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Wed 6 Jan 2010 02:45 PM

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Airlines ill equipped to handle pandemic

Emirates medical chief says lack of global tracking system means airlines would struggle in outbreak.

Airlines ill equipped to handle pandemic
PANDEMIC ALERT: Airlines would not be able to track infected passengers in the event of a pandemic, Emirates medical chief said on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Airlines would not be able to track infected travellers inthe event of a global viral pandemicbecause of flaws in their passenger records, the chief medical advisor for Dubai’s flagship carrier warned on Wednesday.

Cliff Webster of Emirates Airlines said the lack of a single, global passenger tracking system would mean airlines are unlikely to be able to trace infected travellers in an outbreak.

“Should H5N1 become a pandemic, contact tracing of passengers to reduce infection will be a significant problem for health authorities worldwide, because currently there is no single method used to record passenger information, both by airlines and government authorities,” he told delegates at the Global Healthcare Conference, UAE University.

The problem is futher complicated as around half of the information given by passengers to their carrier is false, he said.

“[Airlines] are also dependent upon accurate information being given by passengers – typically around 50% of information given by passengers is incorrect and means they are unable to traced,” he said.

By 2020, between 60 to 65 million passengers will transit through the UAE every year, he added.

“[But] chances of picking up an infectious disease on board are very slim.”

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Confucious Confused 10 years ago

“[Airlines] are also dependent upon accurate information being given by passengers – typically around 50% of information given by passengers is incorrect and means they are unable to traced,” he said. Aren't passport numbers the primary identification key for passengers? Don't most governments have a registry of their citizens' addresses?

Amira Smith 10 years ago

Shocking, yes -but no, I don't think they do. I would guess that most countries use the electoral register- the UAE doesn't have one (well, not that includes the majority of its citizens, anyway.) And with the rate at which people move, I would imagine it's incredibly hard to keep track of these issues. It's not as though you update the Embassy each time you move house- as a result, your passport doesn't really help.