Cathay Pacific needs to draw clear lines with radical employees: analyst

By Wang Wenwen and Chen Qingqing in Hong Kong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/11 17:11:24

Experts warn airline’s lax management poses risks

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

Cathay Pacific's lukewarm attitude in drawing lines with its radical employees who participated in recent riots in Hong Kong has enraged the public on the Chinese mainland, with analysts warning of further risks if the company fails to root out its management problems.

On Saturday, Cathay fired two of its airport employees for leaking information and suspended a pilot charged with rioting from flying duties. 

The moves only came after the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued a major air safety warning to the company a day earlier.  The CAAC demanded Cathay Pacific bar the airline's crew who have joined or supported illegal protests from operating flights to the mainland or through its airspace.

Leung Chun-ying, former chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Saturday slammed Cathay on his personal Facebook account saying that it is a dead end for Cathay employees to bring politics on board. 

"If a Hong Kong flight heading to the US had pilots who opposed the US, what do you think the US government would do to these people?" Leung wrote. 

Mei Xinyu, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, told the Global Times that the management of Cathay needs to have a profound understanding of these incidents.

"The civil aviation industry is special, because if an airline is not trustworthy, it will generate huge risks," warned Mei. "We cannot forget the September 11 attacks or the missing Malaysia Airlines flight."

Breaking industry precedent

The suspended pilot was arrested and charged with rioting during a demonstration in Sheung Wan on July 28. Cathay said he was removed from flying duties on July 30 and had not flown since July 15.

Meanwhile, the travel arrangements of a Hong Kong police soccer team that had been due to fly to Chengdu were leaked earlier amid the recent ongoing clashes between protesting rioters and the Hong Kong police.

An airport manager who has been working at the Beijing Capital International Airport for more than 20 years told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that "the act of a company whose business is so close with the mainland is inappropriate," referring to the leak of passengers' information.

Another staff member from a foreign airliner echoed his view, and said that Cathay is a politics-prone airline. 

"The act of information being leaked has touched the bottom line and Cathay has broken a precedent in this industry, which is a blunt violation of law," said the foreign airliner employee, who also warned of serious consequences given the current political context in Hong Kong

Strengthen measures against radical employees

Cathay said it is working to respond to the CAAC measures. It has been asked to submit detailed plans by Thursday on how it intends to enhance internal safety controls and improve security.

Guo Ning, an aviation analyst, told the Global Times that since Cathay knows the political stance of its employees, it should have acknowledged their illegal behaviour and done what it had promised. 

Guo also suggest Cathay strengthen its measures against some individual radical employees. 

Cathay should express clearly if it firmly supports mainland measures and opposes all illegal acts or caterS to those violent Hong Kong protesters, said the anonymous air- port manager.

On Sunday, Cathay dismissed reports and social media posts claiming a member of its cabin crew was among those arrested by Hong Kong police as "completely inaccurate."

A woman attacked the Hong Kong police and was later arrested during clashes between violent protesters and the police at Tsim Sha Tsui on Saturday night. She was identified by some Hong Kong media as a stewardess from Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways.

"We would like to stress that the individual is not an employee of Cathay Pacific," reads a statement from Cathay sent to the Global Times on Sunday.

Newspaper headline: Cathay Pacific’s attitude questioned


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