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Cathay Pacific was emigrated by pilots amid Hong Kong’s ‘permanent quarantine’

When a Cathay Pacific cargo pilot was named one of Omicron’s first carriers in Hong Kong in December, it was a fitting end to another dismal year for the airline.

Cathay has been operating at 93 percent lower passenger capacity than pre-pandemic levels due to Hong Kong’s zero-Covid-19 policy, with weeks of quarantine for mentally damaged pilots and crew.

Strict quarantine measures in the city became even more difficult after the Omicron coronavirus variant spurred new tourist routes. Non-residents from more than 90 countries have been barred from entry and passengers from the UK and US are subject to a 21-day quarantine.

Cathay pilots told the Financial Times that dozens of people have been out of work in the weeks since November following the high-quarantine incident. That month, three pilots who tested positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong were fired after they left their hotel rooms and violated isolation rules during their temporary stay in Frankfurt.

Because of the positive circumstances, 130 Cathay pilots who had been staying at the same Frankfurt hotel were forced to undergo a 21-day quarantine in the government-run Penny’s Bay quarantine center, nestled next to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Most of the pilots were released less than a week later after authorities reassessed the risk, but for many, the draconian isolation order represents an anomaly.

A pilot who has been with the company for more than 15 years and is part of the Frankfurt story said: “The people here are absolutely desperate.

“It feels like we are in a state of permanent quarantine. Right now a lot of pilots are taking long-term stress or sick leave.” Cathay pilots and crew must undergo a two-week quarantine if they land in the city.

Pilots have risen about 270 places on the airline’s seniority list as a result of leaving the airline, which is owned by the Swire . Group, a Hong Kong group owned by the UK.

John Grant, a partner at UK-based consulting firm Midas Aviation, said Cathay was facing a “long and difficult struggle”. He added: “It’s so sad [its recovery] is by the authorities and decisions are beyond their control. ”

Cathay’s troubles predated the pandemic. In August 2019, the airline was established Beijing’s heavy pressure after its employees participated in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Two years later, Cathay’s chief financial officer Rebecca Sharpe says the airline is continuing to go through “the most difficult period in our history”.

Speaking during a December earnings call, the company’s chief customer officer and chief commercial officer Ronald Lam warned that even if mainland China opens a tourism corridor with Hong Kong, that route will only accounts for 7% of an airline’s total seat kilometers, a measure of its ability to carry revenue to generate revenue.

“Other international hubs in the region are starting to recover, while Hong Kong is in some respects going away,” said Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst and consultant based in Singapore. In the opposite direction.

Cathay’s regional rivals such as Singapore Airlines have seen passenger capacity increase by 32% from pre-pandemic levels in November.

Zero-Covid policy has stabilized undermining the position of Hong Kong Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analytics at US-based aerospace consulting firm Teal Group, which is one of Asia’s largest aviation hubs.

The “real and lasting danger” to Hong Kong’s aviation industry is the loss of talent and wealth, says Aboulafia. That would “reduce the status of the city,” he said. . . and lead to more business going out”.

A Cathay spokesperson said the company “fully acknowledges” that quarantine regulations are placing a burden on their crew. While acknowledging that sentiment had recently been “affected”, he was unable to provide the number of pilots resigning over the past month.

He reiterated the company’s plan to recruit “hundreds of pilots over the next year”, adding that “there has been considerable interest in the Hong Kong pilot community and around the world”.

But the Cathay pilot, who was forced into quarantine at Penny Bay last month, was skeptical that the company could attract newcomers. “I can see the rest of the world continuing to develop, but I can’t see Hong Kong opening up,” he said. “It’s not going to get any better.”

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