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16 November 2021 | Blog

Passenger data collection: 4 reasons why airlines need to replace paper forms with automation

With the US re-opening its borders on the 8th November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recent orders again.

All passengers travelling internationally into the USA must have proof of having a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from the virus.  Alongside this, they must also confirm via an attestation that they are, or are planning to be, vaccinated with an accepted vaccine.

And that’s not all: As well as this attestation, the CDC has also mandated the collection of Contact Tracing data for all passengers before their arrival into the United States from a foreign country. 

There is a lot to think about, and with the orders changing, there are many reasons why digitising and automating the process is the way forward. Here are just four of them:

1. Passenger experience

Men socially distanced in an airport


The CDC provides a 7-page pdf which is only currently available in English and Spanish, and customers cannot travel without printing and completing a copy for each passenger. This clunky process, unfortunately, reflects on you as an airline, but you can change the process to make it smooth and simple by taking it online…

Research included in our recent eGuide on Customer Journey Mapping shows that there are three elements involved in the recall of an experience:

  • Function
  • Ease
  • Emotion

While they all play an important role, emotion influences 60% of a decision to travel with you again. Unnecessary queues at the airport are guaranteed to leave customers stressed and frustrated and this is what they will remember from their experience. 

Plus, with the latest IATA Traveller Survey revealing that queueing in the airport is one of passengers’ top three concerns post-pandemic, avoiding this is a vital part of creating a positive impression of your brand.

So, by making the form available in a dynamic, easily fillable format on a 15below-hosted microsite in any language, your passengers can complete and submit it before leaving home, avoiding queues at the airport altogether, whilst continuing to be compliant with the orders.

2. Compliance

Icons related to compliance against city lights background


As well as collecting an attestation, airlines are now also required to collect contact tracing data for each passenger. The airline must retain the information for 30 days after departure and if requested, provide information – including name, address in the USA, and contact numbers in the US – to the CDC within 24 hours of it being requested.

Manually sifting through piles of paper across multiple airports around the world is going to be a costly task while the risk of human error and the inability to meet the CDC’s request in time is high. The alternative is to store your data within a secure, 15below-hosted database where data is captured consistently from all channels. The necessary information can be accessed simply and quickly, guaranteeing you will meet the CDC’s request every time.

3. Sustainability



With 2,900,000 passengers flying in and out of US airports every day (according to the Federal Aviation Administration Nov 2021), and the CDC’s pdf covering seven pages, that is A LOT of paper!

As the world has seen COP26 take climate change from being a fringe issue to a global priority, we are all looking at how we can take responsibility for our own carbon footprint. The aviation industry is pushing harder than ever to meet its obligations, so having a new order that demands paper collection is not helpful.

Our automated solution will save tonnes of paper every day with passengers completing their attestations and providing contact tracing data online. This can be done in a number of ways, including:

  1. Via email containing a unique encrypted URL to a microsite with a pre-filled attestation, meaning the passenger only has to check their statements.
  2. Our API which can be triggered via your app or other processes like the check-in flow.
  3. Public microsite which can be accessed via other media such as a QR code at the airport.

4. Revenue generation

Red paper airplane with dotted trail going up behind it


If you have had to disable your automated check-in process, it’s likely you’re missing out on an important revenue stream. Suddenly a vital opportunity to upsell on checked baggage, seats, airport products and online services is gone. 

According to Simple Flying, four airlines made more than 50% of their total revenues in 2020 from ancillaries. Globally, ancillary revenue earned airlines around US$60 billion! 

So, switching off a vital revenue-generation stream is not to be taken lightly.

The 15below Data Collection solution allows you to capture the majority of customer attestations in the days leading up to travel, prompted by emails that contain unique encrypted URLs. One of our customers has already seen 70% completion before the day of travel via the 15below microsite collection alone.

By getting the majority of data collected in advance, you can keep your automated check-in process running and only restrict it for people who have not provided the necessary information in time.

We also have other solutions available to help you boost revenue generation, such as enabling passengers to find and book PCR tests for both legs of their journey. You can find out about this and other 15below COVID Solutions here.


Our Data Collection solution is available now, so get in touch to learn more about how it can be configured quickly for your business.