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United Airlines recently announced that they will be working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a contact tracing program to collect customer contact information for all international and domestic flights.  

According to the announcement, the program is designed to collect detailed, real-time information that will better support CDC efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

United Airlines, San Francisco

Regarding the announcement, United Airlines Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist stated: 

“Initiatives like testing and contact tracing will play a significant role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is widely available. United continues to take a leadership role in both areas and is proud to support the CDC by doing our part to help them safeguard public health and safety.”

Earlier this month, Delta Airlines became the first US carrier to launch a passenger contact tracing program.

How the Program Will Work

The contact tracing program will be conducted on a voluntary basis on the part of travelers. 

During the check-in phase, United customers will have the option of providing contact information such as email address, phone number, and their destination address. Travelers can opt-in to provide information online, through United’s mobile app, or at the airport.

United Airlines indicates that the program is designed to obtain traveler contact information which can be easily accessed by the CDC, thus supporting the CDC’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the US. 

Speaking on the program, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield stated:

“Contact tracing is a fundamental component of the nation's public health response strategy for controlling the spread of communicable diseases of public health concern. Collection of contact information from air travelers will greatly improve the timeliness and completeness of information for COVID-19 public health follow-up and contact tracing.”

United will be rolling out the contact tracing program in phases. Voluntary collection of information will primarily begin with international arrivals, with the addition of domestic and international outbound departures being phased in later.

United Airline takeoff

Initiative Latest in United’s COVID-19 Efforts

United Airlines asserts the contact tracing program is their latest initiative in combatting COVID-19 and providing a safer travel experience.

United was the first airline to announce optional pre-flight COVID-19 testing. The airlines announced same-day pre-flight rapid test to passengers traveling to Hawaii from San Francisco in October.

traveler at airport in mask

In November, United launched the world’s first free transatlantic COVID-19 testing program. Passengers over the age of two years on select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR) were offered rapid tests free of charge. 

United also ran a pilot program for flights from New York/Newark to London to use Common Pass, a digital health pass enabling travelers to provide COVID-19 test results to relevant governments.

In December, the airlines expanded customer testing efforts to allow mail-in test options for travelers in Houston to select destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

United Airlines was also the first US carrier to roll-out touchless check-in for customers with bags and also the first to require travelers to complete an online health assessment prior to travel. 

According to the airlines, the latest research on COVID-19 shows that the risk on-board a United aircraft is low due to advanced air filtration systems, diligent cleaning protocols and mandated mask policies.

Further details on the airline’s cleaning procedures and policies can be found on their website.

united airlines plane

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