Adding to the latest blow for Cathay Pacific employees, the carrier is seeking options for many to be transferred abroad in a bid to further reduce COVID-19 transmission.
It comes only days after the Hong Kong-based airline imposed tough new rules for aircrew to undergo mandatory quarantining for 21 days after entering the nation.
Hong Kong has kept a tight grip on international travel to maintain its zero-COVID strategy, especially to encourage vaccinations to eventually open borders.
But in late October, the nation increased restrictions, despite not experiencing an outbreak since earlier this year, to accelerate chances of opening up quarantine-free travel with mainland China.
Cathay said on Tuesday it is willing to go further to reduce transmission by transferring employees outside of the city for between two to four months.
“We are exploring options and seeking expressions of interest from pilots to participate in temporary extended roster patterns,” Cathay said.
The company made the decision after three pilots tested positive upon reentering Hong Kong, forcing around 130 air crew who stayed at a hotel in Frankfurt, Germany – where the pilots had their layovers – into 21-days of quarantine.
The cargo and passenger pilots have been relocated to a government-run quarantine facility, and Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief leader said the move has “greatly affected” the nation’s cargo logistics.
“If there were one or two more of these cases, our cargo planes will probably be left with no more pilots operating them,” Lam said.
The news only came a day after the strict quarantine rules were imposed on aircrew on Monday, which comes into effect on Wednesday.
According to the airline, aircrew in the first three days after arriving in Hong Kong must remain at home other than for essential activities, including purchasing food and essentials, outdoor solo exercising, medical needs and testing requirements.
Once the aircrew arrives, they must go directly to their hotel as a group in pre-arranged transport and must stay in their room for the duration of the layover.
The flag carrier also said aircrew must receive their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccination “as soon as possible” following six months after their second dose.
Employees should receive their third dose no later than 30 April 2022, Cathay said.
Cathay has been vigilant in COVID-19 mitigation measures, and this adds to the latest slew of pandemic-related impacts on the company.
Its latest passenger load figures in September show the airline has seen an improvement but remains 94 per cent lower than 2019 levels.
Its revenue also was 91 per cent lower than September 2019, followed by numerous global-based shutdowns and maintained international border closures.