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Aviation Industry Resisting India's New Passenger Data System

International airlines are resisting India's new passenger information system, set to be implemented at the end of this month. Carriers say the system, as proposed, is incompatible with existing databases. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

A new passenger data system India wants to implement June 30 is causing concern for the airline industry. International carriers say it is incompatible with industry norms, certified by the United Nations, and asks for too much information.

The industry is not disputing India's requirement for some data on all incoming passengers. Such automated screening of passengers has become routine in many countries since the 2001 al-Qaida attacks in the United States.

A number of other countries have made transmission of passenger data before takeoff mandatory, including the United States, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

However, India's non-standard system has prompted the International Air Transport Association to express its concerns directly to India's civil aviation minister. IATA spokesman Anthony Concil says India needs to be in harmony with the global standard the airlines are already meeting.

"In the case of India, we're being asked for all kinds of information which is inconsistent with what other countries are requiring," he said. "So our message to governments, India included, is, if we're going to be serious about building an effective advanced passenger information system, then it's time for governments to start talking to each other to harmonize their requirements."

The global passenger information standard uses an encrypted format known as UN/Edifact. The data is easily decoded by immigration authorities for arriving flights. But India also wants its requested information in a different data format, which would mean carriers would need to obtain new equipment.

Japan Airlines is denying an Indian media report that it is considering suspending service between Tokyo and New Delhi because of the stricter and more intrusive Indian rules. But an airline spokesman says the Japanese carrier has "strongly requested" India bring its system into line with those used elsewhere.

India's state-run national airline, Air India, says it is ready for the new government regulations for passengers it is flying into the country.

India had wanted to implement the new passenger reporting system on April 1, but extended the deadline by 90 days to give airlines more time to prepare.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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