Pilots point out flaws in passenger disclosure rule

September 26, 2007

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection's proposal isn't flying with pilots or AOPA. The government wants flight notification and passenger manifests to be submitted via the Internet before general aviation flights enter or depart the United States.

Since AOPA first reported on the issue Sept. 11, more then 300 pilots have posted comments and are pointing out concerns based on their real world experiences in traveling outside the United States.

These reflect much of what AOPA has identified as major flaws in the proposal. Two of the major issues are:

  • Electronic filing as the sole means of submitting customs arrival/departure notification and passenger manifests
  • A new requirement to notify customs for approval of flight and passenger manifest at least 60 minutes before departing the United States

Electronic submissions

Many general aviation pilots fly to and from remote areas in the United States, Canada, or Mexico that do not have Internet service. Filing the required arrival notification and passenger manifests through customs' electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) and obtaining the required approval before departing won't work in those cases.

Under the proposal, pilots who electronically submit their arrival notices and passenger information will not have a way to update their plans from the airport before departure if Internet access is unavailable or while in flight in the event of unexpected poor weather conditions. The same would hold true for those who would need to update their departure/arrival time because of delays at rural airports while waiting for fuel or other services.

AOPA maintains that GA pilots must have another means of filing and updating this information. Without alternatives such as the existing provisions for notifying and updating arrival times and destinations by phone or through ATC, it could hinder GA operations and interfere with the safety of flight.

Notifying customs before U.S. departures

Currently, pilots are not required to contact customs when they are departing the United States. AOPA questions how adding this new requirement will significantly benefit national security.

The association also wants customs to clarify the procedure if a passenger's name appears on a no-fly list. Any issue stemming from mistaken identity should be resolved quickly, AOPA says, so that the passenger or flight is not stranded for a long period of time.

Comments regarding this proposal should be submitted at the government Web site www.regulations.gov.

For more information, see AOPA's regulatory brief.