EU Court Nixes Air Passenger Data Swap

Deal to trade air passenger info for landing rights is deemed illegal but privacy concerns have yet to be sorted out

A 2004 deal between the European Union and the US has been deemed illegal by the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg.

The European parliament had issued no less than six pleas surrounding the exchange of so-called Passenger Name Records (PNR).

The PNR deal was struck two years ago between the European Commission and the US government, despite opposition by the European parliament. Airlines were forced to release data originally deemed private under European law or face having their US landing rights revoked.

The Luxembourg Court has now ruled the original deal falls outside European Community law and concluded it should therefore be annulled. The PNR data exchange must end on 30 September 2006. Airlines claim to have invested millions to make their computer systems suitable for the required transfers.

The so-called 'no fly lists' compiled with such data - supplemented by credit card records - have in recent years forced flights to return to Europe or divert to Canada.

Of the six pleas, the court only reviewed the first, looking at the legal grounds on which the EC entered into the agreement.

European parliament members had hoped the courts would give a verdict on privacy issues - but the court has decided not to. Now that the agreement has been annulled the court simply states: "It is not necessary to consider the other limbs of the first plea or the other pleas relied upon by the parliament."


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