The US Department of Transportation (DoT) said it could impose restrictions on Cathay Pacific flights from Hong Kong in response to the city’s crew quarantine rules.

Last month, Hong Kong began requiring locally-based pilots and flight attendants to quarantine for at least 14 days. Foreign flight crew were already required to remain in their hotel rooms during their layover in the city. 

US cargo carrier FedEx, which operates intra-Asia flights with a crew base in Hong Kong, told the DoT the move made it “impossible” to maintain local operations. The carrier has since relocated crewmembers to San Francisco at a significant cost.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong carved out an exemption for flight crew stopping over in Anchorage, a major cargo transit point for Cathay Pacific. The DoT said the arrangement places US carriers at a competitive disadvantage.

An order issued by the DoT this week requires Cathay Pacific to file flight schedules for its services to the US. The submission will determine whether the airline is operating “contrary to applicable law or adversely affecting the public interest”.

“The manner in which Hong Kong has imposed its restrictions disproportionally impacts US carriers to the exclusive benefit of Hong Kong carriers, and this imbalance denies US carriers their bilateral right to a fair and equal opportunity to compete in the US-Hong Kong market,” said the DoT in a statement.

“The [US Government] has relayed its objections to Hong Kong about this situation and has actively sought to reach resolution with Hong Kong that would reestablish a level playing field for both Hong Kong and US carriers while providing the necessary public health protections.”

In May 2020, the DoT issued a similar request to Chinese carriers as US airlines complained about unfair treatment. It then moved to ban flights by Chinese carriers, before retracting the order as the Chinese government eased restrictions.

“Cathay Pacific acknowledges the Order to File Schedules issued by the US Department of Transportation on 16 March 2021. As an international airline, we will continue to comply with all the applicable aviation regulations in both Hong Kong and the territories to which we fly,” a Cathay Pacific spokesperson told Business Traveller

“Cathay Pacific believes that it is in the interest of the general and travelling public for this matter to be resolved among all relevant parties as soon as possible.”