KLM in showdown with US over banned flight
11 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Dutch airline KLM has demanded the US explain how it gained insight into passenger details of a flight US authorities turned back from its airspace despite the fact it was not scheduled to land on American territory.
11 April 2005
AMSTERDAM — Dutch airline KLM has demanded the US explain how it gained insight into passenger details of a flight US authorities turned back from its airspace despite the fact it was not scheduled to land on American territory.
KLM said on Monday US authorities are not allowed to have access to passenger details on flights that do not land in America. The airline said US authorities are only given restricted access to details on US-bound flights.
The airline discussed the incident with the Justice Ministry on Monday and said it always inspects passenger lists for suspicious travellers. "Apparently our information differs from that of the American authorities," an airline spokesman said.
Despite the fact the weekend's incident was the first of its kind and the spokesman stressed that it was a one-off occurrence, KLM wants to know how the US gained access to passenger details.
The flight with 278 passengers left Schiphol on Friday and was approaching Canada when the pilot was informed that US authorities had refused the plane permission to enter US airspace.
The pilot was told two of the passengers were considered to be a risk, apparently due to terrorism fears. Landing and refuelling for a diverted flight to Mexico was not possible, forcing the plane to turn back to Schiphol.
The two passengers who were on the US 'no-fly list' were not arrested at Schiphol and were flown via England back to Saudi Arabia, their land of origin, where they were not refused entry either. Neither British nor Dutch authorities decided to detain them.
"Why they were refused entry for the United States is not clear to us," the KLM spokesman said.
US authorities examine passenger details themselves and the airline only provides the obligatory information. America uses a no-fly list with 70,000 names. New names are placed on the list if they are suspected or terrorist activities.
People included on the list are not necessarily definite terror suspects and other nations are not obligated to arrest them. Airlines are only forced to refuse boarding rights to people included on the US list for US-bound flights.
Meanwhile, main opposition party Labour PvdA is also demanding answers in the Dutch Parliament. MP Peter van Heemst is questioning whether agreements with the US are adequate and what the two suspected passengers were accused of.
Van Heemst has also questioned why the plane was allowed to fly back to the Netherlands. The MP is demanding to know why the passengers were not under suspicion in Europe and were released after their return to Amsterdam.
The other 276 passengers were given accommodation in an Amsterdam hotel on Saturday before boarding another flight for Mexico. They arrived on Sunday, a day later than originally planned.
The incident could cost KLM hundreds of thousands of euros.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news