THB has said it can "hardly accept the concerned cargo crew's non-compliance with the requirements of closed-loop operation during their layover at the outport concerned."
Flag carrier of Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, has fired three cargo pilots who were found to be infected with COVID-19, post an internal investigation which revealed that all three were involved in a "serious breach" of crew requirements while overseas.
This development comes just days after the airline acknowledged that two freighter pilots tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong after they operated a cargo flight from Frankfurt. As such, the statement had said: "We are conducting a thorough internal investigation into these cases to ensure we continue to operate with the highest degree of safety and compliance."
The airline has since confirmed in a statement to HRO: "After investigation into these cases, regrettably, the findings indicate a serious breach of requirements during crew overseas layovers. The individuals concerned are no longer employed by Cathay Pacific."
Further, the Cathay Pacific team affirmed that the safety and wellbeing of customers, employees, and the community continue to remain its absolute priority, calling these "isolated incidents" during a period where it has credited its staff with upholding "professionalism, compliance, and resilience."
Acting on the incident, the airline has "further reviewed our procedures for overseas layover and when our crew return to Hong Kong and introduced new measures to protect the safety of our crew from community exposure."
Additionally, it has requested the government to review the decision to place certain groups into government quarantine.
Response by THB
In the meantime, Hong Kong's Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) has expressed disappointment with the development.
THB said in a statement: "The THB is deeply regretful of and can hardly accept the concerned cargo crew's non-compliance with the requirements of closed-loop operation during their layover at the outport concerned.
"Though noting that these are individual cases, considering the severity of the incident, the THB has already directed Cathay Pacific to follow up on the matter seriously and to make the best endeavours in preventing the occurrence of similar incidents."
THB noted that Cathay Pacific had, upon the bureau's request, implemented a series of enhanced measures, including:
- Daily post-arrival testing for returning air crew,
- Stepping up the monitoring on air crew's compliance with the requirements of closed-loop operation during their layovers at outports,
- More stringent restrictions on air crew's movements during their medical surveillance periods
- Requiring all air crew to receive the third doses of vaccines.
Additionally, among the requirements cited in a recent statement, all crew are to self-isolate in their rooms within designated hotels during any layover in places outside of Hong Kong.
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