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US airline CEOs to meet with Pence amid rift over passenger data collection to combat coronavirus

U.S. airline CEOs and an industry trade group are scheduled to meet with Vice President Mike Pence in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, as the coronavirus roils the business.

Airline stocks have tumbled to multiyear lows and have become a standout in the market rout. The virus, which has infected more than 90,000 people, has sapped demand as corporations pause lucrative business travel as the illness spreads.

Carriers including Delta, American and United have suspended China routes and have made cuts on other international routes. United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, warned staff on Saturday that further cuts are likely, CNBC reported.

Airlines have bristled at efforts by officials to get passenger data to track potential travelers who have been infected with the virus. 

Not all passenger reservations contain contact data for travelers, noted Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major U.S. carriers including United, American and Delta. About 74% have a phone number and 56% have an email, according to a letter the group sent to the Department of Health and Human Services last month, which was seen by CNBC.

The agency should set up an online link for arriving international passengers to provide contact information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the letter said.

“This online option would eliminate the need for the airlines to act as an intermediary, and it would create a government-mandated one-on-one, more immediate relationship between a passenger and the CDC,” said the letter.

HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.