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Location: Ann Arbor, MI // Madrid, Spain

Monday, April 11, 2005

Stop Whining KLM Airlines

A KLM flight originating in Amsterdam and destined to Mexico was refused entry into U.S. airspace when the U.S. was made aware of two individuals on the flight's manifest that were on the U.S. "no-fly list." KLM's puffing is due in part to the fact that the plane was not scheduled to land in U.S. territory.

I think it's normal that KLM is frustrated, but both the airline and the Netherlands seem to have taken it a little personally. reports that:

A Dutch official told CNN the Netherlands will take the matter to the European Union in Brussels to seek clarification about whether checks of "no-fly" lists are required for flights transiting the United States. KLM officials said they are under no obligation to check passengers on transiting planes against terror watch lists. "In our interpretation, this was not a flight to or from the United States. It was to Mexico," KLM spokesman Bart Koster said. The flight "never had the intention to make a landing in the United States."

I certainly understand the frustration of the crew of KLM and the passengers. Nertheless, in my interpretation, KLM was entering U.S. airspace. The U.S. doesn't send Carnival Cruise ships to territorial waters of the Netherlands without asking permission. There are certainly issues of comity in allowing planes and boats into your territory, but this isn't a situation of comity. Maybe the U.S. should ask for the manifests instead of getting them through Mexico, but I think it's appropriate that the U.S. ultimately has the last word on who gets to enter U.S. airspace. That KLM is now checking its manifests against the U.S. fly list is evidence to both the theory that KLM is the cheapest cost avoider here and also that the U.S. policy worked.

A significant number of Europeans complain about the "Blue Pass" mentality (named after the color of the passport) of some U.S. citizens regarding obligations to respect norms and laws in other countries. I can't imagine an international norm more established and respected than that pertaining to territorial sovereignty. Does anyone remember what color KLM's planes are?


Blue Pass, indeed.


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