By Jamie Freed
(Reuters) – Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd will comply with two government investigations after two crew members who broke self-isolation rules sparked a COVID-19 outbreak in the city, Chairman Patrick Healy said.
In a video to staff on Tuesday reviewed by Reuters, Healy said the airline apologised for the “disruption and anguish” caused by the outbreak, which has led Hong Kong to shut primary schools and has set back plans for cross-border travel with mainland China. Cathay has fired the crew members involved.
The video came after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday announced the government was investigating the breach of isolation rules as well as Cathay carrying crew returning to Hong Kong on cargo-only flights to avoid hotel quarantine.
Healy said the airline took “full responsibility” for the latter decision, which it was confident was in line with government regulations.
The city tightened quarantine rules for air crew after the outbreak, leading the airline to cancel most of its planned passenger and cargo flights in January.
Cathay will operate about 20% of its pre-pandemic cargo capacity and around 2% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity this month.
The airline had been struggling to crew many flights even before the rules were tightened as some destinations relied on pilots volunteering to fly punishing rosters involving five weeks locked in hotel rooms.
Healy said crew had collectively spent 62,000 nights in quarantine hotels in 2021, with none contracting COVID-19 in the first eight months of the year. All are fully vaccinated.
Cases, however, had risen since the emergence of the Omicron variant with 11 crew contracting the variant in December, he said in the video to staff that was first reported by Bloomberg.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; additional reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)