Cathay Pacific has been ordered to pay a former office manager at its now-shuttered Vancouver cabin crew base CAD $170,000 in severance after a Canadian employment judge ruled the airline should pay its former employee 19 months’ worth of wages as damages.
Frances Turcic Okano had worked for Cathay Pacific for nearly 35 years when the airline made the decision to close its Vancouver base during the midst of the pandemic. She was given just two months’ redundancy notice when she was told in October 2020 that the office would be permanently closed.
By this time, Cathay Pacific had already closed another cabin crew base in Toronto, as well as three U.S. crew bases in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Already reeling from months-long anti-government protests in Hong Kong through 2019, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 created a full-blown crisis for Cathay Pacific as travel demand evaporated overnight.
The airline embarked on a major cost-cutting program, with overseas stations immediately earmarked for closure as Cathay Pacific consolidated its operations at home.
Although the Vancouver base was put on notice of possible closure as early as March 2020, the final decision wasn’t made for another eight months and Okano was paid a three-month severance package of $31,613.72 as required by the Canada Labour Code in early 2021.
Okano had been offered an additional severance package by Cathay Pacific but she rejected it on the grounds that she believed she should be awarded more.
Cathay Pacific admitted Okano was entitled to damages for wrongful dismissal but argued for 18 to 20 months’ worth of salary in lieu of notice, rather than the 24 to 26 months’ worth of salary that Okano was claiming.
Supreme Court Justice Gordon C. Weatherill ruled that Okano was entitled to 24 months’ compensation in lieu of notice but reduced that figure by three months because Okano had not made “reasonable steps” to secure a new job.
The total amount of compensation awarded to Okano was $168,609.28 plus $1,764 in special damages that covered a leadership course Okano took to improve her résumé.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
Good for her. Most of the time foreign companies think they can get away with not following local labour laws.