FedEx and DoT hit out at Hong Kong quarantine rules
18 / 03 / 2021
By Damian Brett
The US Department of Transport (DoT) may limit flights by the Cathay Pacific Group airlines in response to the latest Hong Kong’s quarantine rules, saying they disproportionately affect US carriers.
The new quarantine rules require that all Hong Kong-based crews quarantine for two or three weeks when returning from an international flight. However, Anchorage, where Cathay Pacific has a large transshipment operation, was exempt from the requirement, a move that sparked a complaint from FedEx and a response from the DoT.
In a complaint, FedEx told the DoT that it bases approximately 180 crew members in Hong Kong and that the new quarantine requirement would make it impossible to maintain its Hong Kong crew base, which serves as a “critical hub in its intra-Asia network”.
“Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific operates a large transhipment operation at Anchorage; it conducts multiple daily all-cargo operations between Hong Kong and Anchorage that connect to other Cathay flights between Anchorage and points throughout the continental US,” the DoT said.
“This carve out effectively provides Cathay Pacific with the ability to continue those operations without impact from the new crew quarantine requirements. Meanwhile, FedEx’s Hong Kong-based crews serve only intra-Asia routings and therefore do not benefit from the Anchorage exception.”
The DoT said it had been in contact with Hong Kong authorities but the two groups had failed to come to an agreement.
In response, the DoT has ordered all Hong Kong-based carriers to file their flight schedules for all US flights within seven days, for the department to consider “the operation of the services contained in those schedules, or any part thereof, may be contrary to applicable law or adversely affect the public interest”.
In the order, the DoT names Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, Hong Kong Airlines Limited, and Hong Kong Express Airways Limited as the carriers that will now need to file their schedules.
Cathay Pacific told FlightGlobal that it will “continue to comply with all the applicable aviation regulations in both Hong Kong and the territories to which we fly”.
The carrier added that it had also been affected by the new air crew quarantine measures, which have led to a reduction in cargo flights to the US from the usual 35-39 flights a week, to 21-28 flights.
In response to the requirements, FedEx relocated all of its Hong Kong-based crews to San Francisco, a move it said would incur significant operational costs and personal burden on its Hong Kong crew members.