August 12, 2022: India’s Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), has notified new rules which require airlines to provide government with the Passenger Name record (PNR) details as well as 17 other passenger-related items of information about every passenger departing India by an international flight.
The new rules have been notified in a gazette published on August 8 (Read PDF here). In addition to the details normally found in the PNR or passport, it seeks information like full contact details of both passenger and who made the booking; details of the travel agent; mode of payment including credit card details if any; the confirmation status; seat number any special services of special service requests ( which would include, what online meals were ordered or whether a wheel chair service was booked); whether the passenger was a frequent flyer of the airline and if he used his FF miles or paid money to book his or her ticket; information about the baggage.
The notification says a “National Customs Targeting Centre-Passenger" has been established to receive and process passenger name record information along with any other information relevant for risk analysis of passengers”. Data so collected will be preserved for five years.
“The National Customs Targeting Centre-Passenger, may share the relevant information on a case-to-case basis with other law enforcement agencies or government departments of India or any other country.”
Airlines are required to provide the information, 24 hours prior to the flight and the penalty for every case of non compliance will be a fine ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000.
The notification assures that “The passenger name record information received by Customs designated system shall be subject to the strict information privacy and protection in accordance with the provisions of any law for the time being in force.”
Media reports remind that at least 50 other countries seek PNR information of airline passengers – but the Indian requirement may be going further than most in seeking information things on the person who paid for the ticket or whether the passenger used his frequent flyer miles to buy the ticket. Storing so much data pertaining to thousands of departing international passengers every day from every Indian airport for 5 years may pose a logistic challenge -- and open anxieties about the threat to privacy of passengers if the information is not fully secured.
Media reports speculate that this new requirement may be connected to information tabled in parliament recently by the finance ministry that 38 economic offenders fled the country in the last five years.