British Airways has suspended flights to Hong Kong after a crew member tested positive for Covid-19, amid reports members of the crew were made to isolate for three weeks at a quarantine centre built from shipping containers.
The city has one of the strictest quarantine policies in the world, with those arriving from abroad having to serve up to 21 days in government-designated hotels.
The airline said a member of staff tested positive on arrival in the region after first testing negative before departure.
BA said: “We have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend flights to Hong Kong while we review operational requirements for this route.
“We apologise to our customers who have had their travel plans disrupted and will be in touch to give them options.”
The carrier, which runs two flights to Hong Kong from London each day, has not said when the suspension will be lifted.
The South China Morning Post reported that most of the crew for a flight which arrived in the special administrative region on Saturday were taken to the Penny’s Bay quarantine centre as a result of a positive test.
The paper said the latest incident was the second time in a week that the airline’s crew were taken to quarantine after an apparent positive test result.
Reports suggested the first BA crew members to enter quarantine were fully vaccinated and had previously tested negative for Covid-19.
A spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Department of Health told the South China Morning Post the affected crew members were now back in the UK.
Other flight crew who have been forced to self-isolate in Penny’s Bay for 21 days have complained of prison-like conditions.
One pilot, who goes by the handle ‘FlyWithEva’, posted a photo of her room on Instagram, with the caption: “Quarantine day 4/21 in the container in Penny’s Bay Isolation camp. Just wanted to update I’m doing ok.
“Still overwhelmed with the situation, but trying to surrender to it; it’s the only way to get through 21 days. Huge shout out to many friends and colleagues, who dropped off deliveries. From an extra mattress, to books, sports equipment, and things to make the container feel like less of a cell.”
Travel restrictions have been tightened in recent days amid concern over the omicron variant, with cases having been detected in several states and territories including Hong Kong.
However the strict quarantine rules which aircrews have come up against were in place long before the latest variant began causing alarm.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has also been hit by staff shortages linked to Covid quarantine requirements, leading to flight cancellations.