Delta Air Lines announced Thursday that it is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to become the first U.S. airline to launch a contact tracing program.
Beginning Dec. 15, Delta will ask customers traveling to the U.S. from an international location to voluntarily provide the following pieces of data for the purposes of contact tracing:
- Full name
- Email address
- Address in the U.S.
- Two phone numbers
Delta will then "directly and securely" transmit the data to the CDC via U.S. Customs and Border Protection, giving the organization "access to the data in moments, dramatically decreasing the time it takes to notify affected customers via local health departments."
“Independent studies have shown that the many layers of protection Delta has already put in place are effectively minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and contact tracing adds one more important layer to our efforts to ensure safety throughout travel,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer. “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.”
Currently, contact tracers have to ask airlines for passenger manifests to conduct contact tracing, which is then sent to local health departments; Delta says their new procedure will streamline that procedure.
Delta pledged that they will take necessary steps to protect any sensitive passenger data.
"All data submitted by customers through this voluntary collection process is sent to the CDC using established channels between airlines and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the Advance Passenger Information System," according to a release from the airline. "We will retain this information for no longer than is necessary to achieve the contact tracing and public health follow-up objectives, or as required by Customs and Border Protection."
"Protecting our customers’ security and privacy are top priorities for all Delta employees, and customers can be confident their information will be treated with the same level of care we take for your safety throughout your travel journey," the company added.