Cathay Pacific draws backlash over protests

By Wang Yi and Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/7 16:38:41 Last Updated: 2019/8/8 7:20:20

Mainland Net users slam airline for discrimination, call for a boycott

The Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd logo is displayed atop a building at Cathay Pacific City, the company's headquarters, in Hong Kong in August, 2018. Photo:VCG

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways has been harshly criticized for tacitly encouraging anti-government strikes, taking part in protests and leaking confidential customer information. More Chinese internet users are calling for a boycott of the airline.

Anger shows no signs of easing though the company apologized on Wednesday for an inappropriate leak of a group of Hong Kong police officers' flight information by one staff member.

Flight information of a Hong Kong police soccer team that flew to Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, was exposed online, posts and photos circulated online on Tuesday showed. 

"Dirty cops are going to play soccer," an internet user said in a WhatsApp group chat when posting the information.

As protests in Hong Kong have turned more violent with clashes breaking out between radical protesters and the police officers, Hong Kong police have increasingly become a major target, as police increasingly try to keep public order.

The Global Times saw some posts allegedly written by Cathay Pacific employees circulating online, reflecting their support for anti-government protesters. Leaking police information is another way of helping protesters harass police officers.

Since June 9, personal data of more than 1,200 Hong Kong police officers and their families have been leaked online, including their phone numbers, addresses and ID numbers.

The police said they will not tolerate any illegal acts such as intimidation or breaches of personal data and privacy.

Cathay Pacific told the Global Times in a statement on Wednesday that the company is aware of the inappropriate behavior of an employee.

The company expressed its "sincere apologies on this issue," and said it is conducting an internal investigation.

Members of the Marco Polo Club, a Cathay Pacific client club, issued a statement on Wednesday, saying they are concerned about the leak and urged the airline to reveal the result of the investigation.

Whether a satisfactory plan is issued before August 11 will influence their trust in the company, the statement said.

A Cathay Pacific Airways Boeing 777-300ER (B-KQX) wide-body jet takes off from Vancouver Internationl Airport in January. Photo: VCG

Paying a price

Chinese Net users were shocked and furious, slamming the "vicious behavior" after the case was revealed Wednesday morning. Some called for a boycott of the airline. 

"It is not only a matter of professional ethics, it's illegal! Any company with such behavior should be severely punished," said Sina Weibo user. 

"That is terrible; those who divulge passengers' personal information should be put in prison! I will never take their flights anymore," said another netizen.

Cathay Pacific will pay a painful price for its actions and position on the riots in Hong Kong, as there have been similar cases when companies were punished for not complying with business integrity and ethics in China, observers said, citing the case of FedEx.

"There is no excuse for the airline not to do its duty," Qi Qi, an independent market watcher, told the Global Times.

"Leaking passengers' private information is illegal. Cathay Pacific should make immediate moves once the matter is verified," Qi said.

As an international company, Cathay Pacific should clear clarify its stance and to stop encouraging its employees to hurt passengers' interests and rights, Qi added.

A Net user posted pictures of three cities' introduction from Cathy Pacific's seat screen, which wrongly implied that Hong Kong and Taiwan are independent countries.   

Chinese netizens also criticized the airline for alleged discrimination against Chinese mainland passengers, as many netizens called Cathy Pacific "arrogant and snobbish" for its different attitude in services to passengers who cannot speak English or Cantonese.  

"They were so indifferent and impolite to me and others who can only speak Putonghua, and they ignored me and refused to serve me a meal despite my repeated requests. However, they were quite hospitable toward English speakers and foreigners," one net user wrote. 

Some netizens claimed that the airline's flight attendants pretend not to understand Putonghua, and even complained about Chinese mainland passengers in Cantonese. 

Cathy Pacific has been in hot water since July, after its trade union representing Cathay Pacific's cabin crew called for a protest at the Hong Kong International Airport on July 26. 

A Cathay Pacific pilot was arrested on July 28 for participating in riots and was later released on bail. But the pilot was still allowed to fly. 

Letting a pilot with such thoughts to fly a plane is like giving him a "big weapon," Lam Chi-ting, general secretary of the Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees General Union, told the Global Times. "We all remember the 9/11 attacks, right?"

Over 3,000 Cathay Pacific employees participated in the strike in Hong Kong on Monday, and about 150 of the airline's flights were cancelled at Hong Kong airport, Wen Wei Po reported Wednesday.

Qi said it would be a "crime to its passengers" if the airline continues to take an ambiguous stance and tolerate behavior that jeopardizes passenger security.

Cathay Pacific' revenue from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland accounted for more than a half of its total in 2018, the company's annual report showed.

UK-based John Swire and Sons is the majority stakeholder in Swire Pacific, which is Cathay Pacific's principal shareholder, with a 45 percent stake. 

Chen Qingqing contributed to this story

Posted in: SOCIETY

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