WASHINGTON—The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urges the House Judiciary Committee to extend the October 26 deadline for requiring the 27 countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program to start issuing passports that contain biometrics.

In letters to lawmakers, which hold a hearing on the issue Wednesday, and again in a speech to the International Aviation Club of Washington, IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani stressed the need for the two-year extension sought by the Bush Administration. Most countries, including the U.K., Ireland, Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany and the United States itself, will not be able to securely issue passports with biometric identifiers by the deadline.

"IATA has long supported more secure travel documentation incorporating biometrics. We worked with the International Civil Aviation Organization to develop biometric standards. The problem is that the time frame for compliance is simply not achievable. Tens of thousands of travelers with legitimate passports issued on or after October 26 will not be able to enter the U.S. Chaos will result if the deadline is not extended," Bisignani said.

"The key to effective international security is coordination," said Bisignani. IATA fears that the unworkable time frame for compliance could result in tit-for-tat reprisals from other governments." A practical focus on security is essential. We cannot risk creating a situation where international travel, trade and commerce could be compromised by political one-upmanship in response to unrealistic demands. The economic implications would be serious without any positive impact on security."