Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific pilots and cabin crew may be subject to mandatory vaccination from COVID-19 in order to retain their job positions. The airline warned that Cathay Pacific operations would be harder to manage with unvaccinated aircrew.
“Based on our operational modeling it is clear that it won’t be long before we are unable to sustainably roster unvaccinated crew,” Chris Kempis, the director of flight operations, said in a memo on May 20, 2021, that was seen by South China Morning Post. “As such, it looks increasingly likely that in the future being vaccinated will be an essential requirement of the job for any Hong Kong-based aircrew.”
According to the air carrier, 80% of its pilots have already taken a jab. However, only 40% of Cathay Pacific cabin crew members have booked or already got the COVID-19 vaccine.
The move to require mandatory vaccination for aircrew may be seen as crucial for Cathay Pacific operations, as the Hong Kong flag carrier has no domestic market and relies only on international air travel.
Earlier in February 2021, the Hong Kong government imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all Hong Kong-based aircrew. The strict aircrew quarantine measures impacted the ailing airline’s operational capabilities even further, on top of the already weak passenger numbers. In March 2021, Cathay Pacific carried a total of 18,539 passengers ‒ a slump of 94% compared to 2020.
In April 2021, Cathay Pacific carried a total of 22,404 passengers, an increase of 63% compared to April 2020, but a 99% decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in April 2019.
“Looking ahead at the passenger business, we still are not seeing signs of immediate meaningful improvement in overall passenger demand. While we are disappointed with the postponement of the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble flights, we are nevertheless very encouraged by the demand for two-way, all-purpose, quarantine-free air travel flight arrangements among our customers,” Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said at the time.