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Illegal passengers pose a problem for Jet Airways

February 25, 2009 12:31 IST

Jet Airways recently discovered six passengers with false passport/travel documents on its flight which landed in Brussels from New Delhi. Their documents were not detected to be false when they boarded the plane in New Delhi.

"We handed them over to the police in Brussels," said Chandrasekar Bala, Jet Airways's general manager (Canada).

Canadian immigration authorities have earlier detected some other passengers with false travel documents upon their landing at Pearson airport in Toronto, Bala said. They have imposed a fine of $ 2,400 which Jet Airways has yet to pay to the Canadian Border and Customs Agency.

"But such passengers are coming on all the airlines all the time and the Canadian authorities put the blame on Jet Airways for no reasons at all," Bala told India Abroad in an interview on Tuesday.

"We do check minutely documents of all passengers at various points before they are allowed to board the plane. We do all the security checks at the airports. Despite this, it is not only Jet Airways but all the airlines operating into Canada, bring one or two illegal passengers invariably."

A recent front page report in the Toronto Star claimed that Jet Airways has actually been warned by the Canadian authorities that dozens of its passengers from India are arriving at Toronto's Pearson airport with fake travel documents and that the airline may be barred from operating flights to Canada if its agents didn't do a better job, detecting passengers travelling on bogus passports.

Bala said last week he and their airport manager, Steve Bowson, went to Ottawa to meet with the CBCA people. "Like us, they were also wondering as to who could give that report to the Canadian daily as it was all exaggerated. There was never a suggestion of Jet Airways having been warned of ever being barred from operating because of one or two illegal passengers on board our flights."

Anyhow after their meeting in Ottawa, CBCA Manager Burn Deborah, wrote to them conceding their meeting was productive: "We are pleased by Jet Airways' commitment to adhere to the requirements of the Memorandum of Understanding which seeks to ensure that final documents check is performed at the gate at the time of boarding of all passengers departing Brussels (for Toronto) and to ensure that only trained staff performs documents checking duties."

"The efforts of Jet Airways in this regard would go a long way to deter illegal traffic on that flight and reducing the number of fee assessments," Deborah said.

Canada has two immigration posts – one in Helsinki and one in New Delhi where they have their immigration security staff.

"They have already given training to our staff at both places and now only this trained staff check travel documents," said Bala. "If someone resigns, his replacement will not be put on duty to check documents unless he/she gets the training from the Canadian government experts," he added.

When they were in Ottawa, Jet Airways officials also met Indian High Commissioner S M Gavai. He in turn suggested that Jet Airways should also write a letter to the Canadian authorities explaining as to how they should be fined when the same thing is happening with other airlines also.

Ajit Jain in Toronto