Cathay Pacific gets air safety warning

By Li Xuanmin and Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/9 22:18:40

Aviation authority orders airline to suspend staff who support protests

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

China's aviation authority issued a major air safety warning to Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airlines on Friday, after the airline was criticized for its tacit support of anti-government riots that may expose passengers to safety threats. 

"In recent days, the Cathay Pacific has exposed high safety risks and threats as a pilot who was arrested for participating in riots was still allowed to fly and a staff member had leaked the passengers' flight information," the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in the letter. 

A series of incidents has caused serious social impact and created air safety risks from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to the Chinese mainland, and the warning was issued to protect the safety of passengers and maintain air transportation order, the letter noted.

The CAAC requested airline to immediately suspend employees who have supported and participated in illegal protests and violence from working in flights to the Chinese mainland or related to mainland air transportation starting Saturday. 

It also ordered the airline to submit the information of crew members who fly to the Chinese mainland or pass through the Chinese mainland to relevant authorities in the Chinese mainland starting Sunday. And if the information is not approved, airports in the Chinese mainland won't receive the flights.

The CAAC also requested the airline to submit measures it has taken to strengthen internal management, improve flight safety and security to the authorities before August 15.  

The agency will supervise and deal with the airline in accordance with law based on how Cathay Pacific executed the three warnings, the letter said. 

In response, Cathay Pacific spokesperson said on Friday that they have received the directive and are studying it very carefully. There is zero tolerance to any inappropriate and unprofessional behavior that may affect aviation safety, Cathay Pacific said.

Some industry insiders have described the warning as a precaution on the state level to protect air safety in the Chinese mainland and prevent terrorist attacks.  

"The warning respects the right of life of people who take Cathay Pacific flights," Guo Ning, an independent aviation analyst, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Chinese netizens have welcomed the move, calling it a "responsible decision" and said Cathay Pacific, which has tacitly supported Hong Kong anti-government protests, deserves such a treatment. 

"Good job, CAAC! And hope this is the first step in punishing the airline," said a Weibo user named Tmamm.  

Cathay Pacific said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Thursday that it "supports the principle of 'one country, two systems' and recognizes Hong Kong as part of China." It also stressed that some employees' individual behavior does not represent the company's official stance. 

Public anger has been rising since its cabin crew trade union called for a protest at Hong Kong International Airport on July 26, with more Chinese residents calling for a boycott.   

"I'm asking my coworkers and friends not to fly Cathay Pacific anymore," an employee at a state-owned enterprise told the Global Times.

The airline's fence-sitting approach in dealing with Hong Kong riots could taint its image and take a toll on its business, analysts said. 

The future of Cathay Pacific is worrisome, as the warning will significantly weigh on its business in China, an industry insider, who has been covering aviation industry for years, told the Global Times on Friday.

"The airline has been restructuring its business since 2017, and has been posting a profit since last year. But this incident will affect its prospects in the Chinese market," she said.


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