March 5, 2021

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Cathay Pacific crews to work 21-day rosters to avoid quarantine

Cathay flew just 30,410 passengers last month, an average of 981 a day – the first sub-1000 reading since June. Passenger load factor was 13.3 per cent, a record low. The airline is particularly exposed to the pandemic as it has no home market to serve while international routes are largely off-limits.

Cathay’s shares closed down 0.3 per cent on Friday in Hong Kong. They’ve dropped 23 per cent over the past 12 months.

Under the new shift cycle, crew will need to take COVID-19 tests every time they arrive in Hong Kong, and they may be subjected to more when arriving in countries such as Australia, which also has strict border measures in place, a Cathay spokesperson wrote in an email to Bloomberg News. Enough staff have volunteered to take part in the program, the spokesperson said, without disclosing numbers. They would undergo medical surveillance for seven days after the 14-day hotel quarantine period.

There are some exemptions to the new quarantine restrictions, according to an internal Cathay memo seen by Bloomberg News. They include flights to and from mainland China, Taiwan and Macau, some flights with a layover in Anchorage, Alaska, and so-called turnaround flights where crew don’t leave the aircraft and no passengers are on board returning to Hong Kong.

The memo warned that some crew might be required to sign up for all or part of a second 49-day cycle, because it is unknown how long Hong Kong’s quarantine requirements for flight crew will stay in place. Volunteers on Boeing 747s will operate a combination of Europe, Middle East, India and US routes, while those on Boeing 777s and Airbus SE planes will fly mostly cargo-only to long haul destinations, as well as passenger flights.


Pilots who don’t volunteer for the closed loop plan will likely mostly operate turnaround cargo flights within single flight duty periods, according to the memo. Some of these flights will require more crew as duty periods may be extended on account of in-flight rest.

While its outbreak pales in comparison to those in the US and parts of Europe, Hong Kong has struggled with resurgences, resulting in various tweaks to its COVID approach. Schools remain essentially closed and authorities have deployed flash lockdowns to test residents en masse in apartment blocks or parts of the city when cases emerge. The requirement for arrivals to self-isolate in a hotel for 21 days is stricter than those of Australia and New Zealand.