Carriers Say They Can't Afford To Pay For Gov't-Mandated
Airlines have called upon their friends in Congress to block a
White House plan calling for carriers to fingerprint foreign
visitors before they travel back home.
That plan, backed by the Bush administration, calls for all
international carriers to tackle the financial and logistical
burden of computerized fingerprinting for 33 million visitors each
year... something the airlines say will cost $12 billion annually
USA Today reports airlines aren't opposed to the plan, per se...
they just don't want to pay for it, especially as they grapple with
high fuel prices. "US airlines obviously cannot bear the staggering
additional costs," the Air Transport Association, lobbying group
for the major domestic carriers, wrote last week.
A House vote later this month is expected to bar the Department
of Homeland Security from requiring carriers to start
fingerprinting, until DHS tests a system for doing so with the
airlines. That measure was approved last week by the House
Appropriations Committee, as part of the larger DHS funding bill
Foreign visitors are already fingerprinted by DHS when they
arrive in the US, though that current paper-based system is known
to be error-prone, and difficult to manage.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson
(D-MS) says it's the responsibility of government, not private
carriers, to handle fingerprinting of international visitors. He
also wonders whether such a law is legal in the first place --
saying measures to insure US border security "have always been
"A lot of us are concerned that they are now trying to pass off
responsibility," Thompson said.
US carriers certainly aren't alone in opposing the DHS plan.
The governments of Germany and the United Kingdom are also against
the measure, as are organizations tasked with promoting US tourism,
like the US Chamber of Commerce.
"This global opposition will hopefully provide a wake-up call to
the department," said Steve Lott of the International Air Transport
Stewart Baker, policy chief at DHS, says he's "open to being
persuaded there is some other more effective and efficient way" to
take the fingerprints.