The cargo air carrier FedEx Express is planning to temporarily relocate Hong Kong-based flight crews and their families to San Francisco, the United States. The move could represent a significant decline in cargo operations in the world’s busiest cargo hub.
On January 27, 2021, FedEx Express in a memo to its employees, seen by the South China Morning Post, said it could move its aircrew to San Francisco as soon as February 1, 2021.
“We do not believe it is appropriate to subject aircrew members to these extended periods of isolation,” stated the memo, adding that it had developed a plan to ensure it complied with new requirements while continuing to provide critical services in Hong Kong.
On January 21, 2021, Hong Kong Minister of Health Sophie Chan Siu-chee confirmed that a 14-day quarantine rule is expected to be imposed on flight crews starting in February 2021, in order to minimize risks of spreading COVID-19 across the city.
If aircrew quarantine is officially approved, all flight crews arriving in Hong Kong would be required to self-isolate in a hotel for 14 days, with exception of those arriving from Mainland China. Currently, flight crews in Hong Kong have to be tested upon arrival and wait for the results in a hotel for 24 hours.
In response to the new control measures, the city’s de facto flag carrier Cathay Pacific said the strict quarantine rules could have a significant impact on the airline’s ability to service passengers and cargo operations.
“At this stage, our preliminary assessment is that the new measure may result in a reduction of current passenger capacity of around 60%, a reduction of current cargo capacity of around 25% and a further increase in our cash burn of approximately HK$300-$400 million (US$38-$51 million) per month, on top of our current HK$1.0-1.5 billion levels,” said Cathay Pacific in a statement on January 25, 2021.