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Monday, June 10, 2013

Travel Tip #442: Keep your passport in good nick.



About to board my international flight and check-in supervisor takes one look at my worse-for-wear passport. “I'm sorry, we can't let you fly with a passport in this condition.” came the matter-of-fact statement. I was being denied boarding on the basis of my deteriorating, 8-y-o passport.

Shoving in and out of SmartGate machines could bring about a
premature end to your valuable travel document
Now if that wasn't a wake-up call, I don't know what it is. It's true, check-in staff, as representatives of the airline, are responsible for ensuring the passenger has all correct documents for travel – and this includes a valid (undamaged) passport. If an airline delivers an invalid passenger to the destination country, they are fined, often heavily and expected to return that passenger at their own expense.

In my case, I was able to convince the airline I was a valid passenger and that the damage to my passport was due to wear and not tampering and that I was prepared to take the risk at immigration in my destination and be ready for an immediate return journey. Australian immigration in departures took one look at it, held it up like a stale sardine and gibed, “maybe it's time to get a new passport.” It was a nervous 8-hour flight, let me tell you.

As it turned out, the immigration official at my destination barely flinched, stamped away merrily and handed it back with a cheery smile. But you never know. I wouldn't want to try this in the USA.

Be gentle with your passport in the new SmartGate machines (customs.gov.au)
My suspicions are that the new DIY so-called SmartGate devices are none too delicate on passports, especially the fat 80-page ones that might be tiring of their travels. Pushing in and out the tight reader slot will quickly begin to tear the seams of a weary passport, so I would strongly recommend avoiding these machines. Even for brand new passports, this continued use for frequent flyers may hasten a premature end for your most valuable travel document.

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