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

Smithers Local Health Area reported just one new case of COVID-19 from Feb. 14-20. (BC CDC graphic)
Local weekly COVID infections drop to one

The Smithers Local Health Area (Houston to Witset) reported a single case between Feb. 14 and20

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Smithers Weekly Police Blotter: Feb 12 – 19

Smithers RCMP open 83 new files including 15 property crime cases

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Most Read