|Update: The transit ban has now been extended till 31 March 2022.|
A few days ago, Bloomberg reported that Hong Kong is set to ban transit passengers from ~150 countries including Singapore- a major headache for anyone with a Cathay Pacific ticket.
The ban has now been confirmed, and it runs from 16 January to 15 February 2022, covering all Group A countries. I’ll spare you the Googling and tell you that if you’re reading this outside of China or Hong Kong, you’re almost certainly in a Group A country.
Hong Kong’s transit ban
Since the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong has mirrored China’s Covid-zero strategy and adopted some of the tightest restrictions anywhere in the world (which ultimately led to the demise of the ATB with Singapore).
It’s now set to get even tighter, with the transit ban cutting off any transit passengers from Group A “high risk” countries until 15 February 2022 at least.
|❓ Group A Countries (warning: long list)|
|Albania, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Curaçao, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Martin (French part), Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Zambia, Zimbabwe|
If I were holding a Cathay Pacific connecting itinerary up till Valentine’s Day (and possibly beyond), I’d start hunting for alternatives now.
Cathay Pacific is already reeling from the previously-announced suspension of flights to Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines, UK and USA that runs from 8-21 January 2022.
The airline recently had to shutter The Pier Business lounge in Hong Kong again, less than eight weeks after reopening it as a dedicated transit lounge. It expects to operate about 2% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity in January (and this was before the transit ban, mind), with further reductions in passenger flights till the end of March 2022.
Don’t forget that Singapore Airlines also operates transit flights through Hong Kong in the form of SQ7/8 from/to San Francisco. During this period, this 3X weekly flight will be operated non-stop, without the Hong Kong stopover.
What to do if you’re affected
My guess is that if you’re based in Singapore and holding on to a Cathay Pacific ticket, you probably intended to fly to the USA or Canada (since Hong Kong is a natural transit point for those destinations). If so, you may already have been affected by the flight suspension.
But the flight suspension only affected departures until 21 January 2022, while the transit ban stretches until 15 February 2022. It means additional passengers will be affected, and if that includes you then Cathay Pacific will reach with options including rebooking, obtaining a Cathay Credit or requesting a full refund. I’d highly recommend you take the refund.
If you’re on SQ7/8, you can expect Singapore Airlines to offer you reaccommodation on one of their non-stop flights to SFO at the very least.
Hong Kong has implemented a transit passenger ban that affects pretty much the entire world, and if your travel plans included Cathay Pacific, you might want to start researching alternatives now.
Hong Kong residents are already facing tightened measures for the next few weeks, with dining in terminating at 6 p.m, gyms, museums, cinemas, and sports centres closed, and cruises to nowhere suspended (which might explain why Spectrum of the Seas is coming to Singapore six months ahead of schedule).
It just goes to show the potential pitfalls of booking transit itineraries in the current environment, and it might not be the worst idea stick to non-stop flights with Singapore Airlines for the moment.