Another European airline suspends Hong Kong services

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  • AMcWhirter

    Air France has followed British Airways and Swiss in suspending Hong Kong flights.

    When this morning I tried to book CDG-HKG for the coming days it was impossible.


    Similar picture here, Steve. Safe travels.


    It’s not just the pilots but their families. I am going to be careful what I say here and be vague about details but we do know of one “Cathay pilot family” where said pilot’s two weeks’ self-isolation includes their spouse – meaning that neither of them are allowed outside *at all*, not even for exercise. So, they spend five weeks apart, and then two weeks unable to escape from each other, knowing that the next stage is five weeks apart and the whole cycle will start again. As I understand it, this basically means that the pilot’s only time when not inside an aircraft, or a shuttle bus, or a building, is a few seconds walking from one of those to another one of those, unless on annual leave (breaking the cycle, which is when we last saw them).

    I think any marriage would struggle with that.

    I think any person would struggle with that.

    Add children and schooling into the mix (not an issue for the couple I am referring to) and I cannot even begin to think of the mental health stresses involved.

    I predict – with a heavy heart – a lot of failed marriages/partnerships, a lot of broken families, a lot of split families as one parent moves somewhere else for the benefit of the children, a lot of early retirements, a lot of mental illness, and a significant risk of a major incident where a pilot or other crew member snaps under pressure, putting lives at risk. I am fairly sure *all* of these will happen save for the last one. I can only *hope* that the last one won’t happen.

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    Lufthansa continues to serve Hong Kong.

    But the German airline is continuing to operate the route by calling en route in Bangkok for a crew change.

    In other words a fresh crew will take over in Bangkok and they will just operate the sectors BKK-HKG-BKK which means they will avoid any quarantine issues on arrival.

    At time of writing both Air France and Swiss have cancelled their Hong Kong flights for the coming weeks.

    Lufthansa has not announced this move.

    But if you were to check for FRA-HKG on December 12 you will see a non-stop flight with a schedule time of 15 hours and 10 mins.

    I was puzzled as a non-stop flight would take less time.

    Only when I checked schedule info for LH796 did I see the wording “Stop Bangkok 1 hr 15 mins).

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    Interestingly I see the BA flight ex LHR and the Air France and Lufthansa land every day into HKG and disembark passengers to the passenger gates. The LH flight does though stop in Bangkok.
    As HK today put the UK on its red list due to the worsening virus situation meaning that now even vaccinated HK residence need to quarantine at the governments Penney’s Bay facility this could perhaps be the reason for the projected BA cancellations.
    My experience of talking with several Cathay pilot friends delivers a somewhat different response than that recounted above in that although the present conditions are tough they will not last forever and better to be with Cathay who did not as did many airlines including BA and Qantas sack thousands of pilots without any recourse but kept and paid 80% of their pilots although one of the airlines worst hit by the ongoing virus situation.
    Pilots are a stoic breed and I suspect that Ian’s worst fears for their wellbeing is somewhat misplaced although I am sure well intentioned. Better perhaps to worry about the welfare of the thousands of pilots of other large airlines ditched over 2 years ago without recourse at the first sign of trouble most of who are still out of work.
    BTW Cathay has been recruiting recently (mostly ex Dragon) pilots as first officers for its still growing HK Express fleet.

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    Bloomberg reports today that BA has now suspended its Hong Kong flights until March 2022.

    Of course the situation might change or BA might decide to operate via Bangkok as Lufthansa has done.


    Tom Otley

    Very depressing piece…

    Cathay Pacific suffers pilot exodus amid Hong Kong’s ‘permanent quarantine’
    City’s strict zero-Covid policy has hit morale in another bleak year for airline

    I’d heard about the problems for pilots with quarantine, but not about the 130 pilots who had stayed at the same Frankfurt hotel were also made to do quarantine in Penny Bay…


    While the FT piece is perhaps 75% factually correct the article as a whole, in my opinion serves to distort the true picture by omtition and a somewhat overly negative spin and lack of detail.
    What is correct is that CP’s operations have been hit hard by the the HKG’s (largely successful) efforts to keep the virus out of the territory and that a couple of hundred pilots out of some 2300 employed have resigned.
    For clarity it should be understood that most of the resignations are from pilots ‘based’ outside of HKG. This because lack of need and fiscal necessity caused Cathay to close its many overseas ‘pilot bases’ with the result that pilots based there (in for many there home country and there base and home for many years) had the choice to return to live in HKG again or resign. Many who resigned had children in school, were nearing retirement or had strong local ties. These resignations had little or nothing to do with any HK quarantine requirements.
    Cathay is presently only flying some 7% of its normal passenger schedule and many of its pilots have not flown for up to years thou being paid and there is no shortage of pilots for the Cathay passenger fleet

    THE FT in the article seems possibly to have confused ‘aircrew’ with ‘flightcrew’ when mentioning over 150 in quarantine being pilots when of course much the greater number were cabin crew of which Cathay have presently a huge surplice as they indeed do currently of pilots.

    I know personally a couple of dozen Cathay group pilots with several being close friends none of which is in the desperate state implied by the article and only one who is 63 has resigned and returning to AU to, as he says “give the young fellows who need the job a chance’.

    The Cathay Group is one of the worlds the largest freighter airlines and operates the worlds largest freighter terminal. It happens that my next door neighbour is 747 freighter captain who is hitting 65 and is thus retiring soon. The freighter hub particularly in these times is vital to HKG and to Cathay who have increased there freighter fleet capacity by also using many new and efficient passenger aircraft with large ‘belly fright’ capacity as freighters which have been an important factor in serving to allow the airline to survive and reach a financial almost ‘break even’ point in some months late this year although flying only 7% of there passenger schedule.
    THE FT article implies that there is a mandatory 21 quarantine imposed on these pilots. that is not the case and these freight pilots only need to serve 4 days home quarantine on return providing that they return a negative test on arrival back to HK.

    Cathay have high hopes of getting their ‘Hong Kong Express’ brand flying the many old Dragon Air destinations in China early in 2022 and are currently employing crew for the many new aircraft arriving or being converted from the Dragon fleet.

    A Cathay press release of the 21st December quoted in the HK Standard –
    “We plan to employ several hundred pilots in the coming year, many of whom have already expressed an interest in being part of the Cathay brand,” a spokesperson for the airline said in a statement Friday, without providing details of current headcount.

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    Couple of points, cwoodward

    You say “For clarity it should be understood that most of the resignations are from pilots ‘based’ outside of HKG. This because lack of need and fiscal necessity caused Cathay to close its many overseas ‘pilot bases’ with the result that pilots based there (in for many there home country and there base and home for many years) had the choice to return to live in HKG again or resign. Many who resigned had children in school, were nearing retirement or had strong local ties. These resignations had little or nothing to do with any HK quarantine requirements”, but isn’t it true that many who opted to’return to HK’ in fact didn’t have the option because the government *for whatever reason* refused them work permits?

    You also say “freight pilots only need to serve 4 days home quarantine on return” but that is no longer true, they have to do hotel quarantine. We spent yesterday evening with the wife of a CX freighter pilot (among others) and can categorically tell you that even they don’t know where or how that will be arranged.


    Ian, I would not agree with your point that a lack of a work permit was a major factor in the resignation of ‘based’ pilots this for the simple reason that most wanting to return to HKG had lived and worked in HKG for many years and were holders permanent residence permits and not in need of a work permit. Also of course permits for ‘needed’ pilots were and are still being issued. Agreed some were refused because there is a pool of qualified ex Dragon pilots with PR looking for jobs and which Cathay group is slowly reemploying for HK Express and in the future for Cathay.

    The 4 days home quarantine was true until todays announcement (as you would be well aware)and your point it is I feel rather splitting hairs as the quarantine is still the 4 days but now in a hotel and hotel space has been arranged I am told.

    Tom Otley

    SCMP piece

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong to axe quarantine exemptions for aircrew on all passenger flights except mainland China routes

    Nikkei piece

    HONG KONG — Flag carrier Cathay Pacific warned that further quarantine restrictions for flight crews entering Hong Kong would cause “dramatic disruptions to supply chains,” after the government mandated a three-day quarantine for returning air cargo crews.

    The Hong Kong airline, one of the world’s top airfreight carriers, plans to reduce its passenger and cargo flight schedules in the first quarter of 2022 as the tighter measures restrict operations.


    We are fortunate to be reading comprehensive insight to CP from people inside HKG and the effect it is having on families of aircrew.

    Please though spare a thought for the distress and severe treatment (will avoid the word inhumane) HKG residents are having trying to return to HKG for family situations, including once in a life time celebrations and also end of life sadness. It’s not just the airlines cancelling flights but also

    “authorities of HKG have set restrictions for Finnair flights to Hong Kong between 30 December 2021 and 12 January 2022. Therefore we have cancelled your flight Helsinki – HKG ….”

    In this instance a passenger, having managed to secure a quarantine hotel and all HKG entry requirements, including paying for flights and Q hotel went back to square 1. The solution considered was to fly from Helsinki to New York than on to HKG. It’s costing some thousands… It really does make my trip and paperwork hassles to BKK recently a walk in the park compared to this nonsense.

    Join one of the many facebook groups, one such group with over 20,000 members is “Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine Information and Experience” – you will then read first hand how HKG is treating its own returning residents, 2 years into this pandemic…


    SCMP just reported Cx crews now have to do 7 days quarantine. sadly as its home base cx will be hit the hardest again. Cx have to consider this is going to continue in one form or another through 2022, I wonder if they will look to re-open more overseas bases so crews do not have to rest up in HK

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