Cathay Pacific told pilots and flight attendants on Thursday that their employment with the airline would be reviewed and could be terminated if they have not had a COVID-19 vaccine by August. The policy shift is a major toughening of the Hong Kong-based airline’s attitude towards vaccines which previously encouraged but did not mandate inoculation.
“We understand there will be some (aircrew) who cannot take a vaccine and we will look into accommodating them on a short-term basis where we can,” a spokesperson for Cathay Pacific said.
“However, we will review the future employment of those who are unable to become vaccinated and assess whether they can continue to be employed as aircrew with Cathay Pacific.”
The airline said around 90 per cent of pilots had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 and around 65 per cent of cabin crew had either had the jab or had booked an appointment to be vaccinated.
The number of cabin crew willing to have the vaccine has increased by around 15 per cent since early June when Cathay Pacific attempted to coax staff into getting vaccinated by running a competition for frequent flyer miles and “other goodies”.
Cathay has also been offering a free pre-vaccination medical to assuage fears that some staff have about the vaccine.
First reported by the South China Morning Press, the policy shift is believed to have come about because the airline is struggling to roster flights with a mix of vaccinated and non-vaccinated staff.
Hong Kong has some of the toughest quarantine rules in the world, but the rules have been slightly eased for aircrew who are vaccinated. Fully vaccinated cabin crew are also required to work on flights to certain high-risk destinations and on quarantine-free travel bubble flights.
Back in February, Etihad Airways became the first airline in the world to only have fully vaccinated pilots and cabin crew on all flights. The Abu Dhabi-based airline previously told staff to get vaccinated or go without pay if they contracted COVID-19.
Emirates in neighbouring Dubai does not mandate vaccination for staff but crew who choose not to get vaccinated or cannot be due to medical reasons must pay for regular PCR tests.
Earlier this week, United Airlines said only vaccinated flight attendants would be allowed to work on flights to a small number of high-risk destinations. The new rules will come into force in August and will apply to pilots and flight attendants due to work flights to India, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Argentina.
By Joe Cusmano