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Friday, October 7, 2022

Delta Launches COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program as Airport Testing Expands

Delta is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep international customers informed of potential COVID-19 exposure through contact tracing. Along with its nine global airline partners, Delta is working with government agencies, health officials and aviation authorities to offer safer travel.

Beginning December 15, Delta will become the first U.S. airline to ask customers traveling to the U.S. from an international location to voluntarily provide five pieces of data to aid contact tracing and public health follow-up efforts. The data consists of full name, email address, address in the U.S., primary phone number, and secondary phone number.

“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.”  

Customers and those in their itinerary can voluntarily participate in the contact tracing program if they are flying on any Delta-operated flight, a foreign national and/or a U.S. passport holder traveling to the United States as their final destination.

Under the new process, Delta is working with CDC to streamline contact-tracing efforts by directly and securely transmitting the five requested customer data points to CDC via U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This will give CDC access to the data in moments, substantially decreasing the time it takes to notify affected customers via local health departments.

By connecting with customers more quickly and providing public health follow-up, health authorities can help reduce instances of potential exposure and slow the spread of the virus.

Currently, in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case with travel while infectious, CDC requests a passenger manifest from Delta to identify all customers seated two seats around the confirmed case. This information is then transmitted to the appropriate local health departments for follow-up, with each department taking responsibility for passengers in their own jurisdiction.

Delta will retain the personal 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.

Delta recently formed a partnership with Aeroporti de Roma and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to launch a first-of-its-kind trans-Atlantic COVID-19 testing program that will enable quarantine-free entry into Italy. Participating customers who are eligible to travel will be granted an exemption from quarantine restrictions on arrival into Italy. As part of this pilot program, contact tracing information collection will be mandatory for all customers flying to the U.S. 

Another new partnership, announced on December 4, sees Delta Air Lines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines provide COVID-tested flights from Atlanta to Amsterdam. The flights are available from December 15. The airline partners have worked with the Dutch government, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to deliver a comprehensive COVID-19 testing program that will allow eligible customers to be exempt from quarantine on arrival after receiving a negative PCR test result on landing in the Netherlands.

And United Airlines is expanding its own COVID-19 testing efforts to include flights out of Houston to select destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Starting for flights departing on December 7, customers originating from George Bush Intercontinental Airport will have the option to take a self-collected, mail-in test that meets local entry requirements for the ten different destinations, allowing them to reunite with family or start their vacation immediately.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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