Cathay Pacific said on Monday that it will be forced to slash its already massively reduced schedule by as much as 60 per cent if the Hong Kong government goes ahead with plans to force pilots and cabin crew into mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine when they return from an overseas trip. The new measures are set to come into force at some point in February as the territory battles to contain a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
“The new measure will have a significant impact on our ability to service our passenger and cargo markets,” Cathay Pacific’s chief operating officer, Ronald Lam commented on Monday. Lam noted, however, that the full extent of the measures had not yet been calculated.
Last week, it emerged that Hong Kong wanted to impose new quarantine restrictions on all flight crew members who arrived in the territory from overseas and stay for longer than two hours. Foreign aircrew already have to quarantine in designated hotels during their layovers but local crew are released after 24-hours of hotel isolation and a negative test.
Sources claim Cathay Pacific has been lobbying the Hong Kong government on the issue but ministers have so far refused to budge. Along with a 60 per cent reduction in passenger services, the airline also said it would be forced to slash cargo capacity by a quarter. Cash burn would increase by around HK$300-$400 million per month.
In December 2020, Cathay Pacific only operated 1,503 flights and carried just shy of 40,000 passengers. On December 28, the airline carried just 490 passengers – the lowest number since June 2020.
Along with a 14-day hotel quarantine, crew members would also be subjected to multiple COVID-19 tests and seven days of “medical surveillance”. Normal passengers arriving in Hong Kong from anywhere apart from mainland China currently have to endure a 21-day hotel quarantine. Pre-departure testing is also mandatory.
Last week, Dutch airline KLM threatened to indefinitely suspend its entire long-haul network over new crew testing requirements. The Dutch government requires passengers from high-risk destinations to take a PCR test within 72-hours of departure and a second rapid antigen test within four hours of departure. Crew were not exempt from the rapid test.
Fearing that crew would be abandoned in foreign countries, KLM said it wouldn’t be possible to operate long-haul flights with the rules in place. On Saturday, the airline came to an agreement with Dutch health authorities to test crew on arrival in Amsterdam rather than before departure.
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.