I am a pas­sen­ger

Australian T3 - - PLANE TRUTH -

Be­fore you even make it to the air­port, though, wheels are al­ready in mo­tion to keep you safe. A Boe­ing “Triple Seven” can carry up to 451 people – and to the bor­der con­trols and gov­ern­ments of the world each one is a po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist.

Air­lines are re­quired to pro­vide info about ev­ery­one on their man­i­fest, via a se­cure net­work, up to 72 hours be­fore ar­rival. Called “Ad­vanced Pas­sen­ger In­for­ma­tion”, or “Se­cure Flight”, the sys­tem de­ter­mines an in­di­vid­ual’s risk based on full name, date of birth, gen­der, na­tion­al­ity and travel documents. This data is com­pared with do­mes­tic “watch” lists and an Interpol data­base that lists lost or stolen travel pa­pers, ac­cessed by 190 coun­tries.

Pass­ports and documents are then flagged ahead of time – along with those who have a one-way reser­va­tion, have paid cash, or who book on the day of their flight – and agents at the de­par­ture gate are prompted to stop the pas­sen­ger or stamp a code on their board­ing pass that will lead to a more strin­gent sec­ondary check, usu­ally at the se­cu­rity gates. In the case of the US, if the letters SSSS (sec­ondary se­cu­rity screen­ing se­lec­tion) ap­pear on your pass, you should brace yourself for a rub­ber glove hand­shake as you travel to­wards the de­par­ture lounge.

How­ever, sur­veil­lance stan­dards do dif­fer from coun­try to coun­try. In­deed, when the pas­sen­gers of MH370 were checked in de­tail af­ter the flight went miss­ing, it was dis­cov­ered that two Ira­nian na­tion­als were fly­ing on stolen documents.

“It’s likely the stolen pass­ports went un­no­ticed be­cause the tick­ets were for con­tin­u­ing travel to Am­s­ter­dam,” re­veals Pro­fes­sor Brian Havel, di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion Law In­sti­tute. “If China had been re­quired to is­sue visas, they prob­a­bly would have been red flagged in Kuala Lumpur or Bei­jing. How­ever, it’s pos­si­ble that bor­der con­trol as­sumed they would be checked in China, who in turn passed re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Nether­lands, by which time it was too late.”

This is not a one-off oc­curence, ei­ther. Ac­cord­ing to Interpol, few of its mem­ber na­tions ac­tu­ally ac­cess its stolen pass­port data­base and an es­ti­mated one bil­lion pas­sen­gers flew with­out hav­ing their pass­ports screened last year alone. This is why fur­ther checks are es­sen­tial.

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