Airline API – What & Why?

API stands for Advanced Passenger Information and, depending on where you are flying to, and the airline you are flying with, is often required before tickets can be issued.

If you are flying from the UK to Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala or Belize then you will probably need to provide your API. I say ‘probably’ because, again, it depends on the airline you are flying and the routing.

So, for example, if you are flying from London to Havana with Virgin Atlantic, you will need to provide your API. Why? Well, it’s not for the Cubans or British but for the US authorities. Yes, that’ right, you are flying direct, non-stop from the UK to Cuba but, because you enter US airspace, you must provide your API.

Other routings to Cuba, or Guatemala, Mexico & Belize might not go via the US or through US airspace but, since some other countries have similar rules, I think it is generally best to assume that you will need to provide your API.

So, what information do they mean when they refer to API? Well, for the US it means your full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number and passport expiry date. Other countries and / or airlines might require the date the passport was issued and place of birth.

As your passport details are required for API, make sure that you have your passport at hand when (a) making a flight booking and (b) the tickets are issued – these two events can be the same day or they can be months apart. The point is, don’t apply for a new passport just as you are making your booking.

On the subject of new passports, most countries will require that your passport is valid for another 6 months from the date of returning home, not leaving home. If you need to renew your passport, it’s best to liaise with your tour operator or airline first.

Please note too, in addition to API, if you travelling to or through the US or Canada you will need to apply for an ESTA.


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