Hong Kong Authorities have banned British Airways from operating flights to HKIA until December 25, 2020 after the airline transported four positive Covid-19 passengers to the city on board one of their flights and failed to properly check documents before departure.
Both carriers are now affected by the restrictions, KLM is banned from flying to Hong Kong for the coming two weeks until December 17th and British Airways isn’t allowed to operate any London-Hong Kong flights until December 25th.
SCMP reported last night about both incidents.
Holiday plans have been thrown into disarray for many returning students after the Hong Kong authorities banned British Airways from flying to the city for two weeks, with the carrier falling foul of new, stricter Covid-19 control rules.
The British flag carrier, a popular choice with Hong Kong students studying abroad, was hit with the ban after four passengers were found to be infected with Covid-19 on arrival at the city’s airport, according to a government statement.
The punishment was triggered after the airline improperly checked one passenger’s documents in London, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The ban was understood to have caused havoc for many students booked to fly back to Hong Kong.
In a late-night statement, the Department of Health said four passengers who arrived on flight BA27 from London on Tuesday were confirmed to have Covid-19 while one person failed to comply with requirements.
The department said it “thus invoked the regulation to prohibit landing of passenger flights from London operated by BA in Hong Kong from December 12 to 25”. …
The carrier said it was contacting its affected customers to apologise and offer the option of flying with another airline, BA flights at a later date or a full refund.
Flights from Hong Kong to London were unaffected by the ban and would operate as normal, the airline said.
So British Airways is going to fly empty planes to Hong Kong for two weeks in order to take passengers back to London. I’d love to know their load numbers on the HKG-LHR route if that even makes sense. The numbers must work in their favor otherwise they’d just cancel the route altogether but of course it’s Christmas and many people are traveling between the two cities for the holidays.
British Airways and KLM aren’t the only carriers affected by this. Emirates is still banned from Hong Kong as well for their ex Dubai and Bangkok route. Previously the authorities blocked Air India and their very own Cathay Dragon for the Kuala Lumpur route.
While this is certainly a measure that puts pressure on the airlines to comply with regulations I can’t help but wonder how arbitrarily the rule is applied. Is it really effective to prevent imports of Covid-19 cases into Hong Kong or does it just add an administrative layer?
In the very least airlines should check documents properly at the point of origin otherwise they are on the hook for penalties and care of the passenger which often becomes a tricky subject these days. Should passengers be deemed inadmissible at the destination country but also can’t go back to their origin because that’s not the country of their citizenship that poses a significant problem.
John recently encountered such a case with a passenger who flew from Thailand via Japan to a third country but he didn’t have proper documentation for his destination which the staff at Bangkok failed to notice. From what John said the airline (ANA) worked out an exception with Immigration to get the passenger to a hotel and likely medical facility to continue his journey the next day/s.
Passengers won’t be able to take British Airways from London to Hong Kong until Christmas Day and the airline is offering rebookings including to other airlines or refunds as remedy for this situation.
Those who have a flight from Hong Kong to London on BA will be able to fly as scheduled as the airline as per the SCMP article says they will keep operating these flights. I would nevertheless recommend to keep a close eye on your schedule should any flight be cancelled on short notice.