Pilots Are Being Moved From Hong Kong Amid Strict Quarantine Rules

Pilots are being relocated out of Hong Kong due to the city’s strict COVID-19 measures. Cathay Pacific is considering moving its pilots out of the city for several months, while FedEx has already closed down its crew base in Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific recently had to quarantine 130 of its pilots for 21 days.

Cathay Pacific at HKIA
Hong Kong’s strict COVID measures are causing problems for airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines moving pilots out of Hong Kong

Due to Hong Kong’s stringent COVID-19 policies, airlines are looking at relocating their pilots away from Hong Kong to avoid mandatory quarantines. Cathay Pacific is looking at moving pilots out of Hong Kong after 130 of its aircrew were forced into a mandatory 21-day quarantine.

Cathay Pacific said,

“We are exploring options and seeking expressions of interest from pilots to participate in temporary extended roster patterns.”

Cathay Pacific is reportedly considering moving its pilots to Dubai, Anchorage and Chicago, among other cities, on two-month or four-month rotations.

FedEx has shut down its Hong Kong crew base. Photo: Getty Images

Logistics carrier FedEx has also announced it is closing its crew base in Hong Kong due to the city’s strict COVID-19 measures. The company will relocate its pilots overseas and continue to serve Hong Kong with pilots based in Oakland, California.

FedEx said,

“As the global business environment continues to evolve and with the pandemic requirements in Hong Kong, FedEx has made the decision to close its Hong Kong crew base and relocate its pilots. FedEx will continue to maintain its operations in Hong Kong, which is vital to our Asia-Pacific and global network.”

130 pilots sent into quarantine

As Simple Flying reported this week, 130 Cathay Pacific pilots and crew were forced into a mandatory 21-day quarantine after three pilots tested positive for COVID-19. All crew staying at the same Frankfurt hotel as the three pilots were flown back to Hong Kong and placed into quarantine at a government facility.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, said,

“[The move] has already greatly affected Hong Kong’s cargo logistics. If there are one or two more of these cases, our cargo planes will probably be left with no more pilots operating them.”

Cathay Pacific B747-400
Cathay Pacific recently updated its COVID requirements for aircrew. Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, Cathay Pacific announced that all crew members must isolate at home for three days and avoid social events upon arrival in Hong Kong. The enhanced isolation rules allow crew to leave their homes for two hours each day for “essential activities,” such as shopping, exercise and medical treatment.

Crew members are also required to get a vaccine booster shot after six months of receiving their second dose.

Deep waters for Cathay

According to its Chairman Patrick Healey, Cathay Pacific is undergoing “the most challenging period in our history.” The carrier’s passenger load for September is 95% below the same period in 2019, with Hong Kong’s strict COVID policies hindering a recovery. The airline also reported losses of $977 million for the first half of 2021.

The airline reported huge losses for the first half of 2021. Photo: Getty Images

One area of encouragement for Cathay is its cargo division, which is now operating at around 70% capacity compared to 2019 levels. The airline has laid off around 6,000 staff due to the pandemic and also shut down its subsidiary, Cathay Dragon, in October last year.

Have you been affected by Hong Kong’s strict COVID-19 measures? Let us know your experiences in the comments.