Three week quarantine pushes airlines to suspend Hong Kong flights


Virgin Atlantic has suspended its Hong Kong service.


Aircrew arriving in Hong Kong from the United Kingdom are now being ordered to quarantine in hotels for three weeks, following an outbreak of a fast-spreading Covid-19 variant in Britain.


In a statement issued by Virgin Atlantic on Monday December 21, the carrier said it would be temporarily suspending flights between London and Hong Kong as a result of the new restrictions.


“The authorities in Hong Kong have advised that from December 22 they will deny entry to passengers travelling from the United Kingdom until further notice,” said the statement. “In addition, new restrictions require aircrew to isolate for 21 days on arrival into Hong Kong. As a result, we have taken the decision to temporarily suspend our services between London Heathrow and Hong Kong.”


Previously to the 21-day quarantine ruling, airline staff were made to isolate in a hotel for 24 hours until the next day’s return flight. However, under the new regulations that is no longer possible.


According to reports in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper, the restrictions have the potential to stop all non-stop passenger flights to and from Britain.


Cathay Pacific responded on Monday by axing all London flights until January 10.


British Airways (BA) flights into Hong Kong had already been suspended for two weeks until December 25 after the carrier flew in more than four positive Covid passengers. Hong Kong government has imposed strict regulations as to the number of infected passengers airlines can bring into the city without being penalised. KLM and Emirates had also received a ban under the same set of guidelines.


However, BA had continued operating its London route, with cargo-only flights coming into Hong Kong and a passenger service in the other direction. It has not been made clear whether this situation will continue under the new regulations. A statement from the airline said that due to the current global restrictions it would be operating a "reduced and dynamic schedule".


The SCMP quoted senior management for an overseas carrier as describing the situation as "a shambles” and that local officials had “no idea” how complicated it was for airlines to operate under such restrictions.


Virgin is asking affected customers to get in touch with the Virgin Atlantic customer care team by SMS at +44 (0)7481 339184. Customers who booked though a third party or travel agent should contact them directly.


BA says it will be contacting customers whose flights have been cancelled to offer them a refund. Customers who want to change their booking should go to ba.com where they can also request a voucher for future travel if their flight continues to operate.


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