United Airlines and American Airlines stop resumed Hong Kong services over mandatory Covid-19 testing concerns
Stricter measures now mean aircrew must be tested alongside general public at Asia-World Expoใ United had only just announced return of flights to city from San Francisco, while American delays service until August
United Airlines and American Airlines have suspended their flights to Hong Kong again after concerns were raised over the mandatory testing of aircrew for Covid-19.
The sudden cancellation of the relaunched United service comes from concerns raised by the company’s pilots union over the way testing for the coronavirus was conducted in Hong Kong.
Politico reported that American had decided to halt its services to Hong Kong until at least August 5, citing the new testing rules, according to a memo sent by the Allied Pilots Association to its members.
Over the past two days, 38 people have been confirmed as being infected with the disease in Hong Kong. Of those, most have involved local cases, and some patients had no travel history and no identifiable source of infection.
The cases have sparked fears a third wave of the virus has hit the city, and have prompted health chiefs to install stricter measures to combat rising concerns of a community outbreak.
In a statement, a United Airlines spokesman said: “UA877 was cancelled due to recent changes in testing protocol at HKG. United flights to and from HKG are suspended through July 10 (westbound).
“We are currently assessing how this impacts our future operations.”
UA877 was scheduled to depart San Francisco for Hong Kong on July 8. HKG is the airport code reference for Hong Kong International Airport.
Separately, United announced on Wednesday it could lay-off around 36,000 staff, or two-fifths of its workforce, as soon as financial aid from the United States government expires.
On Tuesday, the Centre for Health Protection announced that all air and shipping crew members arriving in the city must give deep-throat saliva samples for coronavirus testing.
The stricter measures for people exempted from quarantine were imposed after some pilots were among those found to be infected with Covid-19.
Pilots are now required to go to the nearby Asia-World Expo to get tested, although unlike the general public, aircrew do not have to wait for their results, are free to leave the testing centre, and do not need to quarantine afterwards.
Local pilots say the whole process could add two hours to their day once they get off the plane.
The Air Line Pilots Association has been approached for comment.
United’s swift cancellation of all flights marks a big U-turn for one of the US’ top airlines. Only last week, it formally announced the resumption of flights to Hong Kong from San Francisco and Singapore. The first flight was scheduled to take-off on Wednesday.
United also announced last weekend that it would add even more flights to Hong Kong from Chicago starting in September.
The route was previously scrapped amid the intense civil unrest stemming from anti-government protests.