In the run up to Christmas, one of Asia’s leading airlines is being forced to convert some of its scheduled passenger services into cargo-only flights.
Cathay Pacific is telling thousands of passengers heading for Hong Kong that their flights have been grounded. The reason: not enough crew are prepared to accept the territory’s onerous quarantine rules.
The Hong Kong government is striving for a “Covid-Zero” record in the hope that the border with mainland China can reopen.
Cathay Pacific has asked cabin crew and pilots to volunteer for a “closed loop” system in which they work for three weeks, during which they stay only briefly in Hong Kong in a special isolated hotel, before a two-week quarantine on their return.
It is believed there are insufficient cabin crew volunteers to operate the planned schedule because they do not want to be away from their families at Christmas.
As a result, on some round trips the available cabin crew will work on outbound flights – but return as passengers inbound.
The consequence is that the planes can carry freight but not paying passengers.
A spokesperson for Cathay Pacific said: “The operational and travel restrictions that remain in place continue to constrain our ability to operate flights as planned.
“We are consolidating our passenger flight schedule for December 2021, including cancelling a number of flights to Hong Kong.
“We will be communicating with affected customers over the coming days, and will endeavour to arrange alternative bookings on flights arriving on the same day as their originally scheduled flights so as to minimise disruptions to their journeys.
“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers as they travel ahead of the festive season, and we appreciate their understanding.
“As the home carrier of Hong Kong, we are fully committed to protecting and enhancing Hong Kong’s aviation hub status and to keeping the flow of people and cargo between Hong Kong and the rest of the world moving despite the challenging circumstances presented by the pandemic.”
Three Cathay Pacific cargo pilots recently tested positive for coronavirus after arriving from Frankfurt.