Cathay Pacific has halted all long-haul cargo flights for every week after Hong Kong tightened its quarantine restrictions for air crew, prompting the provider to warn of “dramatic disruptions” to town’s provide of important items.
“Cathay Pacific Cargo will pause all long-haul freighter and cargo-only passenger flights with speedy impact for a interval of seven days, as much as 6 January,” the airline mentioned on Friday.
The choice will have an effect on transpacific, European, south-west Pacific, Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates-bound freighter flights, the provider added.
Cathay additionally mentioned it might make “vital modifications” and cancel extra passenger flights within the first quarter of subsequent yr because it operates a “skeleton” schedule in January.
The transfer got here simply days after authorities in Hong Kong prolonged quarantine restrictions for air crew due to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Town already had a few of the world’s most stringent pandemic controls underneath a “zero-Covid” strategy,
Cargo air crew who have been beforehand exempt from quarantine upon arrival should now endure seven days of necessary isolation in a lodge, in response to an inside memo despatched to Cathay pilots on Thursday that has been seen by the Monetary Instances.
Native well being authorities had beforehand introduced that crew must quarantine for 3 days. Hong Kong’s Transport and Housing Bureau didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Cathay pilots have already been struggling low morale because of the metropolis’s powerful restrictions, with some describing town’s Covid management measures as “permanent quarantine”.
Andy Wong, Cathay’s basic supervisor of company affairs, mentioned the operational and journey restrictions continued “to constrain our means to function flights as deliberate” and the provider was consolidating passenger and cargo flight schedules for early 2022.
Cathay’s figures for November, earlier than the emergence of Omicron, confirmed whole cargo hauled was down 24 per cent in contrast with pre-pandemic ranges. The airline’s passenger capability had fallen greater than 90 per cent in comparison with the identical interval in 2019.
“We’re cautious that any additional tightening of air crew quarantine preparations would result in reductions in flight frequencies to guard the wellbeing of our crew members and the general security of our operations,” Wong mentioned.
He added: “Such motion would, in flip, trigger dramatic disruptions to produce chains within the short-term, jeopardising the satisfactory provide of important items in an already scarce provide chain surroundings, impacting the livelihoods of 1000’s of individuals in Hong Kong and undermining Hong Kong Worldwide Airport as a number one cargo hub.”
Aviation analysts have raised issues that Hong Kong’s powerful Covid guidelines dangers undermining town’s standing as a worldwide flight and logistics hub.
Final month, US-based freight group FedEx moved to close its crew base in Hong Kong and relocate workers abroad. Airways together with Finnair, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airways have been banned from flying a number of routes into town after circumstances have been recorded on people who had arrived on the carriers.
Hong Kong has recorded 81 Omicron circumstances as of Thursday, and well being specialists warned the territory might be on the verge of an outbreak after at the very least two community-spread circumstances have been detected. The circumstances are believed to linked to a Cathay air crew member.