“Airline officials told us that their staff does not have the training or authority to verify the authenticity of such documentation,” the report states. Airline officials also expressed concerns that consent letters would place a major burden on all airline travelers, particularly single parents. Then there are issues of liability: One airline official said if a family member used a forged note, and the airline didn’t catch it, the left-behind parent could file suit against the airline for failing to prevent the abduction. Airlines don’t keep copies of passengers travel information, so it would be difficult to an airline to defend itself, an International Air Transport Association official told GAO.
The second option was more popular among stakeholders. It called for a list, similar to the Prevent Departure list, which would apply to U.S. citizens. With this list, DHS could provide the names of children at high risk for abduction and the names of potential abductors to airlines. The airlines could then prevent people on the list from boarding international flights. Names on the list would come from law enforcement and federal officials only.
If a parent felt there was potential for an abduction, they would have law enforcement or the courts add the name of the child and the abductor to the list. Airline officials noted that time-consuming steps needed to add people to the list would probably limit its effectiveness and by this time, an abduction could occur, one NGO said.
Airline officials say the list has potential, but it would only be effective if implemented by security officials – not the airlines. “A few airline stakeholders added that any other administration of the list would burden them with creating new systems for administering such a list,” the report says. DHS also worried about administrative costs.
Despite these concerns, the GAO recommends that the Secretary of Homeland Security initiate a program similar to the Prevent Departure program that would apply to U.S. Citizens. “Where options for directly preventing international parental child abductions on airline flights are limited, such an improvement may be a step forward,” the report states.
photo by David McKelvey from flickr