Posted on Monday, 10-September-2012 at 5:30 GMT.
Related Categories: Safety and Security, Facts and Statistics

Many travelers to the US are likely familiar with ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), which requires that airlines submit passenger data for pre-clearance before allowing a passenger to check in. New Zealand has a similar program and has decided to fine an airline for failing to comply with its passenger information mandates.

The government of New Zealand has fined Aerolineas Argentinas for boarding foreign nationals from China and Tonga on flights from Sydney to Auckland last year without the proper pre-clearance. New Zealand's Immigration Act of 2009 mandates that airlines forward passenger information for vetting by immigration officials to assess their risk level and permit entry into New Zealand. In programs such as ESTA, if information is not obtained in time, or if a passenger has not been cleared, a passenger may not obtain a boarding pass. It works similarly in New Zealand and a court recently found Aerolineas Argentinas guilty of failing to give passenger details, allowing a passenger to travel without a visa and boarding a passenger against the orders of immigration officials.

Most airlines under requirements to provide passenger data have systems in place to collect the proper information. Immigration New Zealand states that it works with airlines to ensure that they have the proper data collecting systems to submit passenger information prior to a flight. For programs such as ESTA, online booking web sites typically guide a traveler through a form that gathers the required data which is then submitted to officials. Regardless of how the information is submitted, when the name is cleared by officials, the airline receives a directive to proceed with standard check-in and boarding. Though incorrect information or insufficient time may delay the check-in process (as with a last-minute booking), the clearance is typically given within minutes.

Countries that require passenger information prior to travel may impose a fee for travelers to submit their data (ESTA fees are good for entries into the U.S. for two years). Countries also can impose fines on airlines that fail to comply. The fines assessed to Aerolineas Argentinas by Immigration New Zealand are part of a new enforcement protocol that directly addresses the airline's actions.

With respect to passenger documentation in general, airlines can be fined for boarding passengers without the proper documentation in most countries, but carriers often state that it is the passenger's responsibility to carry the proper passports and visas for each country being visited and/or transited during a particular journey.
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