Cathay Pacific Eyes A Limited London Return As Quarantine Relaxes

Cathay Pacific is making a very limited return to London as the UK capital begins to unwind its tough quarantine restrictions. In turn, that’s prompted the Hong Kong government to relax its ban on arrivals from the UK. As a result, Cathay Pacific will run two repatriation flights from London Heathrow later this month.

Cathay Pacific will offer two repatriation flights from London later this month. Photo: Getty Images

CX2252 will depart London on Wednesday, April 21 and Wednesday, April 28. At the time of publication, neither flight is available for sale or listed on Cathay Pacific’s booking portal. However, the airline advises bookings will open on April 8.

“Cathay Pacific stands ready to support the operation of special flights to bring Hong Kong residents home from the United Kingdom,” the airline says in a statement.

From multiple daily London flights to no flights

Prior to the travel downturn, Cathay Pacific jets winged their way between Hong Kong and London several times a day. Hong Kong residents used London as a jumping-off point into Europe. UK residents used Hong Hong as a springboard into China and Northern Asia.

Those services were substantially curtailed last year. In November, Cathay Pacific axed its flights to and from London Gatwick. A month later, Cathay Pacific flights to and from London Heathrow were later suspended when Hong Kong moved to ban all flights from the United Kingdom. The snap decision left Hong Kong residents stranded. That included many students based in the UK. Since then, flights between the two countries have largely been in limbo.

Meanwhile, in addition to letting some stranded Hong Kongers return home from the UK, the Hong Kong government is also laying out the welcome mat for citizens of some other countries – sort of.

Cathay Pacific facemasks
Cathay Pacific suspended its flights to London after the government banned travel from the UK. Photo: Getty

Hong Kong slightly relaxes quarantine rules for some travelers

Arrivals into Hong Kong have to go into a 21-day quarantine. This is done at a designated quarantine hotel. Passengers can choose their own quarantine hotel but 21-days stuck in a hotel room isn’t an incentive to fly in. However, passengers coming in from Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia have had their quarantine period cut to 14-days (with a further seven days of self-monitoring and testing to follow).

Cathay Pacific says it welcomes the relaxation of quarantine measures for passengers returning from low-risk places. A trifle optimistically, the airline also says it hopes it will facilitate travel.

Cathay Pacific Airways
Cathay Pacific is now flying to just 22 destinations worldwide. Photo: Getty Images

The airline will also welcome news the Hong Kong government wants to talk to some10 countries about setting up a quarantine-free travel bubble. In addition to perennial potential travel bubble buddy, Singapore, the Hong Kong government is reportedly eyeing other countries such as Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Australia.

For its part, a beleaguered Cathay Pacific is doing its best to prepare for any uptick in flying facilitated by travel bubble or otherwise. The airline has been busy trialling digital vaccination passports, including CommonPass. Flights are running but at a fraction of their former frequencies. Presently, there are no scheduled Cathay Pacific flights into the UK or Europe, Africa, or Central and Latin America. The airline is now flying to just 22 destinations worldwide.

As Cathay Pacific lays on the two flights from London later this month, the airline notes it looks forward to the resumption of normal life and the recovery of Hong Kong’s economy.