Virgin Atlantic cabin staff member risked spending Christmas in Hong Kong’s infamous Penny’s Bay quarantine center after the airline failed to obtain her release following a positive COVID-19 test result on Tuesday.
Even after British Airways briefly suspended its Hong Kong flights due to the risk of crew members being imprisoned for extended periods in quarantine camps, Virgin Atlantic has continued to operate non-stop flights to the Chinese colony.
Only after three sets of crew were imprisoned at the makeshift Penny’s Bay quarantine camp did British Airways cease flights to Hong Kong. Last month, the camp grabbed news when more than 150 Cathay Pacific pilots and cabin personnel were imprisoned up as potential close connections.
Aircrew must have a negative COVID-19 test before flying to Hong Kong because to the city’s strict pandemic entrance requirements. They must also take a second test right after landing. If the test results are positive, they must be quarantined for 21 days.
Other crew members on the same flight as the COVID positive crew member have deemed ‘close contacts,’ and must likewise undergo the same 21-day quarantine period. In the past, airlines were able to negotiate crew release in as little as a week or somewhat longer.
Many airlines operating flights to Hong Kong now add a technical stop in Bangkok and shuttle across to Hong Kong, avoiding the very real risk of crew members being held for weeks at a time. This eliminates the necessity for crew members to be examined upon arrival.
For months, Emirates and KLM have been successfully operating flights to Hong Kong in this manner. To accomplish the same goal, British Airways has introduced a layover and crew change in Bangkok.
Virgin Atlantic had a different approach, which included repeated exams for the crew and the risk of a last-minute diversion. Crew were required to take a quick PCR test on the same day as the flight, in addition to a Hong Kong compatible PCR test the day before the flight.
They were allowed to board if both tests were negative, but they had to do a third fast antigen test within an hour of landing in Hong Kong.
If any of the crew members tested positive, the pilots had the option of diverting the flight to a nation with less stringent quarantine regulations.
However, in this situation, all three tests failed to reveal that the crew member was COVID-19 positive.
The PCR test conducted by airport testers returned positive upon arrival, and the crew member was sent to Penny’s Bay.
Because the flight was not carrying passengers, the other crew members were able to return to London immediately.
A representative from Virgin Atlantic has been contacted for comment. “The health and safety of our people is our top priority,” the airline added in a recent statement.
“We continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation extremely carefully and the latest guidance in the UK and across our international network.”