Airline crew spent 73,000 nights in quarantine last year amid Hong Kong's strict Covid rules

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Cathay Pacific aircrew had to endure 73,000 nights in COVID-19 quarantine last year.
  • Hong Kong follows a strict Covid-zero policy, requiring quarantines of up to three weeks.
  • Longterm quarantines have been taxing for Cathay Pacific staff who need to fly for their jobs.
  • The Hong Kong-based carrier offers thousands of dollars in bonuses to incentivise pilots.
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Cathay Pacific Airways crew collectively spent 73,000 nights — the equivalent of 200 years — in quarantine last year.

The staggering figure was revealed by company chairman Patrick Healy in a video message to staff earlier this month.

"What you have been through during the past two years is quite simply unparalleled," Healy said. "Collectively, our crew spent over 62,000 nights in quarantine hotels in 2021. In addition, over 1,000 of you have spent more than 11,000 nights in Penny's Bay."

Penny's Bay Quarantine Center is a government isolation facility in Hong Kong known for its spartan living conditions. 

Often, the families of airline crew were forced to isolate, added Healy, who also thanked employees in the message.

Hong Kong, where Cathay Pacific is headquartered, follows a strict Covid-zero policy, and travellers entering the city are required to isolate for up to three weeks depending on where they're travelling from and their vaccination status. Based on their point of departure, some travelers must spend part of their quarantine in a government quarantine facility before moving on to a designated quarantine hotel.

Recently, Cathay Pacific started offering thousands of dollars in cash bonuses to encourage pilots to sign up for so-called "closed-loop" routes that require them to fly into Hong Kong. Such flight routes require that crews spend weeks working and isolating themselves in hotels before they return to the city.

Healy said in his video address that thousands of crew members have volunteered for the "closed-loop" roster patterns.

In an email to Insider, Cathay Pacific said that the airline has been "hugely affected by this unprecedented global pandemic."

"We fully acknowledge that these rules and the length of time they have been in force are placing a burden on our aircrew, who have been exemplary in their conduct and professionalism throughout this difficult period," said the airlines.

Long-term quarantines have been physically and mentally taxing for Cathay Pacific staff who need to fly for their jobs. Dozens of pilots quit in December, according to a Financial Times report. 

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