CDC Demands Airlines Provide More Passenger Data During COVID-19 Outbreak


Airline officials that don’t comply with a new rule could face $500,000 fines and jail time.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has introduced a rule to force the airline industry to turn over email addresses and phone numbers of international passengers who may have been exposed to novel coronavirus to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The interim final rule would be in effect until after the last known case of COVID-19, and amends existing Foreign Quarantine regulations “to enable CDC to require airlines to collect, and provide to CDC, certain data regarding passengers and crew arriving from foreign countries.”

In the rule, the CDC says it does not have the resources to both “actively monitor” thousands of people entering the U.S. daily and “actively contain and arrange care” for domestic Americans, despite the Trump administration’s temporary travel restrictions. The rule requires airlines to collect the data and submit it in an electronic format to the CDC within 24 hours of an order by the CDC director.

“CDC believes that this is the only mechanism by which it can efficiently obtain the information it needs for a public health response to outbreaks of communicable disease and that current regulatory requirements are not sufficient, especially in public health emergencies,” the rule states.

Airlines that fail to comply with the rule could be fined $500,000 and potential jail time, the rule states.

“CDC will exercise enforcement discretion where appropriate. We note that implementation of this interim final rule will entail technical and logistical difficulties for airlines,” the rule states. “We are confident that all airlines will make every effort to comply with it. CDC, and the Department of Health and Human Services more broadly, will in the exercise of its enforcement discretion take into account the good faith attempts at compliance of any airline which may have difficulty in implementing the interim final rule in a timely fashion.”

Airline CEOs met with Vice President Mike Pence last week to push back on the data-sharing issues.

According to a CNN report, Airlines for America, which lobbies on behalf of airlines, offered an alternative way for the CDC to get the information, including an app and website under development. Airlines are generally opposed to the measure, suggesting the government already collects much of the data it says it wants. 

Written comments regarding the rule must be submitted by March 13.