Some people think I only write negative stories on this blog, and that’s not true, although I do like pointing out the wrongs in this world. Here’s a positive shout out to the great folks at the Australian Customs Service.
Qantas, in its infinite wisdom, was running very late out of SFO Friday night, and I originally had about 2 1/2 hours between landing in Sydney and the connecting flight to Perth at the domestic terminal (in Sydney they are opposite sides of the airport itself, and not connected in any way).
I land with about 40 minutes to spare. Get to the first check point and the customs officer is very pleasant and polite. I mention to her that I’m pushing it for the connecting flight, she asked whether I had an express pass, I said no (and that I had no idea what that was), she said Qantas should have given me one but as long as she could see my next ticket she could sort me out. And she did.
Next was the luggage. At this stage I was probably 30 minutes off the plane and still no bag….Qantas again. Eventually get the bag and I’m down to 20 minutes. I go looking for the express lane (Sydney customs is insanely big…bigger infact than SFO…although there is one point at SYD, but two at SFO, so combined SFO would be bigger). Out of no where a customs office approaches me and pleasently asks whether she can offer asistance. I quickly explain that I have the express ticket and that I’m down to 20 minutes. She asked me what was in the Duty Free bag, I showed her, she said something like “that’s fine” then stamped my express ticket and told me to go straight to the end of the room. This apparently was the uber-express door, because the guy on the door looked at the stamp and waved me right through, no queuing, no screening, no nothing, straight out into the terminal so I can go to the domestic transfer lounge. Made it to the domestic terminal as the plane was boarding, but made it.
This story is not to say that Customs officers in the US are bad…well they aren’t great in New York but the SFO ones are fine…but they’re officious and humorless, where as I was greeted by smiling faces and people who were more than happy to help me in Sydney. They say that impressions count for everything when people visit somewhere, and I’m proud to say that those visiting Australia via Sydney for the first time will get a great first impression. Kudos to the fine officers of the Australian Customs Service for a job well done and helping me out.