U.S. law requires all airlines operating within the United States to provide the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection with information on passengers in order to combat security threats. Because of this, airlines record the names of passengers along with other data.
As a general rule, airlines collect the name, contact information, date of travel, seat number and destination for each passenger. Airlines may collect additional information, such as health conditions or ethnicity. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security can access this data to prevent, investigate and prosecute terrorism and crimes with mandatory sentences of three years or more.
Customs and Border Protection keeps passenger information in an active file for five years. When this period is up, the department stores the data a dormant database for 10 more years. Passengers may request information about themselves under the Freedom of Information act by mailing a request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.