British Airways Flight Attendants Held In Hong Kong 14 Day Forced Government Quarantine

Hong Kong is closer to China than the U.S. in its loss of freedoms as well as its coronavirus response. In July an outbreak was (perhaps erroneously) blamed on foreign airline crew, exempt from quarantine, visiting the city. Most countries exempt airline crew from quarantine requirements, but Hong Kong no longer does, requiring testing on arrival and sequestering themselves from locals.

Shortly after new rules were imposed FedEx pilots called for a halt to operations to and from Hong Kong while UPS pilots sought the right to opt out of Bangkok assignments.

A group of British Airways flight attendants have found themselves ensnared in Hong Kong’s ever-changing rules, held in government quarantine for 14 days.

Flight Attendant Ellie Freeman Worked BA Flight 31

One flight attendant tested positive on arrival. That person is supposed to be taken to a medical facility. But even though other crewmembers tested negative, BA employees “were marched from their hotel and taken to a [government quarantine] compound.” Oddly, pilots from the Monday’s flight BA31 were allowed to return to London.

  • The flight attendant who tested positive is asymptomatic, and “is locked in with CCTV watching her.”

  • The rest of the cabin crew are being held in a compound that the British Airways pilots union says has “dangerous electrical wiring and blocked fire escapes.” Members of the Mixed Fleet crew were taken from the SkyCity Marriott near the airport.

    Footage shared to social media by Ellie Freeman, a stewardess currently confined to the “prison-like” isolation centre, shows the basic bedrooms allocated to staff equipped with a tiny bathroom housing a shower head and a plastic tub for bathing.

    ……In a rant on Snapchat she told how she had been given just 30 minutes notice to pack essentials before crew were carted off to “a literal concentration camp”.

    Staff were fed cups of noodles and crackers and had to select their fortnight’s worth of meals from a grim menu featuring mainly boiled eggs and vegetables.

  • Quarantine expenses are on the cabin crew, “a single sanitary towel” costs ~ US$8. However “[a]irline executives have arranged for toiletries and pyjamas to be sent” to them.

Quarantine Room, Credit: Ellie Freeman, Snapchat

Ellie Freeman, Snapchat

According to British Airways shrugs,

We are in regular contact with our crew who are quarantining in line with local Covid regulations, and providing extra supplies to make their stay as comfortable as possible.

We work closely with governments in every country we fly to, and will always put the safety and wellbeing of our teams and customers at the heart of everything we do.

I’ve written for months that the biggest risk in travel now is regime uncertainty. Rules can change from the time you plan a trip to when it comes time to travel. That’s true both for where you’re going, and for where you’ll return to – for instance a New Yorker may find that while they’re gone the place they’re staying is added to a quarantine list, requiring 14 days at home when they come back.

In Hong Kong quarantine isn’t 14 days at home, or even in a hotel as in Hawaii. It’s in a monitored government facility. And you can wind up there even if you don’t have Covid-19, merely traveling with someone who does.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You scared me I won’t be returning to Hong Kong anytime soon
    Looks like a foreign prison
    How horrible

  2. Good to know Hong Kong is finally implementing strict quarantine procedures. Time for the west to learn how pandemic should be tackled in an responsible and efficient way.

  3. We should call it prison or jail.

    These so called success stories of covid countries are basically due to extreme autocratic rules that are mailing healthy people for no reason. Even the FA who tested positive isn’t really sick.

  4. When conservatives fight for freedom at home from infringements on free speech, gun rights, religious freedom, school choice (the left wants to ban home schooling too), excessive coronavirus restrictions (cops arresting people for visiting friends and family on private property), and economic freedom (freedom from overregulation and taxation), give them a thanks. We hopefully one day will add the fight against the war on drugs, seat belt laws, and other nanny state laws to the list.

    We see what happens when leftists push to give the government more power over our lives and what happens when we have big government bureaucracy. They use an overhyped coronavirus as an excuse or overhyped climate change. What’s sad is most people in Hong Kong complain about the Chinese government but when they immigrate to the U.S. or Canada 80% of them vote for politicians who push the same policies as the communist Chinese.

    All that has been going on with China for the last two years has taken China off my list. There is no reason to go there. I don’t care to visit polluted cities. Hong Kong just as well. If the U.S. completely decoupled itself from China, it would only make the world a better place. White westerners don’t need China. We enriched them for 40 years by destroying our manufacturing base in the states. I do like NIO as they are a Chinese company selling Chinese made cars to the Chinese. I’ll invest that way instead of American companies who sold out.

    What is happening to these flight attendants is horrible. However, millions in the West face much worse because of the ridiculous war on drugs, speech control, and nanny state laws. A lot of draconian laws and enforcement exist at home. Look at what Hawaii with American citizen tourists during coronavirus. Maybe Hawaii should gain its independence and stop native Hawaiians from pushing this nonsense in the federal judiciary and Senate.

  5. We are not giving this COVID virus enough credit. It is smart enough to know to avoid the BA pilots who were allowed to fly home and presumably fly another revenue-generating flight for BA. It’s amazing how the virus only targeted the cabin crew and not the flight crew. This virus is a lot smarter than we are giving credit.

  6. Hong Kong: 7 new cases yesterday, 674 cases per million people all time, 7.5 million population
    UK: 6208 new cases yesterday, 6267 cases per million people, 67.9 million population.

    Sure, let’s focus on the “poor” BA flight attendant who might have infected dozens of passengers. The dead can’t talk.

  7. Hong Kong: 7 new cases yesterday, 674 cases per million people all time, 7.5 million population
    UK: 6208 new cases yesterday, 6267 cases per million people, 67.9 million population.

    Sure, let’s focus on the “poor” BA flight attendant who might have infected dozens of passengers. The dead can’t talk.

  8. Why isn’t the news actually that one BA flight attendant, on duty, has COVID? This is so appalling and totally irresponsible to the customers and colleagues…

    By the way, quarantine at home makes no sense, and enforced quarantine at a hotel is the absolute bare minimum, if stopping COVID is the objective. The quality of that hotel admittedly differs a lot…

  9. @Jackson Henderson – since you’re clearly here to be a provocateur…

    Just give it up we are mostly here to get information on flying – Your poorly written and poorly thought screeds only help your small penis and small brain feel better.

    I was in SLC on Sunday – NO GD Nanny State Helmet laws … what does my 8 yr old niece get to see an A hole on a motorcycle lose control and scrape his brains across the tarmac.

    Free Speech – is “FREE” as long as you are willing to suffer the consequences of that Free Speech. If don’t care for what you say I don’t have to rent to you, I don’t have to let you in my office, I don’t have to help you in any way whatsoever.

    Gun rights, religious freedom, school choice – No fucking a-hole needs a gun that can mow down an entire kindergarten –

    I personally own two guns … but someone who needs to open carry is trying to make up for deficits elsewhere..

    Religious Freedom – as you well know is that there is NOT a Government Religion… Not so you can’t impose your version of religion on me. (Unlike the Sec State and other Dominionists keep trying)

    School Choice is great you chose – you pay for it – as I did for my son.

    I did my duty as a citizen paid my taxes and educated other peoples kids, built roads etc. etc. Because the future depends on people having a decent education.

    However I ponied up to send my son to a Jewish day school and then onward to a Catholic prepatory. Before Universities BS, MS, MD

    TLDR: Your shit and your copy paste Bullshit stink – Go away … You small minded fool.

  10. If that’s the policy, what’s to blame? You should know the policy before u fly to work in such a time.

    Plus being asymptomatic or not doesn’t really matter, if u have it, u have it, u can still spread.

    Feel bad for the FA but u shud know that might be coming.

  11. The logic of what HK is doing certainly makes sense – that’s what being in quarantine means and that’s the risk we all take now, whether travelling or even at home. The issue is with the type of accommodation – HK provides what looks like Western eyes to be akin to a prison; it could have sequestered a Marriott and provided full room service, obviously at the expense of those locked up there (in this case BA would pay). Or even given people a choice of a prison-like accommodation, a 3 star hotel, a 4 star hotel or a 5 star hotel.

    We can argue whether requiring quarantine is correct or not, but if it’s decided that this is the way to go, then it clearly needs to be implemented fully and that means no going out and no meeting people- and no exceptions.

  12. Quoting “The Sun” is like quoting The National Inquirer.

    It is not just gutter press, but absolute putrid sewer press.

    Just don’t do it. I say this as helpful feedback rather than a demand

  13. They have every right to enforce a quarantine. I don’t object to that. They have no right to make it a prison. Hong Kong should provide for decent accommodations. Anyone else think it is also revolting that they have CCTV watching her? They could simply monitor the door. And the fact that BA is putting out PR fluff instead of fighting for its crew tells me more than I need to know about that airline.

  14. BA could have avoided this by doing what many other Western carriers have been doing on their flights to HK and China – adding an intermediate stop on the way to HKG or PVG or PEK to switch out crews so crews do not have to overnight in HK or China. UA now flies to PVG via ICN, and to HKG via GUM or NRT; DL flies to PVG via ICN; AA to HKG via NRT. KL is doing AMS-HKG via BKK; AF’s CDG-PVG goes via ICN, etc.

  15. What about all the other people on the plane? Weren’t they also just as exposed as the crew? Kinda silly that BA is having crew overnight in China putting them at risk for this. They aren’t testing FAs before having them go out on long haul flights though?

  16. @ Greg your statement is somewhat biased. While the measures may seem harsh, the Chinese people well have been ruled for a long time. Their “success” means they have more economic activity and less deaths than those countries with more freedom.

  17. First, I am no fan of the current Hong Kong government but the third wave of Covid-19 cases was partially blamed on some sailors in transit in HK. [For those who wants details, you can go to department of health website in HK and all the cases are listed numerically. I think the case listed here is 5051 arriving in HK on 9/22, and there are two probable cases for BA 31 on 9/24 too.] I also think the third wave has something to do with relax of rules too regarding indoor dining and entertainment venues too, but unfortunately, the situation with sailors freak people out too. There are also HK based pilots infected with Covid-19. However the Covid-19 rules here are pretty clear by now. Sure there were some confusions in July, but ultimately, every airlines are all notified about the requirements regarding testing now. Most US Airlines have chose to delay passenger flights, and all their cargo flights are routed via Guam or Tokyo now to avoid the crews overnighting at HK. Emirates and KLM are also routing their flights via Bangkok too to avoid the testing issues. ANA and JAL adjust their schedules so their crews no longer need to overnight in HK. British Airways should have warned the crews and provide the relative testing prior to their departure. Anyway with UK joining the high risk countries list on October 1, all UK crews will have to get a negative 72 hours Covid-19 tests prior to boarding, and these same issues will be unlikely to happen again. But I wonder if BA and Virgin will add a stop on their HK flights now to avoid the crew quarantine issues.

    Second, most of us here in US will find the rules in Hong Kong very strict, but we have to remember that Hong Kong has gone through a very traumatic experience with SARS in 2003. It was one of the most painful chapter in the short history of this modern city. Many doctors, nurses, staffs and people lost their lives, and the economy went through a dive here. That experience explains how most Hong Kong people regardless of their political belief will never question medical experts. Indeed I will argue that Hong Kong protects itself successful from Covid-19 because the people take more actions than the government requires. They don’t trust the Chinese government with the info so people locked down themselves without anyone telling them and took extra actions. Everyone has masks stocked and no one questions the usefulness of masks. People knew that they need to stay home and stop going out for meals. One can argue the rules are dragonian here but the locals are not going to risk the same death rate as last time. Most of us here in the West must remember that Hong Kong was dealt a very bad hand before, so the rules will also get tougher here even compared to other Asian countries. As of now, Hong Kong will close to the outside world till the end of the year, and UK will join the list of high risk countries (US and India are on the list too) on October 1. HK residents returning from those areas will face tougher quarantine rules. Honestly, I don’t see any tourists coming to Hong Kong until mid 2021 the earliest.

    Finally, I don’t know the logic of putting the whole flight crew (but excluding the pilots) on quarantine makes sense, but they are definitely not in a concentration camp. While it is no Hilton or Sheraton or Marriott, they are provided with basic accommodation and food – there is a menu with four choices of meals. Their friends in HK and British Airways can still send them additional food and items.

    As of now, it is clear that there is a big difference on how Americans and the rest of the world views Covid-19 and I will argue that the US and Asia are in the opposite ends, and the result is clear with the infection and death rate. That also explains how different governments view travels and tourism. Airlines can’t really influence these rules so they just have to deal with it accordingly. I suspect that both American and United might just delay its passenger service returning to Hong Kong further [United will resume its daily SFO flight on November 2 and American will resume its DFW flight on December 19]. They are both running multiple daily cargo only flights now via Tokyo or Guam, so they can just continue those flights. I still think United will start earlier because they don’t any Star Alliance partner now linking HK and the US, and they may just add an intermediate stop just like their current flights to China to avoid crew overnighting in China/Hong Kong in the short term. American possibly will just delay further with CX as their partner. For BA and VS, it will be interesting to see what their next step is, as their Hong Kong to London flights are still doing very well. UK will be on the high risk list next Thursday [10/1].

  18. Let me explain the current quarantine system in HK. Anybody entering HK can choose to either self quarantine at home for 14 days or a hotel of your choice. The only time that someone needs to quarantine at the government facility center are people coming from high risk region or in this case, people who came into close contact of an infected. The reason is HK is a highly dense city. People lives in apartments high buildings. If those people who came into contact with infected are not isolated in a center, there is always a high risk they can transmit to the neighbours through common public areas such as elevators. Only testing it’s not enough due to incubation period.

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, HK had never imposed any lockdown or shelter in place unlike many other countries. The reason we had a 3rd wave was because of the aircrew members and people working on ship. They were exempt from testing and that’s why were able to import the virus asymptomatic while entering the city. Ever since the HK government find out the loophole, they started to test all crew members since early July. In Singapore, a few months ago when they found out people working on ship imported the virus they just temporary ban them. In HK we didn’t, we just required testing to the crew members in order to protect HK residents. People should stop politicise or criticise how others combat the virus. Pretty much HK government is just trying to contact tracing, isolate and treat, in hope that they can eradicate the virus so there is no local cases.

  19. I feel for the Crew as if they have not gone through enough. Airline cut backs being on “house arrest” . British Airways Crews are like the rest of us holding onto dreams that made our lives worth while. I pray for them and that they are either home or soon to be home . Life certainly has changed. I hope that the Coronavirus is finally addressed and we do not live in Fear . God Bless

  20. *Revised: people coming from high risk region to HK must quarantine in a hotel of your choice.

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