Airbus A350 Cathay Pacific (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

Perhaps the leaders

of

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific

will find a positive effect in the appearance of the Omicron variant with the Covid pandemic. The appearance of this variant was immediately followed by the announcement of a reduction in the carrier’s scheduled flights.

The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper, reported that the airline had cancelled 28 of its 61 flights for the day on December 2, almost half its capacity. The carrier has the lowest available capacity of any international carrier in Asia. It is estimated to be operating just 7% of its 2019 schedule capacity. And the rest of the month is likely to be similar.

For business travellers who still dare to try to get to Hong Kong, it’s an obstacle course. From Europe, Cathay now operates only one daily flight from London Heathrow. It also operates a flight to Frankfurt in partnership with Lufthansa, using a German aircraft and staff.

Once the flight is booked, passengers still have to buy their mandatory three-week quarantine at 40 government-designated hotels. The price for these prison-like stays ranges from HK$490 to HK$16,000 (€54 to €1,760). Only then is it possible to live “normally” in the city.

The pilots are leaving the company

because from now on, Cathay Pacific will have to count on possible flight cancellations. The company is indeed facing a severe shortage of pilots. Not only because they have to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a hotel on their return to the country. But also because many have decided to leave the company. Thus, four pilots recently told AFP that they each know at least a dozen of their colleagues who have resigned. That would make at least forty pilots.

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A state of affairs that Cathay’s management does not deny. It says it has faced an “abnormally high” rate of resignations in October. The carrier is trying to keep its pilots with a “closed circle” program that gives them five weeks of flights and quarantine and two weeks of vacation. A proposal that does not seem to have much success with the interested parties. In particular with the arrival of the Christmas holidays.

As a result, the company has already announced that it will not be able to meet the demand in December with at least one third of its passenger flights cancelled. The Omicron variant is therefore a timely opportunity to justify further cuts to Cathay’s schedule.