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

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

A new public space build on a sediment deposit in the Sicamous Narrows is a possible part of a flood mitigation barrier outlined in a recent report given to Sicamous’ council. (Kerr Wood Leidal Image)
Sicamous flood protection plan, public walkway come with hefty price tag

New barrier against higher seasonal lake levels called a proactive approach by mayor

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

The Armstrong Green Space Society is calling for the preservation of the Royal York Golf Course, which may be in jeopardy pending an application to use the land for a major housing development. (File photo)
Armstrong group calls on council to spare local golf course from housing development

The Armstrong Green Space Society was formed in 2019 after word of the development surfaced

Vicki Proulx, executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society, stands beneath a lights display the society lit up in Spirit Square Nov. 27, by way of announcing it will be taking over the 2021 downtown light-up event. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon Winter Carnival Society lights up downtown square

The society announced it will be taking over next year’s downtown light-up event

Parents are urged to be on alert after a potential child abduction attempt took place near Armstrong Elementary School Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (amsas/neden photo)
Possible child abduction attempt at Armstrong Elementary School prompts warning

A letter from the school’s principal urges parents to be on high alert

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

(Randy Mills/@poohbah431111 - Twitter)
Motorcyclist rushed to Kelowna General Hospital after collision

The collision occurred around 7:15 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 33 and Gerstmar Road

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Richard Brodeur discussing his paintings with the executive director of the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan Kirsteen McCulloch. (Contributed)
Former Canucks goalie King Richard’s art displayed at Kelowna gallery

Richard Brodeur starred in the Vancouver Canucks’ 1982 Stanley Cup run

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A confirmed case of COVID-19 at Vernon’s Silver Star Elementary School has been reported. (Google Maps)
COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Member of Silver Star Elementary community in Vernon self-isolating at home; parents alerted Nov. 28

Most Read