By Alison Sider 

U.S. airlines are pressured 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 the Covid-19 disease from entering the U.S. They have 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 have been.

Airlines say they are 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. and JetBlue Airways Corp. met with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to discuss how airlines are dealing with the impact of the coronavirus.

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the additional data would help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and others identify people who enter the country and contact them 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 don't. 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, senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy at Airlines for America, a trade group. It could take as long as a year to reprogram systems to ensure that all this data is collected, she added.

Airlines for America suggested that HHS 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, Airlines for America's chief executive, said that Wednesday's meeting was constructive and that the group would continue to work with federal agencies to help contain the spread of the virus.

The U.S. death toll from the new coronavirus grew to 11 on Wednesday, with California announcing its first fatality linked to the viral infection.

Write to Alison Sider at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 04, 2020 16:11 ET (21:11 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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