April 24, 2024
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) has decided to investigate 10 major US airlines and see how they handle customer data and whether they monetize it or not
  • If found guilty, appropriate actions will be taken. News rules might also be imposed
  • The investigation is simply a proactive measure. None of the mentioned airlines were involved in any wrongdoing

10 Airlines to Be Investigated by the DOT over Data Handling

Ten major airlines in the US will face investigation from The Department of Transportation (DOT) over how they handle passenger data. The list includes:

  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Allegiant
  • Air Alaska
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airline
  • Hawaiian Airline

Each of them has already received a letter from the department.

Airline passengers should have confidence that their personal information is not being shared improperly with third parties or mishandled by employees.Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Sec.

The investigation will look into how the airlines collect, use, and safeguard customer data and if they are selling it to third parties. The DOT will also check if there are any complaints about employees or contractors mishandling customer data.

It’s important to note that this initiative was not triggered by any incident of breach.

If any airline is found guilty of these charges, they’ll face scrutiny and fines. And depending on how the investigation goes, the DOT might also create new rules.

This won’t be a one-time investigation. From now on, each airline will be subjected to periodic reviews of their privacy practices to ensure that they abide by the rules.

While there were rumors last year that United Airlines might be planning to sell passenger data for targeted advertising, no formal decision was made.

It’s safe to say that this step is simply a proactive measure adopted by the department to safeguard the interest of US citizens.

Read more: JetBlue shares record a 15% surge following activist Carl Icahn’s stake reporting

What Do the Airlines Have to Say about This Investigation?

Southwest has responded to the probe by saying that it does share some passenger information with selected third parties and partners, as clearly mentioned in its privacy policy. However, customers have the option to opt out of this.

Allegiant Airlines said that protecting passenger data is one of their top priorities. So they are open to this review and are willing to cooperate.

United, American Delta, and Alaska, which are members of Airlines For America. have redirected all questions regarding the investigation to the trade group.

Who Can Legally Access Passenger Data Right Now?

Currently, all US airlines are legally required to share passenger data with the following authorities:

  • The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Information required to be shared includes the passenger’s name, contact information, credit card number, PNR, and so on
  • The US Customs and Border Control
  • In a few selected cases of law enforcement, this information is also shared with other government agencies outside of the DHS

The purpose of this investigation is to ensure that no one other than the agencies mentioned above can access passenger information.

The initiative couldn’t have come at a better time. Rapid digital advancement over the past few years has drastically increased cyber attacks on all industries, including the aviation industry.

  • For example, last year a group of hackers stole personal details from over 8,000 pilot applications from American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
  • And just this week, Spanish airline Air Europa revealed that some of their passenger’s data might have been compromised in a breach.

Once this investigation is done, the authorities might introduce another proposal that will give the passengers a transparent breakdown of their traveling expenses before they book the ticket.

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