This minor mistake cost one grandmother over $3000 for a chicken sandwich!

Sometimes, mistakes can have life-changing results.

For one woman, what she thought would be a minor mistake when flying to Brisbane ended up taking a large chunk out of her hard-earned pension.

So, what happened?

In May this year, June Armstrong, 77, was at Christchurch Airport early morning and wanted something for her three-and-a-half-hour flight to Brisbane.

She bought a muffin and a gluten-free chicken and lettuce sandwich, ate the muffin and put the sealed sandwich in her backpack to eat during the flight.

June was apprehended and fined at the airport for her minor mistake. Credit: Unsplash

She ended up falling asleep on the plane and completely forgot about the sandwich in her bag.

When she filled out the customs declaration form, she forgot to declare the chicken sandwich.

But when June was confronted by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries biosecurity officers at Brisbane Airport who went through her bag, she realised her costly mistake.

Even though the sandwich was a harmless purchased item, by not declaring it on the customs form, June had broken the law.

The penalty was a fine of $3,300 for failing to declare the chicken sandwich.

June tried to appeal the fine within the 28-day payment period, but after a series of automatic responses, she ended up having to pay the fine to meet the deadline.

She burst into tears when she was slapped with a huge fine.

'I was just sobbing and said, “$3,300 for a little sandwich?”’ she said.

‘My husband kept saying, “Just pay it”. I said, “It's our pension, we can't afford this,”’ she explained.

June is still contesting the massive fine after six months, as it took a physical and mental toll on her.

In her submission to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, she wrote, ‘I think of it night and day, I now am on sleeping tablets.’

‘I am consumed by how much this fine was and how much it will affect our lives,’ she added.

June still hasn’t received any response from the Australian authorities and has come to terms with the possibility that the fine won’t be overturned.

However, she still hoped that her ordeal would serve as a warning to other travellers.

‘I should let it go, and my husband says I should, but they just don't give me any answers,' June said.

'Everybody I show the fine to is dumbfounded. They just can't believe it.’

Travellers bringing food items into Australia need to declare them on their incoming passenger card, and bread products can be brought into Australia for personal consumption as long as they don't contain meat or uncanned animal products.

According to the Australian Border Force website, ‘Biosecurity officers may need to inspect some of the food you're bringing with you.’

If a traveller fails to declare items that pose a 'high level of biosecurity risk', an infringement notice can increase to 12 points (worth $3756) 'depending on the risk of the goods'.

In a similar story, a woman flying back home to Australia ‘basically’ spent $2,664 on a sandwich in Singapore because she forgot to declare two ingredients during her flight. She shared that it was her mistake for not declaring it. Read more about the story here.

Key Takeaways
  • June Armstrong was fined $3,300 for failing to declare a chicken sandwich she brought into Australia.
  • June had forgotten the sandwich was in her backpack and failed to declare it on her customs form.
  • She has spent the last six months contesting the fine, which she paid in order to meet the deadline, but has not yet received any response from Australian authorities.
  • The incident is a warning to other travellers about the need to declare any food items when entering Australia, as failing to do so can result in hefty fines.
Have you or someone else experienced the same situation as June? What do you think of the fines imposed on these kinds of items? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
If this was her first offense, she should have been given a formal warning, which is noted against her in the system. Then if it happens again, the fine is justified.

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