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Cathay slashes flights and shutters The Pier

While The Pier Business Lounge has closed, The Wing will remain open to Chinese mainland flights.

Cathay Pacific has slashed flights and shuttered The Pier Business Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport.

In an email sent to staff and obtained by various media agencies, including the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, the airline has indicated it will be cutting passenger capacity by up to 80% in the first quarter of 2022 and cargo by two thirds. Flight bans and stricter quarantine regulations for crew have been blamed for the move.

“I realise these substantial reductions in our passenger and cargo capacity will have a significant impact on our customers and our people,” chief executive officer Augustus Tang Kin-wing is reported as stating in the email.

A looming ‘fifth wave’ in Hong Kong and the subsequent raft of flight bans and cancellations has also forced the closure of The Pier lounge, which had reopened just eight weeks ago as a dedicated transit space.

Affected passengers will be offered the Plaza Premium Lounge near Gate 60, while The Wing First Lounge will continue to open to Chinese mainland flights transiting through the city and to those starting their journey in Hong Kong.

Earlier this week, the Hong Kong government banned flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States for 14 days. This followed a patchy winter of continual flight cancellations and suspensions. British Airways stopped its Hong Kong service indefinitely in late 2021 after crew members tested positive and were forced to quarantine at the city’s Penny’s Bay facility. Virgin and SwissAir have also since cancelled Hong Kong flights.

Numerous airlines have been victim to Hong Kong’s on-going policy of banning passenger flights from landing for 14 days if they carry more than a maximum limit of infected passengers into the city. Over the last 12 months airlines who have fallen foul of these restrictions have included Qatar Airways, Air India, AirAsia, Lufthansa, FinnAir, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Air Canada, Thai Airways, KLM, Turkish Airways, Korean Air, Emirates and Cebu Pacific.

According to Cathay, its reduction in passenger and cargo services could run until the end of March 2022. Previously the airline had been operating at 70% of pre-pandemic cargo capacity and ten percent of passenger flights. These figures will now drop to 20% and two percent.

Last week Cathay imposed a complete suspension of all long-haul cargo flights for seven days. This followed updated quarantine measures requiring all returning aircrew - including cargo aircrew - to quarantine in a hotel for seven days. Previously some crew members had been allowed to isolate at home.

Experts have indicated that if a reduction in cargo capacity continues, it could affect both the airline and the Hong Kong supply chain.

“Hong Kong has already fallen behind other hubs, because other hubs are starting to recover, while Hong Kong hasn’t really started that process yet,” independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie told the South China Morning Post. “In fact, it is now going in the opposite direction.”

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