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Cathay Pacific Airways Cancels Long-Haul Cargo Flights

Photo: Yamaguchi Yoshiaki from Japan (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it will suspend its long-haul cargo services until Jan. 6 due to a shortage of staff. The Hong Kong government has tightened its restrictions in the wake of the Omicron variant. The flight crew needs to take seven days isolation in a designated hotel after arriving in Hong Kong, instead of three days isolation.

The latest suspension is expected to threaten the supply chain during the Lunar New Year Holidays.

Meanwhile, two staff have been sacked who tested for positive for Covid-19, breaching the Covid-19 protocols. A new cluster of cases in Hong Kong restaurants has emerged, which is believed to be linked to Cathay Pacific’s staff going to the same indoor public spaces.

“Failure to comply with medical surveillance regulations will lead to disciplinary procedures. Two of the individuals are no longer employed by Cathay Pacific.” The airline said in a statement. The city has recorded zero local transmission over 70 days.

Hong Kong Government blasted the airline for not following the restrictions. At least five crew members have tested positive for the Omicron, according to the airline.

The latest incident has been a sense of déjà vu for the carrier. Three Cathay Pacific aircrew were sacked after breaching the carrier’s Covid protocol in Frankfurt — back in November.

The aviation industry in Hong Kong is facing turbulence. FedEx has also shut down its crew base in Hong Kong. Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, told SCMP, he was “a little bit disappointed”, in response to Hong Kong’s tough travel restrictions. Qatar Airways owns a nearly 10% stake in Cathay Pacific.

The city has implemented the “zero covid” policy where most travelers coming from overseas need to quarantine for 21 days, and the airline staff also need to quarantine and self-test from time to time.

Earlier, the airline said it will start hiring pilots this year. Cathay Pacific staff revealed that the morale of the airline staff has dropped quite significantly because of facing too much isolation. Meanwhile, the airline has seen an increase in resignation.

The Airline’s Future Obstacles

Earlier, the airline revealed its passenger capacity in November. The airline’s operations were extremely challenging.  The airline carried about 70,000 passengers — an increase of 85.2% — compared to the same time last year, but a 97.3% drop compared to November 2019. The airline has operated 12% of flights — compared to November 2019. However, the airline has seen strong demand for cargo services.

Cathay Pacific will have to overcome the Omicron variant, which currently has an impact on sentiment for travel over the holiday season.

Additionally, the carrier is facing another setback in the new year, forcing to suspend the Manchester, U.K. services for 14 days. Under the latest travel restrictions in Hong Kong, if a total of five or more passengers among all flights from the same place — regardless of airline — were confirmed positive through testing or relevant virus mutation within one week, then the airline will be banned from entering the city for two weeks.

Pete Ainsley


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