Two former Cathay Pacific flight attendants have been charged with breaking Hong Kong’s wide-sweeping pandemic protection regulations. If found guilty, the pair could face up to six months in prison plus a hefty fine.
The two flight attendants were sacked by Cathay Pacific shortly after it emerged they had been socialising in the community while infected with the highly transmissible COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Cathay Pacific chairman Patrick Healy says the airline is assisting the authorities with the criminal investigation as well as a separate probe into the carrier’s pandemic policies. Healy insists the airline followed Hong Kong’s quarantine rules as they were written at the time.
Over the Christmas period, the two flight attendants arrived in Hong Kong from the United States on separate flights. During the time they should have been in self-isolation one went to a restaurant and ended up infecting his father and another diner who was sitting on a different table.
The second flight attendant left their apartment to get a COVID-19 test as required by law but then went to two different bars. The ex-flight attendant was meant to return home and remain away from other people until the result of the COVID-19 test had come back.
Hong Kong is now facing down the first local outbreak in months and authorities are scrambling to contain the spread of the virus. Some social distancing rules have been reintroduced, while hundreds of ‘close contacts’ of positive cases, including high ranking officials, have been sent to quarantine camps.
The territory has some of the toughest border rules in the world and local flight attendants are normally required to quarantine for 14-days in a hotel when they return from an international destination.
But the rules for aircrew on cargo-only flights were more lenient involved just a couple of days of self-isolation at home. Cathay Pacific was returning some flight attendants back to Hong Kong on these cargo-only flights which allowed them to skip hotel quarantine.
Even with this concession, Cathay Pacific’s pilots and flight attendants spent more than 73,000 nights in quarantine in 2021. Crew spent a combined total of 62,000 nights in quarantine hotels, and 1,000 crew spent more than 11,000 nights in the notorious Penny’s Bay quarantine camp.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said police arrested the two ex-flight attendants on Monday and charged them with violating Section 15(3) of the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation (Cap. 599A).
“They have been released on bail,” the government said. “The cases will be mentioned at the Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Courts and the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on February 9.”
Main photo for illustrative purposes only.
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.