Turkish Airlines, PAL Pause Flights to Hong Kong

Both carriers have been banned from carrying passengers into the territory until September 11.

A Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. (Photo: N509FZ/Wikimedia Commons)

Travelers bound for Hong Kong face even more uncertainty these days, as there is always the possibility that their chosen airline could be penalized with a temporary ban for bringing in too many Covid-positive arrivals at any one time. Health authorities say that on each of two flights arriving on August 27 — Philippine Airlines flight PR300 from Manila and Turkish Airlines flight TK83 from Istanbul — three passengers were found to be infected with Covid-19 through on-arrival PCR tests, triggering a two-week suspension for both carriers on their respective routes until September 11. The number of confirmed cases traced to that Turkish Airlines flight has since grown to seven, of which four were seated in the same row; five were subsequently detected during hotel quarantine. A previous ban on Turkish Airlines’ passenger services from Istanbul only ended on August 17.

According to its latest international schedules, Turkey’s flag carrier has been deploying Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to fly four times a week from Istanbul on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, departing 1:45 a.m. to reach Hong Kong at 8:40 p.m. local time after 13 hours and 55 minutes in the air. Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines operates an Airbus A321 for thrice-weekly services on the Manila–Hong Kong route, with departures scheduled on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings; these flights leave Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:55 a.m. and touch down in Hong Kong at 9:55 a.m.

Hong Kong’s government has recently changed some of its entry rules and restrictions; countries are no longer subject to blanket flight bans (regardless of the airline) if a more infectious coronavirus variant shows up in five or more passengers from any given place within a seven-day period. However, Turkey and the Philippines both fall into the high-risk category, which means that only fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents — and in the case of the Philippines, inoculated domestic workers — can board flights to the territory.

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