Airline passengers are disappearing

Many reappear near Afghan-Pakistani border

GENEVA, Switzerland -- Some 280,000 air travel passengers will go missing this year according to the International Air Travel Federation (IATF). The Geneva-based company, which tracks the departure and arrival of passengers in over 200 countries, said that while almost every passenger does eventually reach his destination within a week of departure, a few are never to be seen again.

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In a telephone interview with Err Travel, Mr. Reinholt Hastedder, IATF executive director, said, "Only a tiny number of passengers, usually fewer than 2000, disappear for good. This number is so small when compared to the four billion passengers who travel each year as to be inconsequential to the air travel industry." Nevertheless, the air travel industry spends nearly US$16.5 billion a year trying to determine the whereabouts of missing passengers and compensating families for their lost loved ones.

Ms. Gretchen Wolpastel, a spokesperson for IATF told Err Travel, "While the rapid growth in air travel, about six percent a year, is encouraging, we in the industry are putting in place policies and procedures to better manage our customer flow. These should help us to identify holes in our passenger throughput stream and help us to plug those leaks. As an example, we have already discovered that passengers reported as having gone missing from Roswell Regional Airporta location that accounted for an unusually high number of disappearances last yearare often found near the Afghan-Pakistani border. We believe we know the reason behind this and are working with the State Department to resolve that problem."

Another one of those "holes" was recently discovered at Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport where an average of 25 passengers per year vanish after entering Terminal B. Law enforcement authorities in San Jose investigating these disappearances are baffled. At a recent press conference at the airport, Lt. Aaron Rafterson, said, "As best as we can tell, these missing passengers have simply disappeared into thin air."

The IATF is expected to issue a thorough report on passenger disappearances and the steps being taken by industry members to resolve the issue at its annual convention this fall in Oslo.

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