Passenger Information Units (PIUs) need air carriers to send them API PNR data. However, they are still not collecting ALL the information they need from ALL air carriers – and especially not from business and unscheduled airlines. How can they ensure they get the passengers information from ALL air carriers?

By requesting airlines to send Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data before every flight, Passenger Information Units know more about who is entering or leaving their territory. This is essential information that helps improve security and border control. However, despite improvements in the collection of API PNR data, many PIU’s still don’t receive information from all carriers.

Why do many PIUs struggle to collect complete API PNR information? And what can Passenger Information Units do to receive the data of all international air passengers, regardless of which airline they fly with?

 Key takeaways:

  • Many European PIUs still don’t receive API PNR information from ALL airlines
  • Find out why business carriers and unscheduled carriers struggle to send data
  • Understand the challenges of the PIUs
  • Learn how a dedicated API PNR solution gateway for states can tackle this problem

What methods do airlines currently use to send data to Passenger Information Units?

Airlines have different IT structure and are currently using a variety of methods to send and manage API PNR data.

  • Commercial scheduled: ‘Regular’ airlines such as Air France, British Airways, Ryanair, etc. These companies are supported by big IT providers such as Amadeus or Sabre which provide specific module that automatically send API PNR data to PIUs in the correct format.
  • Commercial non-scheduled (so-called ‘charter’): These airlines do not always use structured IT systems to manage their bookings (they may just use xls sheets), and they rely on airport handlers to manage boarding and often send last passenger transmission when the boarding system (DCS) allows it. However, the charter staff should still manage the PNR data sending.
  • Non-scheduled business/private (General Aviation and Business Aviation – GA/BA): Equipped with their own in-house systems which can be very basic or supported by small IT providers such as FL3XX, Leon, Fimas Proavia, MyAirops that doesn’t develop specific API-PNR module, but can partner with third party API-PNR providers.
  • Non-commercial ‘private’ GA/BA. Same as above.

Learn about API PNR data in our comprehensive guide:
API PNR – what it means for travel operators

How are carriers supposed to send API PNR data?

All carriers are required to send API PNR information to PIUs in a digital format. There are three ways to do this:

  1. Via third party providers who offer automated API-PNR solution for Airlines (for more info read our last blog post on “6 reasons to automate API PNR data transmission)
  2. via State web portals where carriers upload information manually (when these portals exist)
  3. through direct connections to state PIU systems

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Why do Passenger Information Units struggle to collect data from unscheduled carriers?

As noted in a recent European Commission report, many small carriers are still struggling to send API PNR information to Passenger Information Units. In fact, there results from challenges on both sides. Why do charter and business airlines struggle to send data to Passenger Information Units’ systems? And why do PIUs struggle to receive the data?

Challenges for airlines to send API PNR data

Of the roughly 11 million European flights every year, around 10% are in the charter, private or business aviation category – there are well over 600 charter, business, and private aviation companies in Europe alone. Unfortunately, many of them do not have the capabilities to transmit data to Passenger Information Units in the way they require.

Challenges of complying with technical standards

The greatest difficulty for small airlines are the technical issues associated with collecting API PNR data and transmitting the API PNR data to PIUs. Most charter and business airlines rely on small or outsourced IT teams, who rarely have the expertise required for gathering the data into the expected format (PAXLST and PNRGOV) and build the syst2syt connection to the multiple PIUs systems.

The only options left are either to use government web portals, which requires a manual procedure for the airline staff, or to contract an API-PNR service provider such as GOVlink.

Manual workload

Another big challenge for non-scheduled airlines – when they opt for transmission via the State web portals – is that entering manually API PNR data is extremely time-consuming and prone to human error (such as mistyping passenger details).

Particularly for smaller airlines, it is often the responsibility of ground / dispatcher staff at the airport to collect and send all this information for every single passenger to the departure and destination country Passenger Information Unit. Risk of failure and error is high, as they are already very loaded with their other tasks.

Differences between countries’ PIUs

Different countries’ Passenger Information Units work in different ways. This makes complying with requirements in each country more difficult. Staff in charge must learn to use each PIU’s API PNR webportal, and it may request different data.

Challenges for Passenger Information Units to receive the data

Fundamental differences between regular and unscheduled airlines

Passenger Information Units’ systems are designed to receive API PNR data on the premise that each passenger has paid for a seat, has registered luggage, has completed a boarding process through a DCS (Departure Control System). It is indeed what happens in traditional commercial aviation, so the individual’s API PNR data are natively collected via the ticket purchase and check-in process.

However, in the world of business aviation, this simply isn’t how it works. In private and business airlines, customers pay to use the aircraft itself – so the airline isn’t set up to collect some of the API PNR data. That means Business aviation or General Aviation may not provide all the required data.

Incompatible processes

The PIU’s system is not always compatible with the unscheduled carrier’s process. For example, some PIU’S API-PNR systems are designed (and locked) on the operational processes of regular airlines. All routes operated by the carrier need to be declared in advance (it is managed at the carrier account level in the PIU system).

This, however, is impossible for unscheduled airlines (charter or business aviation) that offer flexible services to passengers and which routes and schedules are not granted in advance by the civil aviation. Similarly, the flight ID format that small carriers use may not fit with the PIU’s system, meaning the airline cannot transmit API PNR data.

How serious is this problem?

The majority of flights entering the European Union or flying between member states are able to transmit all API PNR data to the relevant Passenger Information Units. So is it really a big problem if data is not collected for a small number of charter and business flights? In short, yes.

Failing to collect data from charter, private, and business airlines makes them attractive to criminals and sanctioned individuals. Any international criminal who can afford to pay for business flights will use them if they know they can travel without being detected.

To learn more -> Read the article : 5 common data quality problems faced by PIUs

What can Passenger Information Units do to ensure they receive high quality data about ALL passengers from ALL carriers?

Even though airlines flying into the European Union have been required to send PNR data to national Passenger Information Units since 2016, many PIUs are not collecting the data from unscheduled carriers. And PIU who are collecting data from these carriers report that many are still struggling to transmit complete and high quality information.

Evidently, small airlines are ultimately responsible for modernizing their processes. However, PIUs can also take steps to make it easier for them to comply. Here are some simple steps PIUs can take to make it easier for smaller airlines to send data to their API PNR system:

Provide an easy-to-use web portal

Unscheduled airlines usually lack the technical means to connect to a system to system mode, and opt for web portal mode at least in the first instance. Their staff have a long list of jobs to do to manage the flight and passengers safely and efficiently. They simply don’t have the time to navigate complex API PNR web portal.

The web portal’s interface should follow the best principles of user interface design, so users can quickly and easily transmit information. Another important point is that the web portal should not be built around rules for regular aviation since your users won’t follow the same processes as regular aviation.

Have clear, well targeted communication

While airlines are ultimately responsible for complying with API PNR requirements, Passenger Information Units can make it much easier if they clearly convey information about rules to operators but also to all the ecosystem such as Industry Associations.

Evaluate the percentage of airlines transmitting their API-PNR data, and determine which airlines are missing out.

Identify the airlines that are still not transmitting their data. To assess the gaps and be able to take action, the PIU needs to establish, on a regular basis, a comprehensive list of carriers operating in its airspace, and identify those which are still not providing their data. From this basic analysis, which can be carried out on the basis of air traffic data, PIUs can send out individual notifications to remind airlines of their API-PNR obligations and invite them to submit their passenger data.

Automatically check data quality

Your Passenger Information Unit’s API PNR data collection point should be able to automatically validate the quality of all information submitted by airlines. If any data is missing, incomplete or of low quality, the API PNR system should send a message to the airline informing what information is missing for them to resolve the problem.

Be future-ready

Today, most API PNR systems focus on supporting data transmission from airlines. However, in future many other kinds of transport companies may need to transmit data to PIUs, including rail, maritime and even road transport operators. Choosing a PIU system which is flexible and that can easily adapt to different data collection requirements will mean you are future-ready.

Streamlane ensures Passenger Information Units always receive the data they need

Streamlane offers Passenger Information Units with an efficient, reliable and easy to use set of solutions such as API-PNR gateway associated with a state webportal to automatically collect and transmit API PNR data. Our solution, acts as a secured flight passenger data API tool and PNR data collection tool, provides a central collection point where airlines and other transport operators can submit data about all passengers. It can analyze the data and tell if any information is missing or is erroneous before the data is securely sent to the PIU receiving system in a format which can be easily integrated. It provides many features to ensure the exhaustivity of the collection such as comparison between messages received with the real time air traffic.

Want to ensure your Passenger Information Unit receives data about ALL customers, from ALL airlines?

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