Arrive before you leave

Johannesburg, 07 Mar 2008

New technology developed for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will effectively allow air travellers to pass American immigration before they even get their boarding pass while checking in.

The Advance Passenger Information Quick Query (AQQ) technology will likely soon be rolled out in SA by the Soci'et'e Internationale de T'el'ecommunications A'eronautiques, better known abroad as SITA. SITA - not to be confused with SA's State IT Agency - is a leading service provider of integrated IT business solutions and communication services for the global air transport industry.

AQQ will allow the DHS to take control of vetting passenger names against the US government's terrorist watch list, prior to departure of aircraft, and then automatically deliver authority to airlines to issue, or not issue, boarding passes as each passenger checks in.

As from last month, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service requires that all airlines with international flights that depart from, over-fly or fly to the US submit passenger and crew manifest data (passport and travel document information), before the departure of the aircraft.

Airlines now have the choice of submitting such data a minimum of 30 minutes prior to the securing of the aircraft doors, or by using the new AQQ service. The latter enables the airline to send manifest information to the CBP, as each passenger checks in and to receive an immediate response with a "board/no-board" instruction.

Using AQQ eliminates the challenge of creating a complete passenger and crew manifest for the flight 30 minutes prior to aircraft departure. It also shifts the responsibility of cross-checking manifest data against the terrorist watch list prior to departure of the aircraft from the airline to the CBP.

As this ruling affects more than 180 airlines - including SA Airways - and 150 million passenger movements, the CBP's AQQ service has the potential to reduce flight disruptions and improve passenger service.

AQQ is a form of interactive Advance Passenger Information (iAPI) which was first implemented by SITA for Australia in the late 1990s, followed by Bahrain, Kuwait and New Zealand.

SITA is the sole supplier of an off-the-shelf iAPI solution called APP (Advance Passenger Processing) to governments and airlines worldwide. Over half the world's airlines are APP-capable.

AQQ is a community solution that allows airlines to transmit passenger information not only to the US Government, but to any other government that chooses to implement a variant of iAPI. The SITA "industry hub" presents a single interface to the airline and then provides the data processing necessary to interface to any government - saving the airline industry the expense and effort of developing their own individual solutions for each government.

"Each airline could develop a direct interface to the US government," says SITA's vice president for government and security, Thomas Marten. "However, in the long-run, other governments will follow the US lead and develop their own iAPI system each having its own unique requirements and each needing to be supported by the airlines.

"Our solution is one for the airline industry as a whole, which faces mounting costs in many areas. We believe that, by using SITA's interactive hub, airlines will be able to meet with ease all existing iAPI requirements, and any new ones sent their way."

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