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Proud to be flying, proud to be helping Hong Kong

Despite the hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, our people went above and beyond to serve the city they love. One pilot tells his story

To say the years 2020 to 2021 were difficult is an understatement, particularly for our cockpit and cabin crew. But in the face of adversity, our people stepped up to the challenge in order to keep Hong Kong safe, and displayed a level of commitment beyond their normal jobs for which we are incredibly proud and grateful.

“For me the motivations were very clear,” said Cathay Pacific Cargo pilot William Pombo Garcia. “We were trying to do our bit to help the community and keep Hong Kong running, and to try and get back to normal life. The more we flew, and the more vaccines we delivered, the closer we got to get our lives back.”

William remembers the surreal experience of delivering one of the first batches of the Pfizer vaccine from Frankfurt to Hong Kong in January 2021, when Europe was in a full lockdown.

“It was a very strange experience because there was no-one flying, the airspaces were completely empty - same as the airports. Frankfurt is usually one of the most active airports in Europe but we were getting cleared from 200 kilometres out because there was no one around.”

“We didn’t know as much about the virus back then - how it developed, how it behaved – and it felt like we were on a mission, kind of on the front line facing the virus. That felt very rewarding, because we knew we were helping people and that it was important for society back in Hong Kong.”

Fast forward a year, and the extended uncertainty had been difficult for everyone.

“No one knew what was going to happen, or how many months we could keep going like this. When the Closed Loop cycles were introduced in February 2021, they were supposed to be in place for one or two cycles. Even a year later, they were re-introduced to the freighters.”

“But one thing I want to highlight was the professionalism of the crew. We’ve had to deal with a lot of changes and uncertainty. I personally spent around 100 days in quarantine in 2021, and I don’t even know how many tests I’ve done - maybe 300? Other people had it even worse - some people didn’t see their family for two years.”

“Yet the way everyone responded was quite amazing. From day one, everyone remained incredibly professional, conducting everything in a safe, methodical manner, and showing outstanding mental health resilience in coping with the challenges.”

But William was still keen to take some positivity from a difficult situation.

“The pandemic has forced me to face a new ‘me’,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that I’m still here with the energy to keep serving the community. The support my wife gave me every day was essential, but aside from that what kept me going was the knowledge that we’re doing something important for society and the hope of returning to normal life.”

How we’re flying

Learn how our employees made a difference for our customers and our communities.

  • What is the Closed Loop?

    All about the roster system that has seen our people spend up to 49 days away from loved ones.

    Read more
  • Getting Fly Ready

    How one team created a new portal to help customers deal with an influx of new travel restrictions. 

    Read more
  • Diary of a Closed Loop

    One Cathay Pacific pilot shares his diary of life inside the five-week Closed Loop system.

    Read more
  • Parking and reactivation: How we stored aircraft during the pandemic

    How we stored over 70 of our most valuable assets in Alice Springs, in the Australian desert.

    Read more