Cathay’s ability to increase travel capacity has been constrained by crew quarantine requirements.

Cathay Pacific is offering pilots additional payments of up to $637 to fly routes into China. 
Operating in China was “particularly onerous”, the Hong Kong-based airline said.
Cathay’s flights to mainland China are still affected by Beijing’s strict COVID-19 rules. 

Cathay Pacific is offering pilots bonuses worth hundreds of dollars to fly to Chinese cities as Beijing continues to impose strict zero-Covid policies. 

Pilots are being offered additional payments of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $637, to complete journeys from its base in Hong Kong to destinations in China, according to a memo first reported by Bloomberg. The airline flies to 10 cities on the Chinese mainland.

While airlines globally have faced labor shortages, depressed revenues and operational hiccups in the rebound from pandemic, Cathay has been hampered by the impact of China’s “zero Covid” policies. They require passengers and crew to undergo additional testing and pilots to wear protective bodysuits on some routes. 

The rules also limit where pilots can operate as anyone arriving in China must not have flown elsewhere for the previous 14 days, Bloomberg reported. In January Cathay started offering bonuses of up to $3,700 a flight to encourage pilots to volunteer for trips into Hong Kong.

“We are acutely aware that the difficult operating environment, which has continued for far longer than any of us could have anticipated, remains,” the latest memo said, per Bloomberg. 

Cathay Pacific told Insider it had introduced the payments for pilots of its Boeing 747, 777 and Airbus aircraft on routes to mainland China destinations who are not in a “closed loop” arrangement.

The airline said its operations to mainland China had been “particularly onerous with very restrictive rostering practices”. The payments reflected the impact of these practices and the particular challenges faced by pilots on these routes, Cathay added.

Cabin crew have not been offered additional payments. 

In its half-year results last week, Cathay said its ability to increase capacity had been constrained by crew quarantine requirements. It plans to hire 4,000 cabin crew over the next two years to meet the demand. 

Rules requiring Hong-Kong based crew to quarantine in hotel rooms for three nights after each trip is adding to its difficulties, Reuters reported. 

Cathay crew spent a collective 73,000 days quarantining last year, chairman Patrick Healy said in a video message sent to staff in January, Insider reported.

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