British Airways has been forced to suspend all flights to Hong Kong after another group of pilots and cabin crew were incarcerated in the notorious Penny’s Bay quarantine camp on Saturday. The latest incident occurred just a day after another group of BA aircrew were finally released from the government-run quarantine facility after spending nearly a week locked away.
The aircrew have been sentenced to a 21-day quarantine order after just one member of the nearly 20-strong team of pilots and cabin crew tested positive for COVID-19 on their arrival in the territory on Saturday morning.
The previous group of imprisoned crew were released after nearly a week only after an intervention from British diplomats at the highest level. Hong Kong health officials may, however, take an even harder stance and refuse to reduce the quarantine period because of the threat posed by the Omicron variant.
British Airways has now cancelled all flights to Hong Kong for at least the next few days because the threat of even more crew being locked away in a quarantine camp is too great.
Aircrew must be fully vaccinated and take a pre-departure COVID-19 test in order to operate flights to Hong Kong but they are then subject to a second test on arrival. Any crew member who tests positive is transferred to the hospital while their colleagues are classed as ‘close contacts’ and sent to a quarantine camp.
The facilities at Penny’s Bay have been heavily criticised because they are very similar to what you might find in a modern prison.
British Airways has been blasted for continuing to send crew to Hong Kong despite the risk of them being imprisoned against their will. Other airlines, including Emirates and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, operate flights to Hong Kong via Bangkok so that pilots and crew never have to step foot off the aircraft in Hong Kong.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Heathrow-based carrier said it had reluctantly decided to suspend flights to and from Hong Kong.
“We have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend flights to Hong Kong while we review operational requirements for this route,” a spokesperson said.
“We’re supporting crew members who are currently isolating in Hong Kong. We work within local regulations for every country we fly to, and always put the safety and wellbeing of our teams and customers at the heart of everything we do,” the statement continued.
This is the third time that a group of British Airways crew has been sent to the Penny’s Bay quarantine camp. For a short period of time, British Airways sent crew on ‘turnaround’ services to Hong Kong but this practice was banned by UK aviation regulators.
Virgin Atlantic is still sending crew on layovers to Hong Kong where crew must spend at least two days in solitary confinement in a hotel room before their return flight.
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.