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FedEx Shuts Down Hong Kong Pilot Base

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FedEx, the world’s largest delivery firm, stated on Wednesday, Nov. 17 that it was closing its Hong Kong crew base and relocating pilots overseas, citing coronavirus limitations as the reason.

The move is the latest setback to Hong Kong’s image as a global logistics powerhouse, as the city is isolated from the rest of the world by draconian travel restrictions and tight quarantine procedures.

In a company document, FedEx’s system chief pilot, Robin Sebasco, said that the airline needed to “adjust” to the global economic, regulatory, and business environment, hinting that the airline’s decision to relocate its pilots out of the city in January was now permanent.

Industry insiders said the move reflected the government’s rigorous quarantine laws, which are making it more difficult for firms to function.

However, the decision isn’t expected to affect FedEx’s flights into and out of the city, which are mostly managed by California-based pilots.

While Hong Kong has had nearly no local coronavirus infections for months as part of its zero-Covid plan, the city is effectively walled off from the rest of the world, even as the rest of the world reopens, due to the mandatory 21-day hotel quarantine for anyone returning from foreign countries.

FedEx confirmed this in a statement, with a spokesperson stating that the business would “continue to retain its operations in Hong Kong, which are crucial to our Asia-Pacific and global network.”

She went on to say that closing the local pilot base will “enable us to continue to staff our Hong Kong and Asia flights without being subject to Hong Kong immigration restrictions.”

Cathay Pacific is also a major shareholder in the Asia Airfreight Terminal at Hong Kong International Airport. FedEx pilots from Hong Kong flew to Guangzhou on a regular basis to perform cargo flights out of FedEx’s regional center.

Similarly, Cathay Pacific is considering sending pilots for up to four months outside of the city to avoid the city’s strict quarantine rules.

After three Cathay Pacific flight crew members were found to be sick with Covid-19 in Frankfurt, where a suspected outbreak occurred at the crew’s hotel, the government recently strengthened exemptions for local cargo pilots.

Elsa Yuen May-yee, president of the Hong Kong Logistics Association, warned earlier on Wednesday that the government’s recent decision to require 130 Cathay Pacific aircrew to undergo a mandatory 21-day quarantine after returning from Frankfurt would have a negative impact on the sector, particularly given the increased demand during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

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