Second complaint over BA checks

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The Independent Online

Another black British family has complained after being targeted by British Airways "ethnic passport" photocopying staff.

BA's managing director, Bob Ayling, last Friday gave an unreserved apology to a British-born black probation officer after the Independent revealed that his passport had been secretly photocopied.

The airline said covertly photocopying Tony Kelly's passport had been "a mistake". Telling him this was done under US Federal Aviation rules, which required copies to be made of all "ethnic passports" had been another mistake, it added.

Further letters obtained by the Independent, however, show that BA targeted other black British nationals for covert passport photocopying. They also confirm that the information gathered was kept for two months after the journey is complete.

Black Briton Michelle Cadogan's passport was quietly taken away and copied without any explanation as she checked in for a BA flight to New York last December. It was only when her parents demanded to know where their 17-year-old daughter's passport had gone that they were told.

Michelle's father, Dr Michael Cadogan, wrote to BA demanding an explanation for the incident and asking how long his daughter's details would be retained. After three months, he received a letter from Denise Lawson, of BA's customer relations department, stating: "The US Immigration Authorities operate very strict admission procedures and require all airline (sic) to perform thorough document checks prior to embarkation from the UK. The photocopying of passports and other travel documents forms part of these checks ... British Airways Birmingham have advised me that all copies are held on file for two months from the departure date and then destroyed."

Dr Cadogan, 46, a frequent BA business passenger and a regular traveller with his family, then wrote to Sir Colin Marshall, asking why his daughter had been targeted.

In his reply, the BA Chairman stated that he had seen the letter from the customer relations department: "Ms Lawson answered in detail the five points you raised about the photocopying of passports belonging to passengers checking in at Birmingham to travel to New York. There is nothing I can add to what has been said already."

Last July, as Michelle Cadogan was leaving Britain to travel again to New York for a holiday, BA staff again tried to take away her passport. This time, her mother put her foot down.

Donna Cadogan, 44, a teacher, told staff they could examine the passport in front of her or not at all.

Last night she said the ramifications of the issue were far-reaching: "Sir Colin Marshall did not respond to the points in my husband's letter. They were prepared to defend it right up to the top. They have apologised to Tony Kelly. I would like to hear what they have to say to us."

BA said Sir Colin's letter to the Cadogans had been based on the same inaccurate information as in the Kelly case: "We have acted to correct that now." A spokesman said that since the Independent revelations, procedures had been revised.