Cathay Pacific has announced it will suspend its services to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth from 20 February.
The airline said the move is in response to new rules by the Hong Kong government requiring cabin crew to undertake 14 days of hotel quarantine plus seven days of medical surveillance after coming off duty.
Cathay will, however, maintain its five weekly flights to Sydney and the suspension is thought to be temporary.
“We are actively managing our crew resources to plan for our flight services for March 2021,” said the business in a statement.
The announcement is the latest blow for Australians abroad trying to return home, after Emirates pulled its flights from the UK following the country halting inbound commercial flights from the UAE.
It also comes despite Australia being set to imminently return to its higher December 2020 levels.
The levels were cut at the start of 2021 following a second COVID cluster in Sydney and following worries that more transmissible international variants of the virus could leak into the community.
From 15 February, NSW will return to its weekly cap of 3,010 and Queensland to 1,000. In full, the new limits are:
- NSW 3,010 (now 1,505);
- Queensland 1,000 (now 500);
- Victoria 1,310 (now 1,120);
- SA 530 (now 490);
- WA 512 (now 512);
- Total 6,362 (now 4,127).
In January, the temporary cuts formed part of the biggest overhaul of the quarantine program since its inception, and also include a provision for passengers to wear masks on all domestic and international flights; for hotel staff to be tested daily and for ex-pats to require a negative result before boarding a repatriation flight.
Arrival caps were introduced in July and sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021.
Meanwhile, in September, World of Aviation reported how Cathay would ground two-fifths of its passenger fleet for the “foreseeable future”, in a move it deems necessary in order “to survive and thrive” into the future. The Hong Kong flag carrier said it would park 72 of its aircraft, making up 40 per cent of its fleet, outside of Hong Kong as it waited for demand conditions to improve.