After another group of pilots and cabin crew were detained at the notorious Penny’s Bay quarantine camp on Saturday, British Airways was obliged to halt all flights to Hong Kong.
The latest incident came just one day after another group of BA airmen was released from a government-run quarantine facility after being held for nearly a week.
After only one member of the almost 20-strong team of pilots and cabin crew tested positive for COVID-19 upon their arrival in the territory on Saturday morning, the aircrew was sentenced to a 21-day quarantine order.
Only after a high-level intervention from British diplomats was the previous batch of imprisoned crew released after over a week. Because of the threat posed by the Omicron form, Hong Kong health officials may adopt an even tougher position and refuse to shorten the quarantine time.
Because the risk of even more personnel being imprisoned in a quarantine camp is too significant, British Airways has now canceled all flights to Hong Kong for at least the next few days.
To operate flights to Hong Kong, aircrew must be properly vaccinated and pass a pre-departure COVID-19 test, but they must also pass a second test once they arrive.
Anyone who tests positive is taken to the hospital, while their coworkers are labeled as “close contacts” and transported to a quarantine camp.
Penny’s Bay’s facilities have been highly criticized because they are strikingly comparable to those found in modern prisons.
British Airways has been chastised for sending workers to Hong Kong despite the possibility of being detained against their will. Other carriers, such as Emirates and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, fly to Hong Kong via Bangkok, avoiding the need for pilots and staff to disembark in Hong Kong.
The Heathrow-based carrier said in a statement that it has reluctantly chosen to cease flights to and from Hong Kong.
“We have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend flights to Hong Kong while we review operational requirements for this route,” a spokesperson said.
“We’re supporting crew members who are currently isolating in Hong Kong. We work within local regulations for every country we fly to, and always put the safety and wellbeing of our teams and customers at the heart of everything we do,” the statement continued.
A group of British Airways crew members has been transferred to the Penny’s Bay quarantine camp for the third time. British Airways dispatched crew on ‘turnaround’ trips to Hong Kong for a brief time, but UK aviation officials outlawed the practice.
Virgin Atlantic continues to deploy crews to Hong Kong for layovers, where they must spend at least two days in solitary confinement in a hotel room before flying home.