As the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to cause concerns across the globe, Hong Kong is no exception and it is not expected to open its border in the near future. The flag carrier of Hong Kong Cathay Pacific confirmed the speculation that the number of resignations has increased in the past week due to the prolonged Covid-zero strategy imposed by Beijing. This wave of resignation follows the layoff of three cargo pilots who were suspected to have breached quarantine procedures during their stay in Germany a few weeks ago. Local media in Hong Kong had managed to talk to some of the pilots in Cathay Pacific, was this wave of resignation not unforeseen?
Earlier this week, AFP (Hong Kong) interviewed four pilots working for Cathay Pacific. The pilots, who wish to remain anonymous expressed their resentment from the current arrangements in the company by describing the conditions to be “terrible” and that the mental health of the flight crew is at their “breaking point”. One of the pilots with over 20 years of flying experience has admitted that applications to two rivalling airlines are on the way, stating that dozens around him/her are doing the same. Chris Kempis, the Director of Flight Operations in Cathay Pacific acknowledges this speculation and states that the resignation rates are higher at the moment. However, Cathay Pacific has reinforced their stance in complying with Hong Kong’s strict regulations despite the global trend of “living with Covid”.
Resignation surges as Cathay Crew Mental Health came to a Breaking Point
The interview suggested the pilots are rather concerned with the mental health of their colleagues as they described their conditions are at a “breaking point”:
There are a lot of people at their breaking point. It’s really amazing that we haven’t had an accident yet.
The stress of the current flight crew could be traced back to the incident that resulted in three cargo pilots being sacked after breaching quarantine restrictions during their layover in Frankfurt. Back in early November, three cargo pilots were tested positive after their layover in Germany. Over 120 operating crew and over 270 family members to the crew were required by the Hong Kong Government to be isolated in the designated quarantine facility for three weeks.
No Signs of Releasing Border, what’s next for Cathay Pacific?
Despite the global trend of “living with Covid”, the Hong Kong Government has restated again that opening the border with mainland China will be prioritized. As China continues to strive for zero cases, the prospect of Hong Kong opening its borders is yet to be seen. Notwithstanding Kempis’ admission to the rising trend of resignation, he also stressed that the company is planning to recruit “several hundred” pilots next year. The plan was backed by the spokesman of Cathay Pacific on Friday, stating that the company is planning to resume its cadet training program. However, this does not solve the problem with the unorthodox covid-zero strategy imposed by Beijing.