WASHINGTON (AP) -- As an added protection against terrorism, the Bush administration is considering requiring that foreign airlines check the names of passengers on all flights over the United States against government watch lists.
The proposal would most affect airlines in Mexico and Canada, since the majority of such flights come from those countries.
Currently, foreign airlines planning to land in the United States must submit passenger and crew lists to the government within 15 minutes of taking off. The names are checked against lists of people considered terrorists or who otherwise could present a danger.
The airlines also check the names of crew members on flights over the United States against watch lists. Now the Transportation Security Administration is considering requiring airlines to check the names of passengers on those flights, TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said Wednesday.
Checking passengers before they board planes that overfly the United States could help prevent against Sept. 11-style attacks in which hijackers fly planes into buildings.
The proposed change results from an incident on April 8, when U.S. authorities denied a KLM Amsterdam-to-Mexico flight the right to fly into U.S. airspace after learning that two Saudi passengers aboard the plane were on the government's ''no-fly'' list of known or suspected terrorists.
The plane had been in the air five hours and was in Canadian airspace when it was refused entrance into U.S. airspace, according to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines spokesman Hugo Baas.
''They said, 'you should have checked the list,''' Baas said.
The plane returned to Amsterdam because it was assigned to a Canadian airport that couldn't handle a reconfigured Boeing 747 carrying 278 people and 15 horses.
Baas said the two passengers were not arrested in Amsterdam, but went on to London and ultimately returned to Saudi Arabia.
U.S. officials were tipped to the situation by Mexican authorities, according to two Homeland Security Department officials who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
The United States, Mexico and Canada have an agreement by which they share passenger information that airlines send them electronically before landing.
That can take time, though, as the KLM flight demonstrated.
The Candadian transport minister is fighting to keep Washington from getting Canadian passenger lists for domestic flights that stray into U.S. airspace.
Two Dutch lawmakers demanded Monday that the government provide details about why a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Mexico City was blocked mid-flight by U.S. authorities for...
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has added its voice to those protesting secret government plans for a Canadian ''no-fly'' list which could bar Canadians suspected of posing a security risk from...
The United States remains at risk from attack even though it may be better prepared to fight a war on terrorism.