Air India refuses to comply with customs procedures

Kochi: The Indian airport customs have charged that "flight delays and difficulties" faced by international passengers of Air India (AI) flights last week at Cochin International Airport was due to the non-observance of customs rules and procedures by Air India. These rules and procedures were put into place in the light of global terrorist activities.

In a statement, the customs department said that last week's delay of Muscat and Sharjah bound Air India flights from the international airport at Nedumbassery near here was occasioned by AI not submitting passenger and cargo manifest and crew personal property declarations to the customs. These are mandatory documents required by the customs department at every airport at arrival and departure of international flights, the statement said.

Customs officers primarily rely on these documents to detect cases of smuggling of drugs, fake currency, contrabands and other wildlife related matters, which are of national security concern -- especially at present when terrorist organisations are behind such activities, the statement said.

Senior customs officers convened a meeting of all airlines at the Cochin airport recently to explain to them the sensitivity and requirement of such mandatory documents and procedures. Airlines officials were requested to ensure that the documents reach the customs on time so as to avoid such incidents in future, the statement said.

The government notification of 30 Aug 2005 states that the passenger manifest has to be electronically filed three hours prior to the departure of the aircraft.

Whilst all other airlines were following instructions it was AI alone that was not willing to comply, the statement said.