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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
UK flights sidestep security row
Flights from the UK will not be affected by the EU-US row
Transatlantic flights from the UK will avoid potential landing bans after the government moved to sidestep an EU-US row over security.

A special order, which allows UK planes to keep providing passenger details to the US, has been put in place.

The situation arose after EU-US talks about sharing passenger information stalled, creating a "legal vacuum".

Refusal to provide the data could lead to US landing bans but giving it risks breaking EU data protection law.

After 9/11 US authorities demanded airlines should provide personal passenger data for all inbound flights.

[The government] took it on that if there was not a deal between the EU and the US then this patch could take effect
Paul Charles, Virgin Atlantic

But the subsequent US-EU agreement was ruled illegal by the highest European court in May, and Saturday was the deadline for a new deal.

As the deadline passed without resolution the Department for Transport (DfT) said it had taken out an air navigation order, which allows airlines to pass information to the US without running into legal trouble under data protection laws.

The EU said the talks with American officials had broken down but attempts to resolve the deadlock would continue. US officials insisted they were confident an agreement could be reached.

US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Reuters news agency he had been assured European airlines would continue to provide the required information, adding he doubted EU governments would penalise them for this.

Legal 'patch'

A DfT spokesman said: "We took out an air navigation order so planes could have a legal basis for data transfer while the EU-level talks are ongoing.

"It's a patch, if you like."

Paul Charles, Virgin Atlantic's director of communications, said the British government had good foresight to put the legal patch in place.

"They took it on that if there was not a deal between the EU and the US then this patch could take effect.

"It means airlines can carry on as normal as if the argument had never occurred."

Since 2003 US authorities have requested that airlines provide passengers' personal data to American security officials, including credit card information and telephone numbers.

The US government believe the information is vital in their fight against terrorism and called for even more access to information.

The two sides had until Saturday to replace the deal, with the Americans warning it may fine airlines or deny them landing rights if they refused to provide the data.

An EU spokesman on how the talks broke down

Q&A: EU passenger data row
30 May 06 |  Europe

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