Trapped in a hotel: Hong Kong’s COVID-19 rules impose a mental sacrifice on Cathay pilots

File Photo: Cathay Pacific planes are parked at the Hong Kong International Airport tarmac on October 24, 2020.Reuters / Tyrone Shiu / File Photo

November 26, 2021

Jamie Fried

(Reuters) – Cathay Pacific, one of Asia’s largest airlines, said Hong Kong’s strict quarantine rules under the Zero COVID policy endanger their mental health, leading to increased stress and resignation. Faced with a rebellion from the pilot who says.

Cathay Pacific last week https: // 3 pilots Violated company rules by leaving the hotel room during a transit in Frankfurt and later tested positive for COVID-19.

The government has forced more than 270 people, including family-related school children, into a small parcel of the state quarantine camp It corresponded by accommodating.

Some pilots have declared it inappropriate to fly for the first rostered mission at the time of release.

Extreme examples of pandemic-related precautions under China’s Zero COVID policy are all faced by fully vaccinated Cathay pilots, despite the slow resumption of other Asian countries. It highlights difficult working conditions.

Cathay rivals, including Qantas of Australia, have begun to break strict transit policies, but the Hong Kong government wants to convince Beijing to allow cross-border travel, with more stringent rules along the mainland. doing.

“I don’t think I can keep this up,” one Cathay pilot told Reuters on anonymous terms. “Only the potential quarantine stress of my family and friends is sacrificed.”

Several other current and recently departed Cathay pilots said Reuters’ morale was low and resignations increased by a year after many permanently cut wages https: // www. as 58%.

Extreme stress is an important issue in an industry where signs of psychological problems can make it difficult to get another job.

“What are the risks of telling them that I’m a little stressed?” Asked a pilot who had spent more than 200 nights in a hotel room away from Hong Kong since the pandemic began. .. “Does it affect my medical care? And you leave here and they ask if you have been stuck for psychological reasons.”

Pilots also complained about the ambiguity of the government’s pandemic-related rules. For example, pilots need to avoid “unnecessary social contact” for three weeks after returning to Hong Kong, but are not given vacation to make up for it.

Cathay admitted to Reuters in a statement that pilot resignations have risen above normal levels since the end of October.

“Unfortunately, the incident in Frankfurt affected our current sentiment,” the airline said.

Tough roster

Hong Kong classifies many destinations, including the United States and the United Kingdom, as “high risk”. This means that Cathay pilots flying inbound passengers from these locations will be subject to two weeks of hotel quarantine.

To staff these flights, Cathay voluntarily began running a “closed loop” roster in February, trapping it in hotel rooms where fresh air and gyms weren’t available for five consecutive weeks, followed by two weeks. I took a rest at home.

“The 50% wage cut (last year) made life much harder, so I did it to make some money,” said a recently-departed pilot who made two closed loops. “Currently, there are people in the 5th or 6th closed loop.”

Cathay said Thursday that some inbound flights during the peak demand season in December would be canceled, indicating a shortage of volunteers.

Recognizing the pilot’s burden, the airline said it held bi-weekly dial-in sessions to share concerns and programs such as peer-based pilot assistance networks and provided long vacations.

Leave hong kong

Other airlines, including Emirates and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc., a U.S. freight carrier, are hunting down Cathay pilots as the situation improves elsewhere in the world, according to people who spoke with Reuters. That is.

Emirates, which has begun recruiting 600 pilots, declined to comment. Atlas did not respond to the request for comment.

Reuters pilots said they expect more resignations next year when temporary housing and school education benefits have expired.

Cathay said it would hire “hundreds” of new pilots and resume the cadet program next year.

Due to strict rules in Hong Kong, FedEx Corp closed its pilot base in the city last week, emphasizing the dim appeal of the territory as a major logistics hub.

“I really feel the people in Cathay,” said a FedEx pilot who recently left Hong Kong. “I’m really worried about their mental health and what they’re doing.”

(Report by Jamie Fried in Sydney, edited by Myon Kim and Stephen Coates)

Trapped in a hotel: Hong Kong’s COVID-19 rules impose a mental sacrifice on Cathay pilots

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