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

The bobsled race has traditionally been a staple event at the carnival. File photo
Upcoming Rossland Winter Carnival cancelled due to COVID-19 crisis

This is the first time the carnival won’t be held in decades

A tender for the project will be sent out on BC Bid. Photo: B.C. Government
Nakusp Elementary School child care centre set to open in May 2022

Conceptual drawings and project timelines for centre have already been complete

People participating at a Remembrance Day event in Nakusp in 2016. Photo: Jillian Trainor
Scaled-down Remembrance Day event to take place in Nakusp

People are asked to physically distance and wear masks if they attend the event

A view of proposed seniors housing on Vernon St. Illustration: City of Nelson/ Vendure Retirement Communities
Nelson seniors housing project to start construction in the spring

Private development on Vernon Street will provide assisted living services as well as housing

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Blue Sky Kingdom.
Kimberley’s Bruce Kirkby publishes “Blue Sky Kingdom” documenting family adventure to Zanskar

Kirkby third book explores spirituality, mental health, modernity and tradition

Most Read