How an ordinary chicken sandwich ended up costing granny more than $3k in Brisbane after simple mistake
A forgotten sandwich in a backpack has become a costly nightmare for an elderly retiree.
June Armstrong, 77, from New Zealand, bought a muffin and a gluten-free chicken and lettuce sandwich at Christchurch Airport before flying to Brisbane early in the morning in May.
She ate the muffin and put the sealed sandwich in her backpack to eat during the three and a half hour flight.
Mrs. Armstrong fell asleep during the flight and completely forgot about the uneaten meal that was in her bag.
When she then filled out the customs declaration form, she completely forgot to declare it.
It wasn’t until she was confronted by Australian Border Police officers who went through her backpack on arrival that she realized her expensive mistake.
She burst into tears at the airport after being handed a huge fine.
June Armstrong (pictured) hopes her costly ordeal will be a lesson to other travelers
“I just sobbed and said, ‘$3,300 for a small sandwich?’ she told the New Zealand Herald.
Ms Armstrong attempted to appeal the fine within the 28-day payment deadline but, after a series of automated responses, was ultimately forced to pay to meet the deadline.
“My husband kept saying, ‘Pay it.’ I said, ‘It’s our pension, we can’t afford this.’
Six months later, Ms Armstrong is still fighting the fine, which has taken a physical and mental toll on her.
“I think about it day and night, I now take sleeping tablets,” she wrote in her submission to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
“I am consumed by the size of this fine and how much of an impact it will have on our lives.”
It was only when officials at Brisbane Airport searched her backpack that she realized her costly mistake in not declaring a chicken and lettuce sandwich.
But in order to receive a response from Australian authorities, Ms Armstrong has accepted the likely possibility that the fine will not be overturned.
But she hopes her ordeal will be a warning to other travelers.
“I should let it go, and my husband tells me to, but they just don’t give me answers,” Mrs. Armstrong said.
‘Everyone I show the fine to is astonished, they just can’t believe it.’
Travelers bringing food into Australia must declare this on their incoming passenger card.
“Biosecurity officers may need to inspect some of the food you bring,” the ABF website says.
Although bread products may be brought into Australia for personal consumption, they may not contain meat or non-canned animal products.
If a traveler fails to declare items known to pose a “high level of biosecurity risk,” a breach notification could amount to up to 12 points (worth $3,756), “depending on the risk of the goods.”
Canterbury pensioner June Armstrong has spent the past six months challenging the fine