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

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

New Border Bruins owner Dr. Mark Szynkaruk reps team colours with his young sons and wife Tracey. Photo courtesy of the Grand Forks Border Bruins
KIJHL’s Border Bruins sold to Grand Forks doctor

The league announced the sale Friday, May 14

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Penny Lewis excited for her first swim meet. (Contributed by Elk Valley Dolphins Swim Club)
Dolphins enthusiastically accept Swim B.C.’s challenge

Contributed by Angie Abdou Elk Valley Dolphins Swim Club To counter the… Continue reading

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

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read