Cathay Pacific is temporarily banned from flying on one of its few remaining operational routes. Owing to the carriage of five passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 on a flight from Manila over the weekend, Hong Kong’s health department has stepped in and paused flights from Manila until March 28.
Temporary flight ban for two weeks
In a statement issued by Hong Kong’s Department of Health on Sunday, the Hong Kong Government confirmed it had banned the landing of commercial Cathay Pacific flights from Manila until March 28.
“A passenger flight (CX906) operated by Cathay Pacific (CX) arriving from Manila of the Philippines to Hong Kong on March 13, 2021, had five passengers confirmed to have COVID-19,” the statement reads.
“The Health Department thus invoked the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H) to prohibit the landing of passenger flights from Manila operated by CX in Hong Kong from March 15 to 28, 2021.”
CX906 is Cathay Pacific’s lunchtime A350 departure from Manila. Philippine Airlines also operates on this route. According to the wording of Hong Kong’s statement, they are still good to fly. Online searches indicate flights are still available for sale throughout March on Philippine Airlines.
Authorities use disease prevention laws to suspend flights
Hong Kong’s Chapter 559H concerns the prevention and control of disease. It gives local health authorities the power to suspend flights by a carrier to Hong Kong if authorities believe the airline has or may have breached the regulations.
Chapter 559H requires airlines to ensure passengers coming from certain countries (including The Philippines) produce evidence of a negative nucleic acid test result for COVID-19 taken no longer than 72 hours before boarding the Hong Kong-bound aircraft. The airline is then obliged to submit to Hong Kong authorities documentation before arrival certifying required COVID-19 safe travel conditions have been met.
“Cathay Pacific had been scheduled to operate four flights during the two-week period from Manila to Hong Kong. As a result of the directive, we will suspend our passenger services from Manila to Hong Kong until 28 March. Passenger flights from Hong Kong to Manila are not affected,” a Cathay Pacific spokesperson told Simple Flying today,
Exactly what happened in Manila remains unclear
It’s not clear whether the five passengers produced negative COVID-19 test results when checking in or whether this protocol was overlooked. Cathay Pacific didn’t address that point. What’s clear is that Hong Kong authorities are targeting a specific airline rather than all airlines flying from a certain city.
“We are following the health authorities’ prescribed procedures in assisting their efforts in tracing people who were in close contact with the index passengers. We will continue to work closely with the authorities on this case,” says Cathay’s spokesperson.
“The operating aircraft has also been sent for deep cleaning in accordance with the standard required by the Hong Kong Port Health Authority and to the Cathay Pacific’s own strict standards.”
The flight ban sees the once-mighty Cathay Pacific flying to just a handful of cities around Asia. A shadow of its former self, Cathay Pacific is maintaining slimmed-down schedules to Jakarta, Surabaya, Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei, Beijing, and Shanghai this month.
One way Cathay Pacific flights to Manila are continuing throughout March. The return flights to Hong Kong will not carry passengers until March 29 at the earliest.