MIAMI – HKG authorities are requiring that all returning crews from airlines operating at the airport must undergo a 14-day quarantine. The situation makes crews rotation and quarantine an equation with no solution.

For a flying crew, homecoming is generally a relief and a well earned rest. But when returning to home base means getting isolated for a 14-day quarantine in an hotel, it is no good news. For those who manage crew rosters, this is not only bad news, it is also a big, big headache.

And all this is happening at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) Hong Kong‘s busiest airport.

While the measure is there to fight the new spread of COVID-19, HKG authorities’ requirements are creating further trouble for carriers operating to/from HKG, in particular as it is the home of carrier Cathay Pacific Airways (CX), the largest HKG based airline, and for FedEx (FX), which has 180 crew stationed locally.

Previous rules required home returning crew to undergo a 24 hours hotel isolation while foreign disembarking crew were compelled to remain isolated in respective hotels.

FedEx MD11F – Photo Airways Mag Luca Flores

Consequences on Airlines

The air carriers already suffer from the negative situation generated by the pandemic and this measure will bring more harm to the industry.

Cathay Pacific Airways warned that if this measure was applied, it would be forced to scale down 60% of its already drastically reduced passenger flights and up to 25% of cargo services.

The result of these cuts amount to an additional revenue loss and cash burn by up to HK$400m (US$51.4m), which are adding to an average daily burn rate of US$155m.

Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Wylkie Chan

Possible Solutions

Cathay Pacfic, as per an internal memo seen by Reuters, has requested volunteers amongst its crews, proposing a 14-day flying period followed by a 14-day quarantine and 14-day rest. This measure would however be temporary and probably not applied to all flights.

To avoid its crew to be submitted to a 14-day isolation and unable to see their families, FX is proposing to its Pilots options to move to San Francisco (SFO) with all additional expenses paid. However, this plan would disrupt family life, especially when school age children are involved, indicated an FX Pilot whose identity was not disclosed.

FedEx said that ” We are developing plans to ensure compliance with the new requirements in a manner that also prioritizes the safety and well-being of our team members and the communities we serve.”

Many foreign airlines have already taken measures to avoid crew stops at HKG by organizing changes in Bangkok (BKK) or Tokyo (TYO).

Featured image: Luca Flores/Airways