It has been alleged that as many as 200 flight attendants at Cathay Pacific and its regional subsidiary Cathay Dragon have now been sacked in a major clampdown on anyone who questions mainland Chinese rule. The Hong Kong-based airline has told us that it does “not comment on internal employee matters” but that this number is “inaccurate”.
One ex-flight attendant who spoke on condition of anonymity to a Taiwanese newspaper told of how she had been fired for a social media post she made on her Facebook profile in July. She says she never incited anyone to take part in illegal protests and was simply expressing her freedom of speech.
The flight attendant claims that groups of up to 20 staffers are being sacked at a time for alleged breaches of the airline’s social media policy. In one case, a veteran flight attendant who had worked for the carrier for more than 20 years is alleged to have been fired for showing sympathy for massive months-long protests that have gripped Hong Kong.
She also claims that many flight attendants fear every flight might be their last because colleagues will report any minor indiscretion that could result in dismissal. It’s even alleged that some flight attendants have been secretly recording conversations that are then immediately shared with airline managers.
Echoing concerns already shared by other insiders, the source says that morale and trust have hit an all-time low. The Cathay Pacific flight attendants union says crew are being “unreasonably” sacked but estimates of 200 dismissals may be an exaggeration.
In a previously released statement, Cathay Pacific says that it is “committed to creating an environment which our colleagues are encouraged and protected to share any potential risk about safety and security.”
The airline said its Code of Conduct “covers a wide spectrum of areas” including private social media posts made by its employees, as well as any other conduct that may affect the company’s interests.
Cathay Pacific has been put on notice by mainland Chinese authorities to curtail any behaviour by staffers that would be seen to be supporting the protest movement. China’s civil aviation regulator claims Cathay Pacific was putting safety and security at risk if it failed to carry out a clampdown after the airline initially showed indifference to staff taking part in protests.
“Earlier this month (August), the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued a directive with regards to new safety and security measures with which we are required to fully comply,” the airline explained.
“We fully support the upholding of the Basic Law and all the rights and freedoms afforded by it. At the same time, we are also required to adhere to all of our regulatory duties, including those prescribed by the authorities in mainland China. The airline must do this; there is no ground for compromise.”
Last month, dozens of flight attendants were suspended when emergency crew oxygen bottles were found empty of several planes. The airline called in the police to investigate but has not yet said who it thinks was behind the incidents.
The head of Cathay Dragon’s flight attendants union, Rebecca Sy was also sacked last month for a post she put on her Facebook profile in support of the protest movement. A Cathay Pacific captain was also sacked after he was charged with rioting, while another pilot was fired was saying anti-Beijing slogans over the public address system during a flight.