A passenger uses an Air Canada self service check-in kiosk at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, on Friday, July 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

Air Canada, WestJet say they provide names and contact information

Canada’s two biggest airlines say they are surprised that B.C. doesn’t feel it has good communication with them over possible COVID-19 exposures on their flights.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday (Aug. 4), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the information they get via flight manifests is very incomplete.

“It would shock you to see what we get from airlines when we request a flight manifest,” Henry said. “It really is a disconnect in the system… during these COVID times, we need to be able to find people quickly.”

However, in emails to Black Press Media, both WestJet and Air Canada said they have not had any requests for flight manifests from B.C. officials.

“At this time, we have not received or been notified of any requests for manifests from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control,” WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said.

“We have not had any requests for flight manifests from any Canadian health authority recently, and specifically from B.C. since early March 2020,” said an Air Canada spokesperson. “B.C. has only very recently (within last week) requested that we confirm seat numbers for specific passengers, and we can confirm these were responded to within a few hours.”

READ MORE: B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

The CDC lists flight exposures to COVID-19 on its website. There have been 51 domestic and 41 international flights with possible COVID-19 exposures since the pandemic began. Air Canada flights have accounted for 17 exposures in July, while WestJet has accounted for five.

Speaking Tuesday, Henry said part of the issue lies is that airlines and health officials use the information for different purposes, meaning that what is helpful to the for the former is not always suited to the latter.

“They obtain information for booking purposes… and they can tell you how much anybody paid for that specific seat,” she said. “When we need that information to find out who’s around, all they know is it’s somebody who paid $66 for that seat.”

She said that B.C. health authorities “very rarely get accurate information about contacts, even where people live.”

In a statement, WestJet said it provides information including name, contact information and reservation details for passengers in an “expedient” manner.

Air Canada said it provides flight manifests within 24 hours of a health authority request when dealing with any infectious disease. The information it provides includes names, contact information, sat location and itineraries.

Both Air Canada and the National Airlines Council of Canada, representing the major airlines in Canada, have reached out to Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office on multiple occasions to discuss any concerns she may have, and they have so far refused to get back to us,” Air Canada said in a statement.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Air CanadaAir TravelCoronavirusWestJet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tour de Rock turns community bubble relay race amid pandemic

Alumni will take on socially distanced leg of race in their hometowns

McKenzie interchange project drives towards completion

Motorists asked to continue following construction zone signage as crews will be on site into the fall

Victoria city council in support of floating dock on Gorge

City staff will bring forward a report on the dock in November

Oak Bay police seek suspect who broke into liquor store on Cadboro Bay Road

The incident happened at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17

North Saanich among six communities facing ‘chronic shortage’ of daycare spaces

Findings appear in a report that also analyzed daycare in Central Saanich and Sidney

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Long-term care need pressuring acute care in Comox Valley, Strathcona

Region could use a couple of large facilities for seniors on the north part of the Island

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

Most Read