The Assn. of European Airlines (AEA) has welcomed the European Union Parliament’s decision to approve a new data transfer agreement with the US.

The law replaces a provisional agreement set in 2007 and will give US authorities access to the EU passenger name record (PNR) data in order to “prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute terrorism and serious transnational crimes” as well as "to identify persons who would be subject to closer questioning or examination.” The Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will formally approve the agreement Thursday, which will be effective for seven years.

Under the agreement, all identification information such as a passenger’s name and contact information will be codified after the first six months. US authorities will keep the data in an active database for up to five years after which it will be moved to a dormant database for up to 10 years, with stricter access requirements. All identification information will then be deleted.

“This new deal gives airlines flying across the Atlantic a clear legal basis for compliance with US data requests,” said AEA secretary-general Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus. The AEA represents 34 airlines including more than 20 national flag carriers.

Law enforcement agencies routinely seek passenger details to check names against watch lists in the fight against terrorism. However, airlines have been unable legally to provide these details until both sets of regulators agreed on a clear data protection framework.

With this US-EU agreement in place, AEA urged European regulators to act on approaches from at least 11 nations that are seeking access to European airline data as part of their counter-terrorism strategies.

“The EU has been sitting on these requests for far too long,” said Schulte-Strathaus. “European airlines are coming under growing pressure to provide this data but they cannot and will not provide this information without the necessary legal framework. The EU must act soon or flights to these countries could be disrupted.”