Cathay Pacific is looking to gradually restore a freighter schedule that has been affected by strict rules as Hong Kong’s government eased the quarantine requirements for Hong Kong-based crew.
The mandatory quarantine requirement for aircrew based in Hong Kong, which started in 20 February, will be lifted for crew members on freighter and cargo-only passenger flights who are fully vaccinated. But this does not include crew that layover in the United Kingdom and South Africa, the airline noted.
Meanwhile, all freighter crew that layover in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand will no longer be subject to mandatory quarantine upon return to Hong Kong.
The carrier, which recorded its worst performance last year despite positive cargo revenue, took an extra hit with the stringent quarantine requirements that started in mid-February. In March, the airline saw cargo capacity and demand fall 39.4 percent and 32.4 percent year on year. It carried 83,329 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, down 30.1 percent compared to March 2020. Despite the numbers, the airline saw strong demand from Northeast Asia and the Americas, whilst demand from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland ramped up during the latter half of the month, it noted.
Last week, George Edmunds, GM cargo commercial at Cathay Pacific, said the new crew quarantine measures remained the biggest obstacle to normal operations, which prompted the airline to reduce its weekly freighter flights between Hong Kong and the US by 25 percent—from the usual 34 to around 21-28 flights per week. He added that the current schedule will be further reduced this month as crew who have volunteered for the ‘closed-loop’ operation enter quarantine before a well-earned period of leave.
Outside of the quarantine restrictions, Edmunds pointed out the recent move by the US Department of Transport requesting Hong Kong-based airlines to file flight schedules in advance of operations.
“While this adds administrative burden, it does not affect the number of flights we operate, but there may be some impact on last-minute schedule additions,” Edmunds noted. “Similarly, our freighter operations to India are being disrupted because of schedule filing issues. We are working with the authorities on a resolution to this and operating ad hoc freighters and cargo-only passenger aircraft until a full schedule is confirmed,” he added.
With the recent changes in quarantine restrictions, the airline is currently reviewing crew resources for May and will announce the freighter schedule as soon as possible.