EU airlines allowing access to all personal details on passengers by US authorities


Revised 8 July 2003

Statewatch's correspondent in Austria writes that a spokesperson for Amadeus systems, the data warehouseing company for European air carriers, confirmed on Tuesday, 1 July, that the full 40 data fields per passenger are being made available to the US (where this data has been collected) from the first airlines selected to give access to their reservation systems. The full 40 data fields include personal "historical" data.

Not all airlines operating out of the EU are currently part of this system as some like Austrian Airlines have got an extension from US agencies, while Air France and Lufthansa are already taking part in the system.

US Customs have direct access to the whole Amadeus database around the clock to access data from those airlines taking part through what is known as the "pull format" (ie: US agencies download the data) as distinct from the "push" format (where EU airlines decide what information to send to the USA).

A Amadeus spokesperson also confirmed that the European Commission has advised air carriers to hand over this data - this exchange of data is only covered by an informal agreement between the USA and the European Commission and is open to legal challenge as few of the data protection standards laid by the 1995 EC Directive are met. This informal agreement will stay in operation until a formal decision is taken in the EU on such data exchanges.

On 22 May the US Customs defined more than 40 data fields that European airlines have to transfer to the US. These include all forms of payment information, billing address, email address, home address and home phone number of the passenger. Under US laws this data can be held and accessed for seven years - which is quite contrary to EU law.

Interview with Eberhard Haag, Senior Vice President, Operations: Interview

Statewatch coverage, analysis and documentation on the transfer of passenger data to USA


1. EU working party on data protection highly critical of proposed deal on US access to passenger data: Report

2. EU: Major commercial associations express strong concerns about plans for data retention: Report

3. EU: Campaign launched against the illegal transfer of European travellers' data to the USA: Report

4. Massive majority in European Parliament against deal with US on access to passenger data: Full report, resolution and amendments and verbatim debate

5. European Parliament resolution on airline passenger data gains wide support: Report

6. European Parliament committee to hold emergency session on the transfer of personal data to USA: Report

7. Direct access to personal details of EU passengers: How US Customs bounced the European Commission into a quick decision: Report

8. EU data protection chair calls for US access to passenger details to be postponed: Report

9. EU Working Party on data protection report on passenger data access by USA: Report
"it does not seem acceptable that a unilateral decision taken by a third country for reasons of its own public interest should lead to the routine and wholesale transfer of data protected under the directive"

10. US Customs to have direct access to EU airlines reservations databases: Report

11. European Commission caves in to US demands for airline and shipping passenger lists: Report

12. EU-US: US demands EU airlines and ships provide passengers list - UK is first EU government to back US scheme: Report



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