My Suspicious Biscuits

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Judging by the load of old rubbish that appeared in some media yesterday you could be forgiven for thinking that every moment you spend on a plane will be monitored and examined to see how likely a terrorist or dubious character you might be. Read the Daily Mail and everything you request or buy that is connected with your flight will be held for up to five years, swapped with other nations and generally used to spy on you with massive databases being constructed to store this information. The Pugh cartoon has a wife saying to her husband, “Next year if you forget my birthday you can always call the French Embassy.”
What’s behind all this brouhaha?
The UK has signed up to the draft (note the word “draft”) EU directive on Passenger Name Records (PNR.) When implemented this means that the records you supply to an airline and which are already stored can be supplied to other governments or agencies in the hunt to find potential terrorists and criminals. For a start if you have travelled to the US then this information has been provided otherwise you wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the country in the first place so most of this requirement is not new.
But what does a PNR contain? It has your name, address, contact details in case of a crash and a contact address in the country you are flying to and passport details. Does it contain the fact that I ordered a buscuits, a cup of tea and bought a litre of brandy on the flight? No it doesn’t and to suggest otherwise is wrong.
Airlines do hold other information. Credit card details or the method by which you paid for the fare, (provided you bought it directly from them) requests for an aisle seat, whether you had hold baggage, (and the weights and number of cases) the fact that some are vegetarian or want gluten free meals or need a wheelchair. So what? Is this such an infringement? Isn’t this what you want them to know so they can adequately deliver what you want? It seems to me that far worse is when no frills airlines print your passport number on the boarding paper for anyone to see?
Face it; if you travel by air these days, you are going to have to expect some information will be retained. If you don’t accept it, don’t fly. Whether it will be of use in capturing criminals and terrorists is another issue.

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