Hong Kong’s government has eased Covid-19-related restrictions on the movements of locally based crew when making overseas trips, on which the territory’s strict rules had previously confined them to their hotels.
From Tuesday, pilots and flight attendants no longer need to isolate in their hotels when overnighting between the outbound and return legs of foreign flights, Cathay Pacific Airways said in a memo to staff. They will still be expected to avoid bars and other mass gatherings.
For those air crew whose flights return to Hong Kong without a layover, the rule relaxation also ends a requirement for them to wait at the airport for the result of coronavirus tests, though those who stayed the night must still do so.
The changes, which also apply to Hong Kong Airlines, Greater Bay Airlines and Cathay’s low-cost affiliate HK Express, bring the rules for crews making overseas layovers into line with the removal of mandatory quarantine for employees arriving back in Hong Kong, a step that was also extended to passengers on Sept 26.
The new rules should make it more attractive for pilots and flight attendants based in the Asian financial hub to resume flying more frequently, and will reduce enforced downtime after trips, making rostering more efficient.
They will also permit Hong Kong-based crew to live more normal lives, for example, going to the restaurant on returning home, something which was not permitted for three days under the old regulations.
Cathay’s chief operations and service delivery officer, Greg Hughes, said the changes were a “significant milestone” towards normalizing the airline’s operations.
But he noted they “fall short of the complete removal of such restrictions on our aircrew, which we still seek”.