Cathay Pacific will indefinitely axe a slew of long-haul international routes beginning February 20 as a new 14-day quarantine requirement for pilots and cabin crew comes into force. The Hong Kong-based airline had previously warned that it might be forced to slash its already decimated schedule by a further 60 per cent because of the new health rules.
Services to Australia will be hardest hit with flights to Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne all axed until March at the very earliest. Only flights to Sydney, which currently run five times per week, will continue to operate.
The massive reduction in capacity will have an immediate knock-on effect on the thousands of stranded Australian citizens who have struggled for months to get home amidst strict passenger caps imposed by the Australian government.
Other routes to be dropped include Frankfurt, San Francisco and Vancouver. The 16 destinations to retain a regularly scheduled service include New York and Los Angeles in the United States, and Toronto in Canada.
Flights to London will also continue but because direct flights from London are banned the service will continue to operate via Amsterdam where Cathay Pacific is allowed to pick up passengers.
Services to Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei are also continuing to operate as normal because crew are exempt from the quarantine restrictions on these routes.
Despite fierce lobbying from the aviation industry, the Hong Kong government has pushed ahead with plans to force pilots and cabin crew into mandatory 14-day quarantine and then a further 7-days of health monitoring. Flight crew previously only had to isolate in a hotel for around 24-hours while they waited for the results of a post-arrival COVID-19 test.
Health officials said it had no choice but to toughen up crew quarantine rules as part of measures to stop the importation of new highly-infectious variants of the novel Coronavirus. The government told the airline industry to “join our concerted efforts to fight the virus”.
The reduced schedule will be operated by volunteer pilots and cabin crew in a process known as ‘closed loop flying’. Crew members can only operate one return flight within the loop which lasts for a total of 21-days.
Cathay Pacific has warned that the quarantine rules could increase monthly cash burn to between HK$300-$400 million per month.
Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific
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.