Pro-Beijing media calls for Cathay Pacific to be punished for quarantine breaches – Financial Times

Pro-Beijing news organisations and politicians in Hong Kong have called for punitive action against Cathay Pacific after its crew breached quarantine rules and started an Omicron outbreak.

Two newspapers linked to the Chinese government ran multiple news reports and commentaries on Monday that said the carrier should be investigated and crew members who violated coronavirus rules criminally prosecuted.

“[Cathay’s] top management definitely needs to be held to account. The government should look into ways to take follow-up action,” said Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate on the standing committee of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress. The airline declined to comment on the reports and accusations.

The scrutiny of the carrier comes as Hong Kong officials are trying to contain the fallout from a large birthday party held this month attended by senior officials and lawmakers. Two individuals who went to the party of more than 200 people initially tested positive for coronavirus in an embarrassment to the Hong Kong government.

The call for action against the Chinese territory’s de facto flagship carrier came just days after city leader Carrie Lam lambasted the airline and warned that Cathay’s management should be held accountable for the behaviour of its staff.

The airline’s largest shareholder is the Swire Group, a British-controlled Hong Kong conglomerate that traces its history back to the colonial era. It has been suffering financially from Hong Kong’s tough pandemic control measures as the city pursues a “zero-Covid” approach along with mainland China.

Last week Cathay revealed it had been forced to scale back its cargo capacity, cutting one of its only sources of revenue in the pandemic.

“The central government obviously believes that Cathay Pacific needs to take some responsibility for this,” said John P. Burns, an emeritus professor at the University of Hong Kong’s politics and public administration department.

Cathay has been operating at about 20 per cent of its pre-pandemic cargo capacity this month after local authorities imposed a seven-day hotel quarantine for all freight crew, citing Omicron risks. Freight crew had been previously exempted from the quarantine.

The carrier’s passenger capacity is at 2 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and is expected to take a further hit under the territory’s latest ban of passenger flights from eight countries including the UK, US and Canada. Augustus Tang, Cathay chief executive, acknowledged in an internal staff memo last week that the flight reductions had brought a “significant impact”.

Both pro-Beijing newspapers blamed an arrangement that allowed some Cathay crew to skirt the weeks-long quarantine requirements through a “loophole” by flying out on a passenger flight and returning on an empty passenger plane classified as a cargo flight.

Two people familiar with the airline’s operations told the Financial Times that the airline had halted the practice at the end of last month. A government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cathay has had previous flare-ups with Beijing. The airline underwent a management change after an executive suggested they would not police their staff’s political opinions during the 2019 Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.

But up until the latest outbreak of Omicron in Hong Kong, which has recorded fewer than 13,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, relations had improved. Cathay received a historic government bailout in 2020 to help cover its pandemic losses.

Sorgente articolo:
Pro-Beijing media calls for Cathay Pacific to be punished for quarantine breaches – Financial Times

User ID Campaign ID Link
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999996 Video Course Online
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999993 Buy Pixel
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999979 Ugo Fiasconaro
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999994 Email Campaign