Cathay Pacific has had a particularly bad pandemic, with purely international routes and very restricted borders in Hong Kong. As the country starts to open up more, airline workers are facing increased requirements for compulsory vaccination. This will apply to all staff and contractors from October 1st and extend further from December 1st.
Cathy Pacific announced on August 20th that all airline staff and contractors working at Hong Kong International Airport will need to be fully vaccinated from October 1st. This new requirement will replace current requirements for testing for some staff, according to reporting by South China Morning Post.
It comes after a contracted staff member working one of the airline VIP lounges tested positive for COVID-19 during the past week. This involved an unvaccinated employee of Sodexo (the company contracted to run the airline lounges), and it is believed she was infected by a transit passenger. However, this has not yet been tracked.
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Extending requirements beyond staff
Previously, Cathay Pacific had a strong drive for staff to be vaccinated. It had already set an August 31st deadline for this, with 99% of pilots and 92% of flight attendants reportedly vaccinated already.
But the case picked up in the lounge involved a third-party contractor, also having high contact with passengers and other employees. This has seen the rules extended to all contractors working for the airline at the airport, with an October 1st deadline. This will go even further later with a deadline of December 1st for all staff and contractors entering any Cathay Pacific office location to be vaccinated.
In a memo to staff, Patricia Hwang, the airline’s people director, explained:
“It will be a requirement that in order to enter Cathay premises, you will need to be vaccinated. Being tested regularly for COVID-19 from these dates will no longer be an option… We require this of our pilots and cabin crew, and this decision will bring all of our Hong Kong-based employees in line with one another.”
Vaccination in Hong Kong
Clearly, new requirements of this scale depend on vaccination progress within the country. Hong Kong is doing well with its vaccination program, with 57.3% of the population having received a first dose and 44.9% a second dose (as of August 19th, according to the Hong Kong government).
To reach the target for airline crew, they have been prioritized in vaccination. It is unclear how much this will apply to other staff and contractors, but the program should have advanced significantly by December.
As vaccination increases, Hong Kong is also opening its borders. Arrivals are permitted from low and medium-risk countries, with just seven days quarantine for fully vaccinated visitors (including tourists). But many key countries for the airline (including the US, UK, parts of Europe, and India) remain high risk and banned.
Any such changes can only help the airline, though. In May, it carried an average of just 774 passengers per day. And the latest figures for July show monthly volume still down 98.4% compared to July 2019 (but up 25.8% compared with July 2020).
Cathay Pacific is not the only airline mandating vaccination, but it is taking it further than most. It has gradually expanded requirements over the past months. Feel free to discuss this further in the comments.