SAS slow to adopt U.S. terrorism rules

  • 2003-05-01

Officials from the Scandinavian airline SAS said on April 25 they were concerned that passenger information demanded under new U.S. anti-terrorism airport security procedures could break Danish, Norwegian and Swedish laws.

The company said it was not yet supplying all the information about passengers on its U.S.-bound flights required since March and had asked for more time to study the legality of the system.

"We've recently been given 30 days to meet the conditions," said SAS spokesman Ulf Thorne.

"But we've demanded a further delay of one month because we want to ensure that the information we'll be providing will not be of a sensitive nature or a breach of the laws on the protection of the individual," he said.

Faced with U.S. demands for access to European airlines' passenger information in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the European Union negotiated an agreement with Washington under which information on religion, health or ethnicity would not be handed over.

But concerns remain that information on passengers' names and meal choices including the halal food required by strict Muslims - could be used to categorize passengers along religious and ethnic lines.

"We are not in favor of giving information that tends to indicate the religion of a passenger, if for example they request a kosher meal, or one without pork," Thorne said.

He added that the company was checking the compatibility of the information requirements with the laws of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the airline's three joint owners.

Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa and Iberia are already complying with the new U.S. requirements.

"SAS will do it, but in conformity with the laws of our Scandinavian countries," Thorne said, adding that the company was looking at ways of filtering sensitive information out of the data it hands over.