Delta Air Lines said Thursday that it would assist federal coronavirus contact tracing efforts, becoming the first airline to do so after the industry spent years resisting government requests for help.
Starting Dec. 15, Delta will ask all passengers flying into the United States to voluntarily provide their names, email addresses, destination addresses and phone numbers — information that it will share with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We want customers to feel safe when they return to travel, and this voluntary program is another way we can provide additional reassurance to customers and employees alike,” Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, said in a statement.
For more than a decade, the U.S. government has pressured airlines to collect such information to help contain contagious viruses. But the industry had rebuffed those requests, saying that it would be too expensive and time-consuming. Earlier this year, airlines helped to thwart a Trump administration effort to require such data collection, even as Congress approved $50 billion in aid for passenger airlines. Instead, the industry offered to set up a website and mobile application where passengers could provide information to the government, but talks with federal officials fell apart this summer.
At the start of the pandemic, the United States had few known cases and government officials were most focused on keeping the virus from getting into the country. But with millions infected and the virus spreading widely, it’s unclear how useful the information collected voluntarily, only from international arrivals and by a single airline, will be.
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