I was wondering if border agents have access to any future flights already bought by the person in front of them seeking to enter the UK. I understand when entering the UK, say, as a tourist who doesn't need a visa, they will ask to see a return ticket. But is it just to check the person's honesty (the system knows the returning date) or are they genuinely in the dark regarding this sort of thing?

Another way to phrase this would be whether companies share every ticket purchase with governments / in this case specifically, the UK, associated with the buyer's passport or another piece of information that could identify him/her.

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    In any case, you should always be truthful in all your answers. If you lie and get caught (and it’s often quite easy to catch a lie even if they didn’t have access to the data), that can get you in quite some trouble.
    – jcaron
    Sep 25, 2019 at 18:23
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    For obvious reasons, what the agent can see for any given passenger on any given entry is not public information. I doubt a definitive answer can be given either way, but you have basically everything to lose by being dishonest, and this kind of question always raises my hackles.
    – choster
    Sep 25, 2019 at 18:32
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    Yeah, absolutely. Just learned about PNR yesterday and got curious about the extent to which our data is shared with governments. Sep 25, 2019 at 18:52

3 Answers 3


The UK's e-border system collects information about TDI/API for 100% of inbound and outbound flights to and from the UK. This information may be sent up to 48hr before the flight. The e-border system also collects PNR from some of these flights.

The e-border system uses complex algorithms to flag travelers. It is also used retrospectively to check compliance with immigration rules. First line border agents don't have access to the e-borders system. However, they may make further checks if the traveler is flagged or they suspect wrongdoing.

In the circumstance you describe--unless it is part of a PNR that has been party used--the UK government has no information about ticket purchases made for future dates unless you tell them. Carriers are not obliged to send data about purchased tickets before the 48 hr window.

You can make a FOIA request to the Home Office. They are obligated to tell you this information unless it is exempt (unlikely in this case since most of the information is already public). You can do this for free here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

The worst thing to do would be to lie--especially when you don't really need to. Tickets can be easily verified for genuineness and presenting a fake ticket would be stupidity. They won't automatically know, but verifying a PNR is a piece of cake. Even you or I could do it on the airline's webpage. If they check, not only will you be sent back but you will also be banned for 10 years. The easiest thing is to buy a new fully refundable ticket back to your home country after x number of days after your arrival even if you don't intend to travel on that date. You can later change the date if needed, or refund it altogether.


As first rule: never lie. Also a small lie can damage your reputation (trough systems) to many countries.

To answer your question: they have you. They are trained to see if you lie. They can ask further questions, and so to have better understanding if you lie. They know how people lie (for experience), but you do not know how they work (so your "original lie" often is not so original).

So if they have some suspect, they will ask you to wait in a room, where other officers will check further, often by phoning to airlines and hotels.

If a criminal will try to enter, probably he can lie better, but probably (this or next times) the system will flag him.

So, often they do not need quick proof, but they feel if one is telling the true. Do not worry, they know that many people are nervous because of the officer and travel, this do not count as feeling that a person lie.

Not all people have the return ticket, but it is supposed that people have a plan or an idea: I go to London, and then buy a train ticket to Paris, then ..., and some information on how such transport works (so not going completely blind and careless).


The UK Government requires Advanced Passenger Information (API) for all passengers travelling internationally into and out of the UK.

API involves the capture of a passenger's biographic data and other flight details by the carrier prior to departure and the transmission of the details by electronic means to the Border Control Agencies in the destination country.


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    How does this answer the question, though? He's asking about flights in the future, not in the past. Sep 25, 2019 at 18:22
  • Yeah, I know about API, but it involves very little information about the passenger (important info, but not much regarding the topic at hand). The worst offender would be PNR, but it is unclear if PNR data involves bought tickets (instead of just checked in ones) Sep 25, 2019 at 18:51
  • @Peterson Silva PNR includes return flight details if booked together. In my experience, it's better to book return ticket on the same PNR. In the USA, I have been flagged for, presumably, have booked the return ticket on a different PNR.
    – uberqe
    Sep 25, 2019 at 20:26
  • Oohh I see. Interesting. If you made a response out of this, I would consider it correct, although it is only in a specific circumstance (return booked together) Sep 25, 2019 at 21:16

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