Recent local government mandates regarding COVID-19 testing have created ‘unacceptable’ working conditions, it claims. The FedEx Express unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) recently passed a resolution calling on their company to suspend operations in Hong Kong due to “unacceptable risks” for pilots related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Capt. Dave Chase, ALPA’s Master Executive Council chairman at FedEx, said in a statement:
“Recently, three COVID-19 positive asymptomatic FedEx pilots have been forced into mandated hospital facilities for up to 10 days in Hong Kong. Additionally, several pilots who already tested negative for COVID-19, but who had been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person were put into government camps under extremely difficult conditions.
“Not only do these situations pose unacceptable risks to our pilots’ safety and wellbeing, but they also create added stress and distraction for flight operations. While the COVID-19 global pandemic rages on, FedEx pilots continue to provide essential services, operating in extremely challenging and ever-changing environments and constantly adapting to new government mandates and restrictions around the globe.
“In Hong Kong, recent government mandates regarding COVID-19 testing have created unacceptable conditions for pilots, including our Hong Kong-based pilots and their families. Pilots who test positive for COVID-19 face compulsory admission and treatment in government-selected public hospitals, with as many as five patients to a room with one shared bathroom. In addition, any pilot or family member in Hong Kong found to have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual is placed in a government quarantine facility for up to 14 days with very sparse provisions.”
The statement continued: “We are in contact with FedEx management as we advocate to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of our crewmembers operating in Hong Kong. However, every day that passes with crews being exposed to these conditions is unacceptable.”
According to a report in The South China Morning Post, between 8 July 8 and 28 July, 17 aircrew tested positive for the virus, and of those, eight were pilots.
The report also quoted FedEx who said that the safety and well-being of its employees remained a top priority.
“The situation in Hong Kong is dynamic as the Hong Kong government adapts its policies to prevent a resurgence of the virus there,” it said in a statement. “We are fully engaged with government authorities to support our crew members in situations requiring medical treatment or self-isolation in Hong Kong.
“Our operations in Asia-Pacific are vital to our global network, and we are proud of the way our entire FedEx team has continued to operate through difficult circumstances to keep the global supply chain moving around the world.”
Hong Kong had largely kept the coronavirus pandemic under control until a third wave brought a week of triple-digit infections, with 106 new cases confirmed yesterday, the report noted.
New measures introduced by the Hong Kong government, which took effect on Wednesday, require aircrew to take a virus test before they fly and have proof of a negative result.
But the International Air Transport Association (IATA) insisted aircrew were not a risk as they tend to be“isolated from the general population” and as such it did not support “general testing of crew as a prerequisite,” the report added.