Wednesday, 14 January 2004

22 government agencies want airline passenger lists

Criticism of government demands — especially from the USA — for airline passenger data is being heard increasingly even from within the airline industry.

Today, Air Transport World reports that British Airways president Rod Eddington complained to an interviewer from the Financial Times that delays to BA flights to Washington last week were due, “in part, to the fact that a total of 22 different agencies claimed a reason to check one passenger list.” Edddington also reportedly continues to object to USA demands for airborne guards with guns: “My starting position has always been that guns and planes don’t mix.”

In the same interview, according to another report in The Independent , “Mr Eddington revealed that last October the RAF scrambled two Tornado fighter jets to Heathrow airport when it was feared that an incoming service from Baltimore faced a hijack attempt. But the two men who were reportedly overheard saying ‘we’ve been planning this for six months - let’s do it’ were debating the merits of a family reunion with a long-lost aunt.”

Even in the USA, the airlines are beginning to go public with the objections that many airline industry insiders have been voicing privately to me for months. Referring to the proposed use of credit and financial records by the CAPPS-II airline passenger profiling and surveillance system, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association told the Chicago Tribune (free registration and cookie acceptance required), “we encourage the federal government to focus their search on law-enforcement databases…. I don’t understand how somebody’s Visa statement would help determine if he or she is a terrorist risk.”

Meanwhile, in São Paulo, an American Airlines pilot and USA citizen who made “an obscene gesture” while being photgraphed on arrival in Brazil (in reciprocation of the photographing of all Brazilian visitors to the USA) was arrested and fined the equivalent of US$12,000. “American Airlines has agreed to pay the fine and has issued an apology”, according to the BBC , although I can’t find the apology on the American Airlines Web site (registration, cookie acceptance, and credit card details required).

I wonder what would happen to a Brazilian citizen who gave the finger to a Customs and Border Protection officer on arrival in the USA?

[Addendum, 15 January 2004: According to a reprint of Eddington’s full article by EyeForTravel , Eddington also confirmed that, as I’ve previously suggested here and here , the source of the passenger data on which recent flight cancellations and delays have been based was the APIS system: “Throughout last week the passenger list of one of our Washington flights, the BA223, had to be checked by the US authorities. It was an extension of the APIS (Advance Passenger Information System) regulations which are now a requirement of the US for all overseas carriers.” This immediate misuse of the newly proposed “agreement” with the European Commission on passenger data transfers is likely to heighten the pressure on the European Parliament not to approve the EC proposal.]

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 14 January 2004, 21:43 ( 9:43 PM)
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