WASHINGTON – U.S. air carriers are fighting a federal proposal that would require their workers to digitally scan foreigners’ fingerprints at check-in areas before departure on international flights.
Airline representatives, who have spent years trying to streamline airport operations, worry that collecting fingerprints would create major snarls.
“It creates a choke point in the check-in process,” Jim May, president of the Air Transport Association, a trade group that represents the major U.S. airlines, said in an interview.
May and other airline representatives have recently increased their lobbying efforts in the hopes of influencing the eventual shape of the fingerprinting regulation, which the Department of Homeland Security is expected to publish for public comment in the next few months.
Government officials defended the proposal, saying they have carefully weighed their options and believe that relying on airline workers at counters would be the most efficient way to collect the prints. They said airlines already obtain passenger information, including immigration forms, that they pass along to the government. The fingerprint process, they said, might be a more efficient way for carriers to obtain that information.
The measure is part of the department’s US-VISIT program, which has been tasked with collecting biometric information from visiting foreigners for several years. The information is meant to help authorities find criminals, potential terrorists and people who illegally overstay their visas.