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In regards to the Belarus Forces Down Plane to Seize Dissident; Europe Sees ‘State Hijacking’ I wonder if the Belarus intelligence was handed the manifest as a routine or they somehow got access through it using spyware?

In a more general form of a question, who knows about the manifest? When I buy a ticket on Kayak.com or any other website for that matter who gets to know that I'm flying on that plane? I suppose:

  • The website I bought
  • The origin, destination and transit airports
  • The airlines used for travel
  • The airspace of every country I enter ??????

Any other entity that gets to know?

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    In this specific instance, it looks like Roman Protassevitch was followed by Belarusian agents (which started a fight with the flight crew and pretended there was a bomb on board, which gave an excuse to scramble a Mig-29 to divert the plane), so Belarus did not need the flight manifest. More generally, I believe some countries such as the US require manifests for all overflights, but most other countries don't get that information.
    – jcaron
    May 24 at 12:07
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    @jcaron This article disagrees about the fight with the flight crew: "In the moments beforehand [before the plane changed direction], everything had been calm and nothing had appeared out of the ordinary." Obviously the full story is still emerging. bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57180275
    – dbmag9
    May 24 at 20:36
27

Details may differ significantly from country to country and ignoring that it in many situations is still possible to fly without having to present any form of ID when checking in, making it possible to fly with a ticket in a different name, in general:

  • If you buy your ticket from some kind of agency and not directly from the airline, the agency will of course know that you bought a ticket for the given departure. If the reservation agency is collecting further data (e.g. date of birth, payment information, passport data, frequent flyer identifications) during the booking process, they will of course also have access thereto. The agency will not have access to the complete passenger list of a flight, just to the passengers booked through that agency and usually not know if the passenger is actually on board the plane or not.

  • All airlines involved in the conduct of the flights on your ticket will have access to the information.

  • The airports usually have no access to passenger data. It is of course technically possible that the airport is collecting and storing your name if you e.g. have to scan your boarding pass when going through security, but doing so will in many countries, e.g. in the EU, be a breach of privacy law. Details may also depend on whether the airport is operated by a private company or the governmental authorities.

  • Airlines are, in most countries, required to file the passenger manifest to the authorities to get a takeoff clearance for a flight. It will differ from country to country to which authorities the manifest must be sent (that can be flight safety authorities, police, immigration, border surveillance, customs) and how the authorities automatically share data between each other. If the manifest must be sent well in advance, it will usually contain all passengers having booked a ticket on the flight. In other cases, airlines may only be required to send a manifest after boarding has been completed with a list of passengers, who are actually on board the aircraft.

  • Airlines are in several countries required to file a passenger manifest before landing when a plane is arriving from abroad.

  • As jcaron already pointed out in a comment, airlines are also required to file a passenger manifest to get clearance to fly through US airspace. As far as I know, the USA is the only country requiring this.

  • In some countries, the authorities may have a much wider access to the airlines booking system with access to all details of a booking and not just to passenger manifests.

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    I think Russia also requires passenger information for overflights.
    – xngtng
    May 24 at 17:10
  • 2
    It's interesting to know that AirPorts don't necessarily have access. Your knowledge is appreciated by all the Jason Bournes of the world...
    – Honey
    May 24 at 19:51
  • 2
    (+1) It seems some countries require the passenger manifest (“advance passenger information”) of a plane arriving from abroad to be transmitted before it leaves, not merely before it lands (although if the data is shared before take-off it will obviously have been shared before landing). Do you know about that?
    – Relaxed
    May 24 at 22:08
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    @Relaxed, Sometimes well before. That's how the airlines get boarding clearances for, e.g. the US ESTA and Canada ETA. I think the US takes a tentative manifest 72 hours before the flight, and then takes real time updates until the flight takes off. I heard the EU will be implementing a similar clearance system next year so that'll be lots more countries.
    – Dennis
    May 25 at 2:44
  • 1
    @Relaxed There are at least roundabout 30 countries requiring passenger manifests in advance for incoming flights and sorry, I don't have the details in the regulations for all those. But yes, some countries require at least a preliminary manifest well in advance, that may be even days in advance and not just before departure, but the manifest can then usually be updated later to allow passengers to book tickets on shorter notice. I believe that the USA used to require the manifest at least 24 hours before a flight landing (up to 96 hours for incoming ships), but that may have changed. May 25 at 9:38
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To answer the part of your question I quote here:

I wonder if the Belarus intelligence was handed the manifest as a routine or they somehow got access through it using spyware?

That would be "SIGINT". This particular operation was done with HUMINT: Roman Protasevitch was physically followed into the airport and up to the counter by an agent who queued up directly behind, and snuck photographs of documents being presented.

Protasevitch noticed all this, and notified friends of the encounter via Telegram, a messaging app, presumably before boarding the flight.

Protasevitch continued on the flight anyway, perhaps not knowing an EU internal flight would cross Belarus.

Aside from the fighter jet, there were also reportedly three intelligence service agents who rode the plane also, but disembarked in Belarus. One could ask on aviation.se whether such agents would have the means to force the aircraft to divert to an enroute airport.

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    This still doesn't answer the question and is, in part, speculative. What is really surprising in this affair is that the KGB agents needed a photo of the passport to make sure that they got the right person. Such agents would normally have a photo of the person they supposed to follow. So a lot of speculation, based only on impressions, at this point of time. No doubt surveillance cameras from the Athens airport will give more reliable information. May 24 at 21:34
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    @JonathanReez According to this story (see the very last section) there were 126 people onboard the plane when departed, but only 121 arrived in Vilnius. Thats 5 = 3 + 2.
    – Peter M
    May 24 at 23:42
  • 1
    (-1) The first 2 paragraphs are nothing more than an inventive rephrasing of Tadeusz Giczan Twitter statement: he noticed dodgy-looking ppl taking pics of him at the gate. In a court of law, this would be considered hearsay. HUMINT is supposed to mean Human intelligence, but lets hope that no new war will be started (as has happened) based on such a rephrased statement of a third party of what they were told by the original party. May 25 at 5:33
  • 2
    @MarkJohnson Our source was the New York Times. (see link). Your Twitter link is broken but in my hunt for it, I substantiated your "3 agents on the plane" claim from the other answer; so thanks for that. My use of HUMINT vs SIGINT is correct given OP's assumption of SIGINT. As far as "creatively rephrasing", that is literally how all reportage works and how StackExchange is supposed to work. Are you sure your DV is warranted based on my latest edit and cites? May 25 at 6:52
  • 1
    @JonathanReez Done, thanks for your patience. May 25 at 6:54
5

Presuming you used a credit card for the transaction, that is no longer a secret.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90490923/credit-card-companies-are-tracking-shoppers-like-never-before-inside-the-next-phase-of-surveillance-capitalism

In one sense, cardholders are safer from identity theft than ever before. At the same time, they’re now shopping in a panopticon, with companies tracking and analyzing their purchases in near real time. It’s never been tougher to know who’s out there watching and selling this data—to say nothing of who’s buying.

You'd think it's anonymous but

But it isn’t so anonymous. In 2015, de Montjoye and colleagues at MIT took a data set containing three months’ worth of credit card transactions by 1.1 million unnamed people, and found that, 90% of the time, they could identify an individual if they knew the rough details (the day and the shop) of four of that person’s purchases.

I would readily presume anyone taking interest, even just a PI not to mention the intelligence services of a state, could easily figure out all my transactions.

But yes, in this case this was HUMINT but there are many ways this could've happened.

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    What sources do you have that the Lithuanian VSAT receives a copy of the manifest for any internal Schengen Area flight? May 25 at 4:39
  • 2
    -1. A credit card company is not going to know which flight you're taking in the future, although they might be able to hazard a pretty good guess at where you're going. May 25 at 7:23
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    @lambshaanxy you’ve never looked at an Amex statement apparently. They often include full details of the flight purchased (to simplify expenses). I believe Visa and MasterCard also have programs which have airlines include flight data for the same reasons (for business/corporate credit cards). Coverage varies, but they do have the info in many cases. The details were discussed in another question here or on money.SE IIRC.
    – jcaron
    May 25 at 7:59
  • 1
    Good note on companies/websites selling you out. I once ordered something from Amazon to a family member’s house. A few months later I got a fake bill sent to there. Either that seller sold my info or somehow they found correlation between us
    – Honey
    May 25 at 8:36
  • @MarkJohnson you are right, removed VSAT, that was speculation on my end. Sorry.
    – chx
    May 25 at 9:40

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