Main Content

Travel between EU & USA

In accordance with an International Agreement between the European Union and the United States, Virgin Atlantic Airways transfers to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) certain travel and reservation data (PNR) about passengers flying between the European Union and the United States.

US authorities use this information for preventing and combating terrorism and other transnational serious crimes. These and other data may also be used for checking against lists of passengers raising aviation security concerns. The information will be retained for fifteen years and may be shared with other authorities. Information related to a specific case or investigation can be kept longer until the case or investigation is archived.

Frequently asked questions

1. What sort of passenger information will be transferred to US authorities?

United States law requires airlines operating flights to, from, or through the United States (US) to provide the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with certain passenger Information to facilitate safe travel and to guarantee US security by carrying out advance risk assessments of passengers. The passenger information falls into two categories.

  • Passenger Name Record (PNR): This includes a variety of information provided during the booking process or held by airlines or travel agents, such as the passenger's name, contact details, details of the travel itinerary (such as date of travel, origin and destination, seat number, and number of bags) and details of the reservation (such as travel agency and payment information, and meal or wheelchair requests) or other information (such as affiliation with a frequent flyer program);
  • Advanced Passenger Information (API): this includes mainly information contained on a passenger's passport and is often collected at check-in. This information is provided prior to arrival to frontier control authorities. This is also used to screen passengers against lists of persons believed to pose a threat to aviation security.
These FAQs relate primarily to PNR Information as this is regulated in accordance with the International Agreement signed on 26 July 2007 between the European Union and the United States. The European Union will make sure that air carriers comply with these obligations. Virgin Atlantic Airways has to comply with these requirements.
2. Why is my Passenger Name Record being transferred to US DHS before I travel to, from, or through the United States?
DHS uses passenger name records (PNR) for flights between the EU and the US for the purposes of preventing and combating:
  • terrorism and related crimes;
  • other serious crimes, including organised crime, that are transnational in nature; and
  • flight from warrants or custody for crimes described above.
PNR may be used where necessary for the protection of the vital interests of an individual, or in any criminal judicial proceddings, or as otherwise required by law.
3. What is the legal framework for the transfer of PNR information?
By legal statute (title 49, United States Code, section 44909(c)(3)) and its implementing (interim) regulations (title 19, Code of Federal Regulations, section 122.49b), each air carrier operating passenger flights in foreign air transportation to or from the US must provide DHS with PNR Information collected and contained in the air carrier’s reservation and/or departure control systems.
DHS explained in a letter of 26 July 2007 how it handles the collection, use and storage of PNR.

DHS Letter

These conditions concern, in particular:

  • the purposes for which PNR is used;
  • sharing the PNR with other parties;
  • the types of information collected;
  • how you can access your Information and make a complaint;
  • enforcement;
  • offical notice to the travelling public;
  • storage time;
  • transmission of PNR;
  • reciprocity; and
  • review of the agreement.
On the basis of these assurances by DHS, the European Union and the United States concluded an international agreement signed in July 2007, and the European Union will now make sure that air carriers make available PNR Information as required by DHS.
4. Is sensitive information included in the PNR Information transfer?
Certain PNR Information identified as "sensitive" may be included in the PNR when it is transferred to DHS. Such sensitive PNR Information would include certain information revealing the passenger's racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religion, health status or sexual preference. DHS has undertaken that it will not use any sensitive PNR Information that it receives and has put in place an automated filtering programme so that sensitive PNR Information is not used in principle.
However, sensitive PNR Information may be used in exceptional cases, such as where the life of an individual could be imperilled or is in serious danger.
5. Will my PNR Information be shared with other authorities?
DHS may share PNR Information with other US government authorities that have counter-terrorism, law enforcement or public security functions, for the purposes of preventing and combating terrorism, transnational crime and public security (including threats, flights, individuals and routes of concern).
DHS may share PNR Information with government authorities in third countries, but only after they have considered the intended use of the information and the ability to protect it.
Unless it is an emergency, any exchanges of Information require data protection measures to be incorporated that are comparable to those set out in the international agreement between the EU and the US.
6. How long will DHS store my PNR Information?

DHS will keep PNR Information for fifteen years. Information related to a specific case orinvestigation can be kept longer until the case or investigation is archived.
DHS will keep a log of access to any sensitive PNR Information and will delete the Information within 30 days once the purpose for which it has been accessed is accomplished, and it is not required by law to keep it for longer. DHS will provide notice, normally within 48 hours, to the European Commission (DG JLS) that sensitive Information has been accessed.
7. Can I request a copy of my PNR Information that is collected by DHS, and can I request that corrections be made to my PNR?
Any passenger, regardless of their nationality or country of residence, may request information about their PNR and have inaccuracies corrected.

You can find information on DHS policies on access to records and personal information here.
For more information, please contact the DHS Privacy Office's FOIA Program:
The Privacy Office
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Drive SW
Washington, DC 20528-0550
Toll-free: +1-866-431-0486
Phone: +1-703-235-0790
Fax: +1-703-235-0443
DHS policies on redress can be found at
If you need any help with making your request, you can contact your national data protection authority.
contact details of the DPA in your country.
8. How can I get more information?
You can get more information about how your personal Information is handled by emailing