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Passenger data fails to take off

The Home Ministry?s plan to activate the Advanced Passenger Information System has run into turbulence.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 04:24 IST

The Home Ministry’s plan to activate the Advanced Passenger Information System has run into turbulence. The system-- by which an India-bound flight would have to provide Indian authorities with data on all its passengers within 15 minutes of take-off-- would have made life easier for customs and immigration officials. But airline operators say it will only lead to a big mess, even hit Indian tourism in a big way.

With the operators up in arms, the ministry has been forced to alter its plans and will activate APIS only on Air-India flights on May 1 as a pilot project. Within a month, other airlines will be asked to do the same. On July 1, APIS will be formally implemented at IGI and then at other international airports in India.

The ministry's original notification required airlines to be responsible for providing information like “complete name, date of birth, nationality, sex, passport number, country of issue, country of permanent residence, visa number and date and place of issue”. But following protests, it has settled for the first five categories of information for the first six months of APIS.

According to a ministry official, airline operators said, “Not all countries issue machine readable passports. There are citizens who possess older passports that aren't machine readable.”

However, six months down the line, airlines will have to provide three more categories of information, “Country where passport was issued, country of permanent residence, visa number and date and place of issue”.

Irate airline operators say this whole move would mean additional personnel would have to be provided at airline counters in foreign airports whenever there's an India-bound flight. Check-in time would also go up as the data has to be collected then.

Airlines are also uncomfortable about the legal technicalities that make them liable for “ensuring transmission of accurate information”. But this is nowhere near as bad as the original notification, which sought to make pilots liable for punishment if accurate data wasn't provided. This clause was removed after protests by pilots and concern from operators that pilots may refuse to fly to India. The ministry subsequently decided it would be the country representative or station manager of each airline who would be held responsible.

Operators are also worried about APIS implementation from countries like Afghanistan and Nepal which lack computerised departure control system facilities. The National Informatics Centre has been asked to device an alternative system but till that’s ready, total APIS implementation won’t be possible.

First Published: Apr 27, 2006 02:15 IST