Govt knew staff were using cargo flights: Cathay

Cathay Pacific has defended its recent practice of allowing crew who served on outbound passenger flights to return to Hong Kong on cargo flights, saying the arrangement was in line with government regulations and officials were aware of it.

Until recently, certain cargo flight staff were exempt from having to undergo quarantine upon their arrival in Hong Kong and on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the authorities were investigating whether Cathay had exploited this.

Lam warned that legal action will be taken against the airline once the authorities have “the full evidence of what wrong it has gone into”.

Responding to media enquiries, Cathay said the “highly effective” practice of passenger crews using cargo flights was in line with government regulations.

In a message to staff, Cathay chairman Patrick Healy said the airline will fully co-operate with the government’s investigation, noting that officials have records on the thousands of crew members that flew back on cargo flights.

“We have made fully transparent and accurate declarations for every crew member who was rostered on those flights to the relevant authorities,” he said.

Cathay staff have also been linked to recent Omicron outbreaks, and Healy apologised for the “disruption and anguish” caused by some employees breaching a home isolation requirement.

He said staff spent a combined total of 73,000 nights in quarantine in hotels and at Penny’s Bay in 2021, and for the first eight months of the year, not a single crew member came down with Covid.