By Kalai Rajan
FedEx closes pilot base in Hong Kong, as Cathay Pacific adopts new strategy
FedEx, the world’s largest delivery company, announced Wednesday, November 17 that it was closing its crew base in Hong Kong and sending pilots overseas, blaming coronavirus restrictions that left “no clear date “for the return of the city to normal.
The move is the latest setback to Hong Kong’s status as a global logistics hub, as severe travel restrictions and stringent quarantine procedures isolate the city from the rest of the world. FedEx chief system pilot Robin Sebasco said the airline had to “adapt” to the global economic, regulatory and business environment in a company document indicating that a January decision to move its pilots out of town was now permanent.
Industry stakeholders said the move reflected the government’s strict quarantine policies, making it an increasingly difficult operating environment for businesses, although the move was seen as unlikely to be impacted. ‘affect FedEx flights to and from the city, which are largely operated by California-based pilots. While Hong Kong has seen almost no local coronavirus infections for months as part of its zero Covid strategy, the mandatory 21-day hotel quarantine for anyone returning from various countries means the city is effectively cut off from the rest of the world. world, even if the rest of the world reopens.
FedEx confirmed in a statement, with a spokesperson saying the company “will continue to maintain operations in Hong Kong, which are critical to our Asia-Pacific and global network.” She went on to say that the closure of the local pilot base “will allow us to continue to staff our flights to Hong Kong and Asia without being subject to Hong Kong immigration restrictions.”
Cathay Pacific, unlike FedEx, uses a different method.
Cathay Pacific is also a key shareholder in the Asia Air Cargo Terminal at Hong Kong International Airport. Hong Kong FedEx pilots regularly traveled to Guangzhou for cargo flights from FedEx’s regional hub. Likewise, Cathay Pacific plans to move pilots out of town for up to four months to bypass the city’s stringent quarantine requirements.
The government recently tightened exemptions for local cargo pilots after three Cathay Pacific flight crew members were confirmed ill with Covid-19 in Frankfurt, where a suspected outbreak occurred at the hotel de l ‘crew. Earlier Wednesday, Elsa Yuen May-yee, president of the Hong Kong Logistics Association, warned that the government’s recent decision to require 130 Cathay Pacific crew members to undergo 21 days of mandatory quarantine after returning from Frankfurt would have a negative impact on the sector, especially given the increased demand during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Cathay Pacific will demand that all crews exempted from Hong Kong’s strict quarantine protocols self-isolate and avoid gatherings on their return, even though it includes a drastic contingency plan to base pilots overseas for periods of time. months to strengthen the staff. He is currently interviewing pilots to gauge their enthusiasm for the new eventuality, which would see them transferred out of Hong Kong, quarantined between flights to and from the city, and kept away from the local community – and away from their families – for four months at a time.
Pilots are asked if they would like to be located in Dubai, Anchorage, Chicago or other unspecified locations on both coasts of the United States. The new strategy is seen as a workaround for Hong Kong’s tough anti-epidemic efforts, which are making the airline’s flight operations unstable.
Cathay Pacific announced on Monday evening the “tightened” self-isolation rules for its employees, the measures to take effect Wednesday. Three Cathay cargo pilots who were released from quarantine on arrival then tested positive for the coronavirus days later after returning to Hong Kong. Due to the pilots who tested positive, more emphasis is placed on the conduct of the crew during stopovers. All three had spent stopovers at the Hyatt Regency Mainz, a hotel near Frankfurt, the German international airport.
With this exemption potentially compromised due to recent infections, Cathay has encouraged pilots of all its cargo and passenger fleets to express interest in its eventual relocation from ports other than Hong Kong. The airline said the relocation plan could begin as early as January 2022, or it could be scrapped entirely if deemed unnecessary.