Timatic – a ground handler’s little big helper

Passports on a map of the world to illustrate the keys to world travel

Have you ever noticed that at the check-in counter ground handling staff also check for any required visas or asks a supervisor if acceptance is ok? Why is this so?

All destination countries have travel document requirements for entry. In addition to any travel document requirements for departure, customers must satisfy travel document requirements (visa, passport validity, return ticket, or other requirements) for entry into the destination country and, depending on the itinerary, for transit through a country.

Even though a passenger is informed about this requirement upon booking a flight, it is the airline’s (or it’s ground handler’s) responsibility to verify all requirements before boarding. Failing in doing so, might result in fines up to $10.000 for the airline and the passenger will be transported back to the Point of Origin as an inadmissible passenger (INAD) at the airline’s cost.

Obviously, no staff member at check-in knows all the possible requirements. The list of variable factors is long and each of them influences the outcome of the verification. Following the most important factors:

  • Citizenship
  • Point of Origin
  • Destination
  • Transit point(s)
  • Potential residence permits
  • Special status such as diplomat, seaman
  • Underaged minors

Since 1963 IATA supports the industry with TIM (Travel Information Manual) and nowadays with Timatic (Travel Information Manual Automatic). This system allows putting all factors and possibilities to receive an adequate answer to the query. It is then clear (at least most of the time) if a passenger can be accepted or acceptance has to be denied.

Timatic example (source: http://www.kvstool.com/Screenshots.php)

Besides this information, Timatic also supports health questions (very important in today’s COVID19 situation) and customs information (until which destination can the baggage be accepted).

Imagine a family looking forward to its annual holidays is approaching the check-in counter. For one of the four passengers, the passport is not valid long enough upon arrival. Now it is the check-in staff’s job to inform the family that they cannot be accepted on this flight (and show potential options if possible). However, the joy of the family can be speculated.

This all makes the job of check-in staff challenging. Once you stand in front of the check-in desk you now might better understand, why it sometimes takes a bit longer than usual until you receive your boarding pass, accompanied with a smile and a “Have a nice flight!”.

Cover photo by: https://ve.usembassy.gov/american-citizen-services-offer-passport-renewal-margarita-may-4-2018/