To minimize the risks of spreading COVID-19, the Hong Kong government decided to move forward with a strict 14-day aircrew quarantine, despite the aviation industry’s opposition.
The new regulation, which would require pilots and cabin crew to undergo a 14-day quarantine, including seven days of medical surveillance, is expected to be announced on February 5, 2021.
Airlines would be given a two-week grace period before the new regulations are enforced, the South China Morning Post reported, citing insider sources.
The stringent quarantine restrictions were expected to come into force earlier, as the Hong Kong Minister of Health Sophie Chan Siu-chee on January 21, 2021, confirmed that a 14-day quarantine rule would be imposed on flight crews in order to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, on January 25, 2021, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific warned that the government’s planned stringent quarantine restrictions for aircrew could inflict financial losses, as the flag-carrier was operating the largest amount of long-haul flights in and out of the city.
“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 per month, on top of our current HK$1.0-1.5 billion levels,” according to Cathay Pacific statement.
After the circulation of aircrew quarantine news, on January 27, 2021, the cargo air carrier FedEx Express said it would temporarily relocate its Hong Kong-based flight staff to San Francisco, the United States.
“We do not believe it is appropriate to subject aircrew members to these extended periods of isolation,” FedEx Express in the memo, adding that the company had a plan to ensure it complied with new requirements while continuing to provide critical services in Hong Kong.