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Tracking the Many

Every time I hear the comments on either misc. sunds. radio programmes or the television that tracking people coming into the UK (or anywhere else, frankly) is an issue that needs to be solved by yet another app, I, like perhaps many others, reach for a handy brick to throw. I usually manage to settle for hurling vapid abuse, which is decidedly less damaging and yet, also acts to relieve the tension.

The ability to track a person, their booking, their passport, where they have been and where they are going, has been around since the late 1980's. It does not need any new technology or any new apps - or indeed any app - all one has to do is to ask the travel industry.

The GDS (Global Distribution Systems such as Sabre or Amadeus) is perfectly capable. We had the solution to the Advanced Passenger Information (API) - a simple line entry. We also have (unless someone is going to find a really complicated and unnecessary reason to the contrary) - we also have the ability to book a hotel, even a quarantine hotel and to provide full details of where a person has been and where they are going to (that actually exists as part of the API entry) and that information can be supplied to any properly authorised body for their records. The US Homeland Security have been accessing the API information for ages, so making a new authorised body would not exactly be rocket science.

As to booking a quarantine hotel - easy peasy. The hotel makes the rooms available under a separate code and no hotel booking, no boarding. Even if the booking was then cancelled, that would show and I am sure an alert could then be shown in the PNR (Passenger Name Record aka "a booking") which would alert the airline or the appointed body.

Of course, the PNR would show where the passenger has originated from, even if they travelled on a roundabout route to avoid showing the original destination. This could be massaged by buying separate tickets from separate agencies, of course, though that would be a very expensive and time consuming way of getting around the regulations of any given country. Not to mention, having to make sure any appropriate visas were in place.

There is no excuse for not having the systems in place. The GDS systems could be modified in a very short space of time and at minimal cost. Of course, if the much-famed NDC were to be used, no doubt that would entail massive effort and a sum of money roughly equivalent to the GDP of a fair sized Arab oil state.

The thing that really irritates, is that respective Governments, in their quest to make the blindingly simple complicated and expensive, is because when it comes to travel, they ask everyone save for.... Yup.... travel agents. It is not a complicated puzzle.

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