Cathay Pacific suspends cargo flights due to virus controls

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FILE – Cathay Pacific Airways aircrafts line up on the tarmac at the Hong Kong International Airport, March 6, 2020. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airlines announced Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, that it is suspending cargo flights for a week due to stricter quarantine requirements for air crews, potentially adding to strain on global supply chains. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airlines is suspending cargo flights for a week due to stricter quarantine requirements for air crews, potentially adding to strain on global supply chains.

Long-haul flights to Europe, across the Pacific and to Riyadh and Dubai are suspended through Jan. 6, the airline said Thursday. It promised to try to help customers “mitigate the disruption.”

The airline’s workforce is stretched thin after the quarantine for Cathay Pacific flight crews who return from abroad was extended to one week in a hotel room from three days.

Thursday’s announcement gave no details, but The South China Morning Post newspaper said the longer quarantine would leave Cathay without enough pilots for all its flights.

The airline earlier asked staff to volunteer for a “closed-loop system” under which they would work for three-week stints with brief stopovers in Hong Kong, but too few agreed, according to news reports.

Cathay said earlier it would reduce its schedule of passenger flights in the first three months of 2022 due to staff shortages.

On Friday, the airline said five air crew members tested positive for the coronavirus’s omicron variant after returning from abroad. It blamed “a serious breach of protocols” by those employees and said it would lead to unspecified discipline.

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