By Alison Sider

 

U.S. airlines are under pressure to provide more detailed information about passengers flying into the country to help officials contain the spread of the coronavirus, but are struggling with requests they say are beyond their capabilities.

Carriers have been expected to help keep people with Covid-19 from entering the country. They've had to assist in funneling travelers who have been in China or Iran recently into designated airports where they can undergo additional screening, often relying on passengers to disclose where they've been. Airlines say they're now being asked to provide primary and secondary phone numbers, email addresses, and locations where passengers will be staying while in the U.S.--information they say they don't easily have at hand.

Top executives from American Airlines Group Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Alaska Air Group Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp. met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss how airlines are dealing with the impact of the coronavirus.

Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, said the additional data would help the CDC, HHS and others people who enter the country and contact if necessary.

One issue is that about half of travel tickets are booked through travel agencies rather than directly with airlines. While members of frequent flier programs generally have phone numbers and email addresses on file with carriers, many passengers do not. They can choose to share contact information with airlines, but sometimes don't.

"We don't have this information--we simply don't--on many passengers," said Sharon Pinkerton, A4A's Senior Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Policy. It could take as long as a year to reprogram systems to ensure that all this data is collected, she added.

The trade group suggested that the Department of Health and Human Services set up a website for inbound international travelers, where they can input their own data, similar to something that has been set up in South Korea. Nick Calio, A4A's CEO, said Wednesday's meeting was constructive and that the group will continue to work with federal agencies to help contain the spread of the virus.

 

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 04, 2020 15:16 ET (20:16 GMT)

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