Flight crew returning to Hong Kong after an overseas layover will be required to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, ending an existing exemption.

The latest measure targets locally-based pilots and flight attendants, who have enjoyed looser restrictions than their foreign counterparts and returning travellers, reported the South China Morning Post

Foreign flight crew are already required to remain in their hotel rooms for the duration of their Hong Kong layover. Inbound travellers, meanwhile, are subject to 21 days of hotel quarantine. This is in addition to testing for Covid-19 before departure and upon arrival to the city.

For the most part, Hong Kong-based flight crew have been exempt from strict quarantine measures. Under existing arrangements, crew members who have not visited a high-risk location may be released following a negative test and initial 24 hours in a hotel, according to the Hong Kong government.

The new 14-day hotel quarantine rule will be an additional hurdle for operators such as flag carrier Cathay Pacific, already battered after a year of depressed demand.

Long-haul flights make up a significant part of the airline’s passenger and cargo network, and typically requires an overnight layover due to crew duty time limits.

A spokesperson for Cathay Pacific declined to comment to Business Traveller.

The move could lead to more long-haul route suspensions. 

This summer, American Airlines and United announced they would resume flights to Hong Kong, before abruptly cancelling the routes over testing concerns raised by flight crew.

Other carriers such as British Airways and KLM have also previously found themselves slapped with temporary flight bans after failing to comply with strict health protocols.