by Bruce Myint | March 01, 2004
In January, after initial denials, Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines said it provided three months of passenger data to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for a security research project.
    The disclosure the latest in a series of similar cases involving other airlines sparked distress among corporate travel managers, according to  the Radnor, Pa.-based Business Travel Coalition. In a  January BTC poll of corporate travel and purchasing managers, nearly half surveyed felt “extremely concerned” over the news.
    “They feel unsure of the safeguards airlines have in place regarding passenger information,” said BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell. “They are even less confident about safeguards in place at government agencies and private contractors with whom some airlines share passenger data.”
    Northwest defended its decision, saying it was the responsibility of the airline industry to help the government improve security after 9/11. The airline also emphasized what it called NASA’s “strict” privacy protections.
    “The government and the airlines should be more up front with what they are dong with information,” said Stuart A. Davidson, an attorney with  Little Rock, Ark.-based Cauley, Geller, Bowman & Rudman, LLP. The firm recently filed a class-action suit against Northwest, saying the airline breached its privacy policy.
    Northwest Airlines said it would work to develop a new data protection protocol before participating in any future government security projects.