Published On: Thu, Jan 7th, 2016

How API data drives Air Travel Efficiency and Supports Cross-Border Security

IATAThe collection and use of Advance Passenger Information (API) data has multiple benefits both for government authorities and air travelers. It fosters efficient border security protection procedures, facilitates security cooperation matters among States and positively impacts flows at airports. It also contributes to the automation of security controls, enhancing the passenger journey.

In the past decade, the collection of API data for the purposes of exit, entry and transit control of air passengers has risen. And it is likely to expand further, following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2178 in September 20141 which includes measures to curtail the movement of terrorists.

For Governments, API data is an important border security tool intended to identify those persons representing an unacceptable level of risk to the State, facilitate the entry and exit of those passengers who do pose an acceptable level of risk, and identify people and trends to Governments, such as suspicious travel patterns or relationships. API consists of biographical information contained in the Machine-Readable Travel Document which, after being captured, is sent either as a collective whole in a batch transmission or in real time during check-in as interactive API.

The benefits of collecting and using API for Governments is varied and can be summed up as seen below:

  1. Border Security: API allows inspection authorities to match passenger lists for flights against watch-lists, including INTERPOL databases. This enables risk-based, data-driven border control processing.
  2. Integrated Border Management: API serves the interest of a number of border security agencies. Thus, States should agree on a single agency to primary data receiver, which would then be obliged to share that data with all other agencies having a legal interest in that material. This is known as the “Single Window” concept, through which numerous border control authorities will have access to cross-border movements and analysis.
  3. Automated Border Control: Risk-based, data-driven processing, allows low-risk passengers to be steered through ABC gates, which in the mid to long-term are cost-effective border clearance processes. Through interoperability mechanisms, States facilitate the exchange of data while passengers benefit from greater ability to use ABC gates in different States.
  4. International Co-operation: Requesting and receiving standardized API data sets will facilitate international data sharing on cross-border movements and thus analysis.
  5. Travel history and analysis: Standardized API data sets will also facilitate the management of exit/entry/transit history, thus potentially eliminating the need for paper based embarkation/disembarkation cards.
  6. Reduction in Inadmissible Passengers: Interactive API will result in a clear reduction in Inadmissible persons and associated return costs.
  7. Simplified Exit Controls: Use of API can eliminate the need for outbound immigration controls.

Referring to the current situation in the Caribbean region specifically, States members to CARICOM benefit from the Joint Regional Communications Center’s (JRCC)2 data exchange services which provides them with a cost-efficient platform to share intelligence and improve border control processes while enhancing facilitation. IATA applauds the efforts being made in order to allow non-CARICOM States to utilize JRCCs services by means of a Memorandum of Understanding, recognizing the needs and benefits of having all States under the same umbrella for the same purpose. The outcomes of such approach are significant for States and industry, setting an example that other countries and regions should definitely mirror.

Despite the numerous cost-saving and border security benefits of API, a number of States fund passenger data program developments through collection of specific fees payable by the airline or by individual passengers.

IATA believes that the benefits of passenger data collection by Government is already so advantageous that States possess few arguments to impose the financing of this process to passengers and air carriers. Therefore, IATA supports the policy outlined by ICAO Document 90823 which indicates that where a process is implemented for national security reasons, then the associated costs for that process should be borne by the State.

It is highly recommended that States wishing to implement passenger data programs work collaboratively with industry to align these with ICAO global Standards and Recommended Practices as well as the API Guidelines set forth by ICAO, WCO and IATA.

By Annaleen Bobb.

Annaleen Bobb is Acting Caribbean Area Manager, International Air Transport Association

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