British Airways has suspended a young female flight attendant after she took to social media to compare Hong Kong’s COVID-19 quarantine facilities to a concentration camp. The Snapchat posts shared by Ellie Freeman last month quickly went viral causing a minor diplomatic row after Hong Kong health officials forced her and 12 other crew members into a government-run quarantine facility.
Under Hong Kong’s strict and largely successful anti-COVID measures, anyone who tests positive for the virus, as well as their close contacts must go into a quarantine facility for at least 14-days. During their stay, those held in quarantine must take their temperature twice daily and are allowed outside of the basic accommodation to get fresh air and some exercise.
But in a series of Snapchat posts, Freeman described the quarantine facilities as “a literal concentration camp”, saying she was scared after being “marched” out of her luxury hotel room with just 30 minutes notice and saying that she feared she would suffer a mental health “breakdown”.
Insiders deny claims that the group of 13 flight attendants had been forced into quarantine after breaking strict Cornavirus measures by sneaking out of their rooms and instead say the whole crew had to be put into isolation because one of them tested positive for Coronavirus after a routine test on arrival.
Freeman, however, ranted that it was “unfair” that the pilots had been allowed to return home. In a statement, British Airways explained that the flight crew didn’t have to go into quarantine based on a risk assessment conducted by Hong Kong officials which they had no input in.
According to The Sun, bosses at the London-based airline worked with consular officials in an attempt to get the flight attendants released early so they could self-isolate back in the UK. A request that was quickly rejected.
At the time, a spokesperson for British Airways said the airline was “helping to care for our cabin crew members, providing them with support and additional supplies to make sure their stay is as comfortable as possible.”
On Friday, however, the airline confirmed that “a member of cabin crew has been suspended pending further investigation”. The spokesperson declined to provide further details citing privacy concerns.
Along with railing against the basic living conditions, Freeman also hit out at the choice of food and an attempt by officials to charge her $60HK for a single sanitary pad.
Like many airlines and other large corporations, British Airways is understood to have a wide-ranging social media policy that can catch out staffers even when they’re not at work. Public posts that cause disrepute or harm to the business could result in disciplinary action.
In this case, local Hong Kong residents reacted in horror and anger to the quarantine facilities being likened to a concentration camp.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.