Cathay Pacific is considering making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for its pilots and cabin crew if they want to remain employed by the ailing Hong Kong-based airline. While around 80 per cent of the carrier’s pilots have already received their jab, only 40 per cent of eligible cabin crew have either had the shot or booked an appointment as of May 13.
The airline has already launched a public vaccination awareness campaign in an attempt to convince its own staff and the wider community to get inoculated. Cathay Pacific believes vaccination will soon become a prerequisite for international aircrew and the airline only flies international routes.
“Based on our operational modelling it is clear that it won’t be long before we are unable to sustainably roster unvaccinated crew,” the airline warned staff in an internal memo obtained by SCMP. “As such, it looks increasingly likely that in the future being vaccinated will be an essential requirement of the job for any Hong Kong-based aircrew,” the memo warns.
Addressing pilots specifically the memo from Cathay Pacific’s director of flight operations notes: “It is becoming increasingly clear that being fully vaccinated against COVID-1`9 will need to be one of the prerequisites to being employed as a pilot in international operations”.
Employment rules have not yet being changed and vaccination remains voluntary.
However, only 3,500 cabin crew have so far been jabbed at least once and just 2,000 are considered fully vaccinated. Staff were reassured that vaccination remains a personal choice but that choice might be linked to future employment going forward.
Since February, Cathay Pacific has been forced to work around tough quarantine requirements imposed on flight crew by the Hong Kong government. The airline hopes that achieving employee herd immunity through mass vaccination will convince health officials to ease the restrictions that have hit Cathay Pacific’s bottom line.
The airline also believes it might be able to open up what it calls “vaccine bubbles” between countries with high vaccination rates where quarantine rules would be eased or removed altogether.
A spokesperson for Cathay Pacific confirmed the contents of the memo, saying: “We are in a service industry and we have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of our employees and our customers, providing them assurance to them and giving them confidence that when they fly with us they are in safe hands.”
Last week, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines confirmed that it would not offer new employment to any applicant who has not received their COVID-19 vaccination. The airline stopped short of extending the requirement to existing employees but a Delta spokesperson noted that take-up has so far been high.
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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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.