Emirates has found itself in the middle of another flag controversy after the Dubai-based airline displayed the flag of North Korea during a cabin crew graduation ceremony while a flight attendant from South Korea was receiving her crew diploma.
The embarrassing incident was flagged by the popular cabin crew Facebook page ‘A Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge’, which shared a leaked photo of newly graduated Emirates cabin crew lined up in front of a photo of the North Korean flag.
Emirates does not fly to North Korea, and while the airline hires cabin crew from around the world, it does not send recruiters to North Korea.
On the face of it, it would appear that someone accidentally used the wrong flag for the graduation ceremony, perhaps after using Google to get a photo of a Korean flag without specifying whether they meant North or South Korea.
This isn’t the first time that Emirates has found itself in hot water over the use of country flags. For many years, the carrier used country flag pins as part of the cabin crew uniform so that flight attendants could show off where in the world they came from.
Emirates cabin crew represent 140 nationalities, but several years ago, Chinese officials discovered that cabin crew from Taiwan were wearing the flag of the Republic of China, known as the ‘white sun in a blue sky, and a wholly red earth’.
The flag is controversial because it is used to symbolise Taiwan’s independent governance. The People’s Republic of China has, however, long laid claim to Taiwan, and Beijing frequently takes issues with organisations and governments that support Taiwan’s claim to independence or suggest that the island is separate from the rest of China.
Chinese officials effectively threatened Emirates with sanctions because cabin crew of Taiwanese descent were wearing the ‘white sun in a blue sky, and a wholly red earth’ flag on their lapels.
As a result, Emirates initially asked its cabin crew from Taiwan to wear the flag of the People’s Republic of China, but when crew members objected, the airline then decided just to ditch the flag pins altogether.
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.