US airlines to support contact-tracing efforts in bid to help restart travel

Feb 19, 2021

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U.S. airlines are known for being especially competitive. We saw that in action just this week when United responded to JetBlue’s Newark expansion with a targeted long-haul flight. Still, from time to time, carriers cooperate to address industry-wide concerns, often through their large trade organization, Airlines for America (A4A).

This week, A4A announced that Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and United have all committed to asking passengers to voluntarily share contact-tracing details, that can then be shared with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some carriers, including Delta and United, have already begun a similar effort on their own.

U.S.-bound international passengers will have the option to provide their:

  • Legal name
  • Two phone numbers
  • Email address
  • Destination address in the U.S.

While the data collection will add some burden to airlines, carriers are hopeful that the extra step could help lead to relaxed travel restrictions — and, ideally, a boost in business.

“We are hopeful that this measure, coupled with existing testing requirements for passengers flying to the U.S., will lead policymakers to lift travel restrictions so that international travel can resume and the social and economic benefits of that travel can be realized,” Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement.

COVID-19 continues to rage in the United States.  Although the effort could potentially lead to some reduction in transmission, with participation being voluntary, it’s unclear how effective it’ll be. Even with passenger information on hand, there may not be contract tracers available to respond quickly enough to have any meaningful impact.

Still, contract-tracing could once again become practical as more people are vaccinated. This voluntary passenger data may eventually prove useful, especially as transmission rates start to fall but continue to be high.

Featured photo by Ryan Patterson for The Points Guy.

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