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B.C. urges feds to tighten up coronavirus measures for airlines

Frustrated passengers at YVR airport, their flights delayed due to a system failure with Air Canada's check-in system, requiring staff to manually create boarding passes.
Frustrated passengers at YVR airport, their flights delayed due to a system failure with Air Canada's check-in system, requiring staff to manually create boarding passes. Karan Passi

The B.C. government is calling on the federal government to put more consistent regulations on Canada’s airlines in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In a letter to federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says Ottawa must ensure that airlines adhere to health protocols for boarding a plane, including screening for symptoms, and must create flexible cancellation policies should someone develop symptoms after booking a flight.

“Rather than contact tracing individuals, public health officials have reverted to listing flights with a positive COVID-19 case, which raises public concern,” Trevena’s letter reads.

“We encourage the federal government to ensure the data gathered is usable and traces back to the individual traveller directly.”

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also raised concerns about getting flight manifests, such as the airline taking too long to provide the information and only listing the names of those who bought the tickets and not necessarily those who travelled.

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Air Canada had said it provides manifests to any Canadian health authority within 24 hours of a request and includes names, contact information, seat location, and itinerary. Passenger contact information is requested when flights are booked and again at check-in.

Read more: B.C.’s top doctor says airlines are holding back information needed for contact tracing

 

 

The rate of transmission on airplanes has been low.

In July, passengers from just 30 flights that arrived or departed from British Columbia eventually tested positive for COVID-19.

British Columbia is hoping the federal government will require the airlines to agree on onboard activities, including consistent rules on eating, use of restrooms and use of the middle seat.

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Trevena said she is also worried about a lack of insurance protocols to assist travellers who are ill, since not all travel policies cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment, which can be particularly expensive for non-B.C. citizens who need care in the province.

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“Safety is paramount in the air sector, and we are heartened to see this focus and effort continue when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Trevena writes.

“As guidelines have been implemented to ensure safety we have, however, noticed an inconsistency or lag in their implementation.”