Passenger Information Units (PIUs) often receive poor quality and incomplete data. What are the data quality problems faced by PIUs, and how can they ensure they receive accurate data?

Key takeaways:

  • PIUs often do not receive complete, accurate or high quality data
  • Learn about five major data quality issues that PIUs experience
  • Find out about how to mitigate the data quality problem

Does your Passenger Information Unit ever struggle with data quality problems around Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR)? You aren’t alone. A recent study that interviewed PIU staff in multiple countries found that they all experienced data quality issues on a regular basis.

What are the most common data quality problems facing PIUs, and what can be done about it?

Note : Passenger Information Unit (PIU) is the term most widely used for the state body in charge of collecting API PNR information in Europe. Outside Europe, this official body can have other names such as CBP for the US, Home Office for the UK, or DGMM for Turkey etc. In this article, we opt to use PIU as a generic term to designate API PNR state body (whatever the country).

5 data quality problems faced by PIUs

Passenger Information Units report many problems related to the quality of data they receive. Here are five of the most common data quality problems faced by PIUs.

1. The API PNR message cannot be integrated

One of the most common data quality problems facing PIUs is that the data they receive cannot be integrated into their systems. To be readable by the PIU’s software, all data elements should meet PAXLST and PNRGOV standards – follow the specific format and specifications.

Unfortunately, many smaller airlines enter API PNR data manually – either via online forms or in spreadsheets without any automatic checks. This can introduce errors (i.e. data format) that means the data cannot be integrated by the PIU’s system, and it is therefore rejected.

–> API PNR data: Your complete guide to API PNR

2. Timing problems with data reception

Passenger Information Units require API PNR data to be transmitted in advance. They often require information to be sent in advance of the flight (typically, 24h or 48h before) and also at the moment when the doors close (‘hour zero’).

However, many unscheduled airlines cannot meet this requirement. In Business Aviation in particular, last minute plans or schedule changes mean that it would simply be impossible to send API PNR data 48 or 24 hours in advance, since the flight is oftenly not even planned at this point. These “missing” messages can disrupt the PIU’s data analysis routine. The H0 message is often sent late by these carriers. In the absence of the preceding messages, the PIU is ultimately blind, with no passenger data, even though the flight has already left its point of departure.

Another timing problem happens when airlines send the hour zero (H0) message late. This is particularly a problem on short flights that might be less than 30 minutes long. The message might arrive at the PIU after the flight has actually landed, so may be partially useless.

3. Erroneous data

There are many kinds of erroneous data that PIUs receive. It’s often just a case of mistakes in data entry. For example, misspelling a surname, adding a letter ‘o’ instead of number ‘0’, and many other basic typos. Some of the most frequent errors PIUs report are inconsistent date of birth or passport validity.

4. Incomplete data

The transmission of incomplete information is one the most common data quality problems faced by PIUs.

One important factor is that the airline’s reservation system is not always in sync with the boarding system. Last minute changes – such as no-show passengers, or additional bags – don’t appear in the reservation system. So, when it comes to sending the PNRGOV H0 message, incomplete data gets transmitted from the reservation system. As a consequence, the PIU can not be 100% sure if a person is on board or not, if they wish to conduct an investigation.

Other times, the airline’s system sends truncated data. This might happen for various reasons. For example, if the airline’s system only allows 15 characters in the ‘last name’ field, it could mean that some passenger’s full names don’t get transmitted.

5. Lack of data standardization

Passenger Information Units need to receive data in a specific format. However, for some data, the standard format is not precise enough and airlines transmit them in different ways. There are many things that can go wrong here:

  • Seat number: Some PIU’s systems expect passenger seat number to be followed by a space, others expect there to be a 0. All these different “norms” complicate the search and prevent automated matches from working properly.
  • Telephone numbers: Another common data quality problem facing PIUs is the formatting of telephone numbers. Sometimes airlines will submit a passenger phone number with the international calling code using a ‘plus’ sign (e.g., +33 for France), other times they use two zeros (e.g., 0033). There are similar problems with mobile telephone numbers and landline numbers.
  • Dates: The EDIFACT standard only accepts the year of birth date as two digits. If the PIU needs to do a search, it can cause problems of interpretation: does a ‘20’ mean ‘1920’ or ‘2020’?
  • Email: The ‘@’ symbol is not accepted by the EDIFACT forms that most states use to receive PNRGOV and PAXLIST data. This means that airlines have to adapt and use their own norms to replace the @ – which can be a “//” or “AT”. Again, this standardization constraint produces numerous ways to indicate email addresses, which complicates the work of a PIU agent in case they need to do a search.
  • Last name problems: Another common cause of data quality problems is the fact there are so many ways to register a passenger’s last name. Some airlines attach terms like ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ to the surname, others don’t. There are also multiple ways of recording particles in surnames (e.g., von der Leyen; Von Der Leyen; Von der Leyen).

Related: How can Passenger Information Units ensure they always get the API PNR data they need?

What do PIUs need to ensure data quality?

How can data quality problems faced by PIUs be overcome ? Here are four techniques that could close some of the gaps at the data collection stage:

  • Detect errors before integration into the analysis system

PIUs should aim to detect errors in API PNR data, check formatting and content compliance before it enters their analysis system. By identifying precisely problems, they could correct them and integrate the data rather than just lose them for non compliance or they can warm the carrier and ask them to send corrected data

  • Enrich and correct any data that can be corrected

Very often, PIUs correct data themselves before integrating it into their analysis systems but it is very time consuming. Fixing basic problems, such as the ‘@’ symbol in passenger email addresses, can be solved automatically as soon as the data arrives with the PIU using automated processes. Of course, PIUs should keep the raw data to avoid any loss of information.

  • Monitor timing of data push

PIUs can implement specific dashboard that cross-check real-time air traffic (issued from official tranffic control such as Eurocontrol) with the data reception or none reception. It enables the PIUs to monitor if the due data has been well received and and identify any delays.

  • Communicate with carriers

PIUs should use automatic tools that alert carriers to missing or erroneous data, and to request corrections. This kind of tool is incredibly useful to easily manage the communication and actions with the carriers to let them know how to correctly send data.

Streamlane detects and solves data quality problems faced by PIUs

Most Passenger Information Units today experience data quality problems – especially when it comes to receiving data from small, charter, business and private airlines. And this is where Streamlane helps.

Our dedicated API PNR platform helps address data quality problems faced by PIUs. Our gateway provides all airlines flying into your country with an easy to use dashboard where they submit API PNR data. The system automatically verifies whether information has been provided correctly and in the format you need. It also alerts the airline to any data quality problems and tells operations staff how to solve them.

That means you always receive complete, accurate and reliable data – and the process is easier for your PIU’s teams, as well as operations staff at airlines too.

Learn more about our API PNR platform, or contact us for a demo today.