Local Cathay Pacific aircrew have been asked to switch their British National (Overseas) passports to Hong Kong SAR ones by February 28, after China’s decision to no longer recognise the BN(O) as a travel document or proof of identity.
But sources said the airline’s request, made in an internal email seen by the Post, had been questioned by some employees, who pointed out that passengers would still be able to use the BN(O) document to check in.
However, the Immigration Department said the BN(O) document could not be used for entry and exit from Hong Kong from Sunday, and residents would need their HKSAR passport or identity card to travel.
Other countries or regions had to decide for themselves whether to accept it as a valid travel document, it added.
In a memo from Mark Hoey, Cathay’s general manager of operations, the airline said it was in the process of clarifying details with authorities regarding the operational impact on crew members, but employees were strongly encouraged to switch their travel documents to an HKSAR passport.
“If you have a BN(O) passport registered in the system as your travel document, can I please request that you change it to another as soon as possible,” Hoey’s email said.
Cathay’s request came as Britain opened its BN(O) visa service applications scheme for Hongkongers online, despite the Chinese government saying it would not be recognised as a valid travel document.
However, some airline employees pointed to the discrepancy between the two approaches.
“If a passenger can present an HKSAR passport, why [do they] still use the BN(O) to check in? What purpose [does it serve]?” one said.
In a separate email, the airline set out internal guidelines for crew members with regards to passengers holding BN(O) passports.
While they could be used to check-in, people without another passport would not be allowed to fly, and could only rebook their tickets once they had an acceptable form of identification, the email said.
BN(O) holders coming to Hong Kong must also present their HKSAR passport, ID card, or re-entry permit before entering the city.
On Sunday, a man using his BN(O) was stopped by a member of staff at the airport when he left the check-in area to enter the restricted zone. He was only allowed to proceed after presenting his HKID.
The man was heading to Taiwan for work and said he initially used his BN(O) passport because he bought his ticket using that travel document.
Airlines have also been reminded to follow the new regulations or risk violating Section 40 of the Immigration Ordinance, which targets the arrival of aircraft passengers in Hong Kong without a valid travel document.
Hong Kong Airlines said in a statement it would “comply with the new requirements and ensure passengers present valid documents before boarding their flight”, while aircrew would “also hold valid documents” while on duty.
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