Apis costs questioned by experts and MPs

An academic leading research into the impact of advance passenger-data gathering on the travel industry says the government has left the sector to bear the burden of a policy called into question by MPs.

Dr Kirstie Ball, a specialist in surveillance and organisation at the Open University Business School, said: “The impact of this scheme is being felt across the entire travel sector.

“The government has placed a lot of pressure on the sector to comply with e-borders. The industry is being asked to change processes and systems when it is questionable the government is keeping its side of the bargain.”

The e-Borders system and the Advance Passenger Information System (Apis) requests that go with it have imposed multi-million pound costs on the industry.

Yet the Home Affairs Select Committee of MPs concluded in its last report, released at the end of May: “We remain deeply concerned about the e-Borders programme, given . . . the lack of clarity about the final shape of the scheme and the high (but still unquantifiable) cost both to the taxpayer and to carriers.”

The MPs pointed out a previous committee report had noted “significant practical problems” which remain unresolved two years on from the launch of the scheme.

The original timetable for implementing e-Borders specified 95% of airline passengers’ details would be collected by December 2010, with the scheme widened to UK ports in 2011 and to rail passengers next year.

The committee reported: “As of April 2011, the e-Borders system was collecting details of 55% of passengers on airlines. There was no coverage of ferries or trains. All deadlines . . . were missed.”

Ball said: “The sector is struggling to coordinate its efforts to meet the demands of Apis. People could not be blamed for questioning whether the government is capable of acting upon the vast amount of data being transmitted by airlines.

“Customers, those in customer-facing roles, those communicating with customers over Apis, those building IT systems to meet the demands and those in regulatory roles are bearing the brunt of these changes.”

Ball’s team is assessing the impact of Apis on customer relations in the industry and wants the industry’s help. She is asking all those involved to complete an online questionnaire. All who complete it will go into a prize draw for a £500 study voucher at the Open University.

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