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Cathay Pacific is offering thousands of dollars in bonuses to pilots just to encourage them to fly into Hong Kong where they’re enduring long quarantines

Cathay Pacific is offering thousands of dollars in bonuses to incentivize pilots to fly to Hong Kong.

JIMMOYHT/Shutterstock

  • Cathay Pacific pilots who fly “closed-loop” flights could make up to HK$96,000 ($12,300) in bonuses.
  • Such flights require crews to spend weeks working and isolating in hotels before they return to Hong Kong.
  • The program seeks to incentivize pilots to fly into Hong Kong where there are long quarantine requirements.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways is offering thousands of dollars in cash bonuses to encourage pilots to sign up for routes that require them to fly into Hong Kong, where visitors are required to isolate for up to 21 days depending on vaccination status and travel history. 

Pilots who fly so-called “closed-loop” flights are being offered up to HK$29,000 ($3,700) per flight, with the opportunity to make as much as HK$96,000 ($12,300) in bonuses depending on their rank and how many such trips they take, Bloomberg reported, citing a staff memo. 

Cathay Pacific is also incentivizing flights for first officers. They’ll get HK$15,000 ($1,926) for one closed loop, with the opportunity to net out as much as HK$76,000 ($9,761). 

Per Bloomberg, such routes involve pilots and crew flying for several weeks in a row while working and staying in isolation at hotels between flights.

Cathay Pacific confirmed the incentive program to Insider without giving specifics.

“For pilots who sign up to fly in the Closed Loop, we have added opportunities to have more time away from flying after completing their loops as well as updating their remuneration to account for changes in our schedule and operation,” Cathay Pacific said.

Hong Kong follows a strict Covid-zero policy, and travelers entering the city are required to isolate for up to three weeks depending on where they’re traveling from and their vaccination status. Based on their point of departure, some travelers must spend part of their quarantine in a government quarantine facility before moving on to a designated quarantine hotel. Hotels can run upwards of $17,208 for the duration, according to the latest hotel price lists.

Longterm quarantines have been physically and mentally taxing for Cathay Pacific staff who need to fly for their jobs. Dozens of pilots quit in December, according to a Financial Times report.

“It feels like we are permanently in quarantine. There are a lot of pilots at the moment who are on long-term stress leave or sick leave,” one pilot told FT.

The airline said its crew collectively spent 73,000 nights — equivalent to 200 years — in quarantine last year, the AFP reported last week, citing Chairman Patrick Healy. Some 11,000 nights — about 15% of all nights — were at the spartan Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre in Hong Kong.

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