Air India and Cathay Dragon have received flight bans until October 3rd from Hong Kong authorities after flying in multiple COVID-19 positive passengers. Cathay Dragon will not operate its Kuala Lumpur route due to the ban, while Air India can operate no flights to Hong Kong at all. The ban comes after six passengers tested positive on an Air India flight and five did on Cathay Dragon’s Kuala Lumpur flight.
More flight bans
Hong Kong has been cracking down on airlines who have carried too many COVID-positive passengers early on. Under new measures, any airline which has more than five positive passengers will receive a route ban, according to the South China Morning Post. This is what occurred on two flights last Friday.
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Air India flight 310, from Delhi to Hong Kong, was found to carry six positive passengers onboard. This meant the airline received a two-week ban from Hong Kong authorities, the second time it has got one in a month. Despite strict pre-flight testing requirements, over a dozen have tested positive on arrival in Hong Kong.
Cathay Dragon received a two-week ban on its Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong route after five passengers were found to have COVID-19. All the passengers had transited through Kuala Lumpur after taking an Air India Express flight, raising severe concerns about India’s testing efficacy.
According to the Bangkok Post, four passengers also tested positive on the same flight last week, all of whom also transited from India. The transit through Kuala Lumpur has become popular for those returning to Hong Kong due to the shortage of flights from India.
Air India at the center
Air India has been in hot water in the last month or so, receiving bans from multiple countries. Just last week, Dubai banned Air India Express flights after the airline knowingly carried two positive passengers. Similarly, Air India was banned from August 18th to 31st from flying to Hong Kong after its previous flight had 11 positive passengers.
These instances have raised questions about the accuracy of testing in India. Most countries require a negative COVID-19 test from at least 72 to 96 hours before the flight. Despite all passengers having all this, many are testing positive on arrival.
According to the SCMP, Hong Kong has doubts over India’s testing reliability and the authenticity of health documents. With two bans for Air India, and many transiting Indian passengers testing positive, the city might enforce even stricter testing requirements to prevent more cases.
India has been signing new travel bubble agreements to restart international flights. Notably, many East Asian countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, and more, have been missing in these agreements. This could be due to rising COVID-19 cases in India.
India is now the second-worst affected country globally, and cases are growing rapidly, with over 90,000 every day. This poses a risk to international flights since passengers could bring in imported cases.
However, hundreds of thousands also need to fly out of India, forcing countries to place strict quarantine requirements. Flights will continue to resume, but countries might be preparing for harsher measures, such as designating select labs in India for tests.
Have you flown internationally during the pandemic? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments.