Flight attendants at Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific say they will ‘work to rule’ in an escalating dispute with the airline over working conditions that stops short of a full walkout and strike action.
A spokesperson for the airline, however, said that it expected all scheduled flights to operate as usual and reassured passengers that there “is no need for concern” as a result of the industrial action.
Insiders, though, claim following Cathay Pacific’s strict internal rules or ‘standard operating procedures’ to the letter could quickly impact flight operations and that flights could be delayed or even cancelled as a result of the ‘work to rule’ scheme.
For example, when flight attendants first board an aircraft they are expected to complete security checks within a very tight timeframe before passengers start boarding. Under a ‘work to rule’ process, flight attendants will take their time to complete every check and flag every discrepancy no matter how minor.
Flight attendants at the carrier have grown increasingly weary in recent months about the way their rosters are built and are particularly unhappy about having very short layovers after a long-haul flight.
In some cases, the flight attendants union say crew are arriving at a destination in the morning after operating a red-eye flight and are then flying back to Hong Kong the same day. Cabin crew say they are exhausted and that the airline has failed to address their concerns.
Responding to those complaints, Cathay Pacific says it is listening to the concerns of its flight attendants but that some of the layovers can’t be helped because the airline is still building back its schedule after Hong Kong started to ease its incredibly tight pandemic controls.
Rosters are set to improve in January and the airline says there should be further improvements in February and March.
“We will continue to listen to and act upon feedback from our crew and are grateful for the input they have provided,” a spokesperson for the airline told us. “In addition, the Rostering Focus Group is being set up from January 2023 to provide greater visibility on the construction of rosters,” the statement continued.
“Cathay Pacific is grateful for the hard work and commitment shown by our cabin crew throughout the challenging pandemic years,” the spokesperson said but added that rosters would “not be perfected overnight”.
“We appreciate the patience of our cabin crew,” the emailed statement continued.
The airline added that it anticipated all scheduled flights to operate as usual and said it was “confident” that cabin crew would “continue to work in the same professional manner they have throughout the pandemic.”
Cabin crew at the airline have endured some of the worst pandemic working conditions due to Hong Kong’s failed ‘zero Covid’ policy. Staffers have spent thousands of hours in quarantine and isolation, been subjected to mandatory testing and have been scapegoated as being responsible for Hong Kong’s so-called ‘fifth wave’ COVID outbreak.
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.
“work to rules” is just being a bad flight attendant.