area is also a Qantas service desk: useful for requesting things like frequent flyer upgrades, but also for checking-in for connecting international flights when you’re not bringing checked baggage.
For instance, on a recent Brisbane-Melbourne-Los Angeles trip with only a carry-on bag, I chose to skip the queues downstairs at the regular assistance desks (behind everybody with suitcases to check), and completed check-in upstairs instead: obtaining both my boarding passes within moments.
Brisbane Airport’s domestic terminal: Virgin Australia flights
Virgin Australia also offers a private lounge entry at Brisbane Airport, known as Premium Entry, although its door list is more restrictive than Qantas’, there’s no facility here for checking-in luggage and it’s also closed on weekends.
Welcome are business class passengers, Gold and Platinum members of Velocity and Virgin Australia’s partner airlines, and Lifetime Lounge members – although everybody else entitled to lounge access, including other paid-up lounge members and AMEX Platinum charge card customers, don’t have this option and must clear security via the ‘normal’ checkpoint instead of gliding up those gilded escalators.
However, because the Premium Entry doors are located a fair way from the airline’s check-in desks, the walking distance between taking this approach or going through ‘normal’ security and wandering to the lounge upstairs is about the same: but it’s an option to keep up your sleeve if the regular priority security screening queue is lengthy.
Brisbane Airport’s domestic terminal: all airlines
Unlike other airports such as Sydney and Melbourne, domestic flights departing Brisbane all leave from the same terminal – and as all the departure gates are within a single ‘airside’ zone, you can walk from one end of the terminal to the other after clearing security.
That’s handy if you’re accessing the Qantas lounges as a Jetstar passenger, for example, but also means you can use any of the airport’s general security screening checkpoints: you don’t have to go through the checkpoint nearest your airline.
For instance, if you’re flying Virgin Australia, not able to use Premium Entry and the lines are long at the 'normal' security screening area – which I often see on long weekends and during school holidays...
... you might choose to wander in the opposite direction: towards the Jetstar check-in counters, where, up an escalator, there’s another security checkpoint.
Although more commonly used by passengers flying with Jetstar, Tigerair, Rex and other regional airlines, you could clear security here instead, and simply walk back to the Virgin Australia gates once upstairs. While that walk may take a few minutes, you could still be through security in less time than if you’d joined the back of the long queue.
When (and where) to call for your Uber ride
On landing in Brisbane when taking an Uber, I also save time by ordering the car while walking up the aerobridge from my flight (assuming no checked luggage), even when arriving at one of the terminal’s ‘satellite’ gates.
That’s because the drivers don’t wait for pick-up requests at the terminal: they wait at a different part of the airport, not knowing whether they’ll be sent to the domestic or international terminal, and usually take 8-10 minutes to arrive at the pick-up road once your request is received.
By ordering a car from the aerobridge, I’m still at the pick-up area a couple of minutes before the driver arrives, but this avoids waiting any longer than necessary – and standing outside in very hot or cold weather, or when it’s raining.
Brisbane Airport’s international terminal: all airlines
Wherever possible, you are taking advantage of online check-in, aren’t you?
It’s a great way to skip the queues – especially if you’re not otherwise entitled to priority check-in – because even if you still need to visit the airline check-in desks, there’s generally a separate line for online check-in passengers: often much shorter than the general economy queue.
For example, I recently flew with Hawaiian Airlines from Brisbane to Honolulu in ‘Extra Comfort class’, which doesn’t normally offer priority check-in in Brisbane, and despite Hawaiian being a partner airline of Virgin Australia, a Velocity Gold card counts for nothing here either.
However, because I’d completed online check-in, I was able to join the same line as the airline’s Premier Members – rather than the general queue which had over 100 people waiting – and zipped through to the lounge in not much time at all (lounge access being courtesy of a Priority Pass membership).
Security on departure
You already know to use the Express Path line at security if you’re entitled to: but in my experience at Brisbane Airport, the Express line can actually move quite slowly, because the queue emerges at the same checkpoint used by airport staff and cabin crew, who habitually push in front and make the ‘Express’ line anything but.
To get around this, I’ll generally still take the Express Path channel when first entering security, but when reaching the X-ray where you can turn left or right, I’ll turn right if possible, because the left-most checkpoint is the one favourited by airport staff as it’s the easiest to approach: the one on the right, not so much.
SmartGate on arrival
When returning to Brisbane, most travellers wander from their gate, through duty-free, and then queue for a SmartGate kiosk to have their passport scanned and to receive a ticket to move through the SmartGate barriers.
However, the line for these kiosks can sometimes take 20 minutes or more – or if you join the arrivals ‘Express’ line for manual processing in the mornings when many flights land at the same time, I’ve timed waits of over an hour – so instead, I grab a SmartGate ticket before going through duty-free, using one of the kiosks located along the arrivals concourse.
That allows me to make use of a third, separate line – the ”Already have this ticket?” line on the far right – which cuts straight past everybody else and puts you directly at the SmartGate barriers, which you can of course approach and wander through, as you already have your SmartGate ticket.
This approach has never taken me more than three minutes between getting that ticket and crossing the border, even when the airport is bustling with travellers, and on the rare occasion I actually travel with a checked bag, I’m always at the baggage belt before it even starts spinning: otherwise, I'm straight out and home.