United and CDC work on contact tracing initiative for all international and domestic flights

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United and CDC work on contact tracing initiative for all international and domestic flights

United Airlines with the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced a program to collect customer contact information for all international and domestic flights. During the check-in process, United customers will be prompted to voluntarily opt-in and provide contact information such as an email address, phone numbers and an address of where they will be once they reach their destination, details that were previously difficult for the CDC to obtain in real-time. This effort represents the airline industry’s most comprehensive public health contact information collection program to date and the immediate access to the data will better support the CDC’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the United States and around the world.

“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,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “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’s program will roll out in phases beginning this week with the voluntary collection of information for all international arrivals. In the weeks ahead, the airline will phase in domestic and international outbound departures. Customers can opt-in and participate in this effort using United’s mobile app, at united.com or at the airport.

“Initiatives like testing and contact tracing will play a significant role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is widely available,” said United’s Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist. “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.”

Throughout the pandemic, United has taken an industry-leading approach to health and safety to create and implement measures to keep our customers and employees safe, including COVID-19 testing programs, innovative technology solutions and industry-leading cleaning and safety iniatives.

A safer travel experience: COVID-19 Testing

United was the first airline to announce optional pre-flight COVID-19 testing for customers. In October, the airline started offering customers traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii the option to take a same-day, pre-flight rapid test at the airport or a conveniently located drive-through test, for a fee. The program allows customers with a negative result to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine requirements. 

Following this effort, United participated in two successful international test programs. In November, United announced the world’s first free transatlantic COVID-19 testing pilot program for customers. The airline offered rapid tests to every passenger over 2 years old and crew members on board select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR), free of charge.  Also, in partnership with CommonPass (add hyperlink), a digital health pass aimed at enabling safer travel and the reopening of international borders, customers participated in a test on flights from Newark/New York to London and were able to seamlessly provide their COVID-19 test results to relevant governments.

Most recently in December, United expanded its customer testing efforts to include a new mail-in test option for flights out of Houston to select destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean like Aruba, Belize City and the Bahamas.  United will continue to offer ways to expand testing as a means of opening borders safely.

United also joined efforts with the COVID-19 Technology Task Force to raise awareness and encourage customers and employees to take advantage of the free and secure Exposure Notifications System that anonymously alerts users if they’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Currently, about 20 states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C., offer technology managed by state health departments that can be downloaded to most mobile devices.

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