Air India Receives 5th Hong Kong Ban

Air India has received its 5th ban from flying to Hong Kong after carrying multiple positive passengers on two consecutive flights. Air India is now barred from flying from Delhi to Hong Kong for two weeks, from November 20th to December 3rd. The airline has struggled with bans in other countries as well, as cases remain high in India.

Air India is facing another from Hong Kong this week. Photo: Getty Images

Another week, another ban

Air India received a two-week ban this week after two subsequent flights on November 10th and 17th violated the city’s COVID-19 rules. Both flights had three positive passengers, triggering the automatic ban (more passengers on the 17th flight had since tested positive).

As mentioned, this is Air India’s fifth ban from Hong Kong in six months since flights resumed in May. This means the airline will spend roughly 10 of the last 30 weeks under a ban for carrying too many COVID-19 passengers on each flight. Four of these bans have been for the Delhi-Hong Kong route, while one was for the Mumbai-Hong Kong route.

Air India Boeing 777-300ER
Air India has received repeated bans for carrying too many COVID-19 passengers. Photo: Getty Images

In total, Air India has imported 87 cases to Hong Kong. The airline received its first ban on August 18th after carrying a startling 16 positive cases on the previous flight. The next few flights have seen lower numbers but still high enough to trigger a ban.

Could Hong Kong tighten the rules?

Considering the recurrence of the ban, Hong Kong might consider stricter pre-flight testing rules. Currently, passengers flying from India must show a negative RT-PCR test taken in the last 72 hours to fly. However, this requirement has still allowed dozens of positive passengers to slip through in the last few months, even on flights to other countries.

COVID testing at airport
Airport testing is one way to ensure passenger safety and prevent imported cases. Photo: Getty Images

Dubai recently made a move to ban tests from specific Indian laboratories, citing them to be inaccurate. A more long-term solution would be introducing a pre-flight screening for all passengers. This would mean passengers are tested at the airport before boarding using rapid or regular tests. Currently, both Delhi and Mumbai offering airport COVID-19 testing services.

Whose fault is it?

Another important question is who is to blame for these bans: the airline or the passengers? Speaking to the Times of India, an Air India spokesperson said,

Only passengers with Covid negative reports are being allowed to board from any destination in India. Another mandatory Covid-19 test is carried out for passengers after landing in Hong Kong and reports of the same may be at variance from the reports of tests conducted 72 hours before taking the flight. Hence, Air India cannot be held responsible for any lacunae on the issue of passenger test reports.

Air India Hong Kong
Is Air India or passengers to blame for the bans? Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons

While Air India could apply more rigorous testing standards, it is impossible for them to control each passenger’s actions. Regardless of who is to blame, Air India must find a better way of testing to avoid yet another ban in the next few months.

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