If you ever wondered why airlines seem so strict when it comes to checking passports and visas, it is because of the fines levied against them when an unauthorized passenger boards a flight.
AirAsia X was just fined $6,000 for allowing a passenger to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland. That is hardly news, but the circumstances, however, are interesting.
Like many nations, New Zealand has a pre-clearance, Advance Process Passenger System (APP) that checks passengers against a database before boarding an aircraft.
While checking in a passenger, an Air Asia passenger received a “Do Not Board” message. Rather than respect that denial, the agent overrode the system.
Stephanie Greathead, a New Zealand immigration official, told The New Zealand Herald:
The handling agent then made several other attempts to check-in the traveler and then submitted an incomplete name into the APP system, before receiving a directive to ‘Board with Outward Ticket.
By omitting the passenger’s middle name or additional surname, the agent tricked the system into allowing him to board. This was done even though the agent knew the passenger was not permitted to travel to New Zealand.
Unsurprisingly, when the passenger landed in New Zealand and was promptly sent on the same plane back to Kuala Lumpur.
AirAsia was apologetic, blaming a rogue agent:
AirAsia remains committed to the laws and regulation of the countries in which we operate.
Upon notification of this incident, we conducted a thorough review and took appropriate corrective action.
As part of ongoing compliance measures, we continue to review both our internal procedures and ground-handler training to prevent future cases from reoccurring.
And surley it was a rogue agent. But did the agent really think the passenger could clear immigration in New Zealand with a passport that was already denied?
I hate the visa verification process or even the passport signature verification for flights from the USA to Germany (under German law, your passport is invalid if not signed). But airlines do it for a reason. Trying to skirt immigration systems is a futile and expense effort (unless you are flying to Nigeria).