How Hong Kong’s Strict Quarantine Rules Are Impacting Cathay Pacific

While certain parts of the world are beginning to shed some of their travel restrictions, these rules continue to impact airline operations elsewhere. Cathay Pacific is one airline that has been struggling of late, owing to Hong Kong’s strict quarantine regulations. It has had to cancel several flights due to hesitancy among crew to undergo such isolation.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER
Some flights are having to only carry cargo as a result. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Widespread disruption

As airlines prepare for what is normally one of the busiest times of the year, Cathay Pacific is finding itself having to consolidate its upcoming schedules. It serves Hong Kong, a territory that has retained strict travel restrictions throughout the coronavirus pandemic. It has done so with the goal of reaching ‘Covid-Zero’ and reopening its border with China.

A two-week quarantine forms part of these restrictions. The Independent reports that, to manage this for its crew members, whose job requires them to constantly leave and re-enter the territory, the airline has devised a ‘closed-loop’ roster. This sees them work for three weeks at a time, with brief stays in an isolated hotel in Hong Kong, before a 14-day isolation.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1041 B-LXG
Crews are hesitant to spend five weeks away from home. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

However, with Christmas a month away, crews are hesitant to work such patterns. After all, this increases the chance of spending the festive period away from home. As such, Cathay Pacific is having to cancel various flights due to the shortage, affecting thousands of passengers. With this in mind, a spokesperson for Hong Kong’s flag carrier explained that:

The operational and travel restrictions that remain in place continue to constrain our ability to operate flights as planned. We are consolidating our passenger flight schedule for December 2021, including canceling a number of flights to Hong Kong.”

Switch to cargo-only flights

As a result of this disruption, Cathay Pacific is having to operate what would have been passenger flights on a cargo-only basis instead. The Independent notes that one in three of the closed-loop services will undergo such an alteration in light of the crew shortages.

Cathay Pacific A350
Cathay Pacific is rebooking passengers to minimize disruption. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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As far as the airline’s remaining December flights are concerned, it hopes to be able to accommodate impacted passengers with minimal disruption. At a time of year when many people travel to spend the festive period with their families, this could make all the difference in enabling long-awaited reunions. A Cathay Pacific spokesperson added that:

We will be communicating with affected customers over the coming days, and will endeavor to arrange alternative bookings on flights arriving on the same day as their originally scheduled flights so as to minimize disruptions to their journeys.”

Cathay 747 cargo
Cathay Pacific recently fired three cargo pilots who broke isolation protocols. Photo: Getty Images

Recent issues regarding quarantine

While Cathay Pacific is asking a lot of its crews, it has recently found itself in hot water regarding quarantine. Indeed, it recently let go of three cargo pilots who caught coronavirus after breaching isolation protocols in Frankfurt. The airline now requires crew members that have passed through Germany’s busiest airport to quarantine for 21 days.

Quarantine measures have also recently forced airlines to relocate hundreds of pilots away from Hong Kong. This comes just months after hundreds applied to relocate to Hong Kong to keep their jobs at Cathay Pacific. For those that remain, a difficult few weeks lay ahead, as the airline endeavors to get people and goods where they need to be this Christmas.

What do you make of this situation? Have your travel plans been altered due to such disruption? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.