Cathay Pacific fires staff amid discrimination row and foreigner worship claims
Cathay Pacific Airways today dismissed three flight attendants following allegations of discrimination against non-English speakers. The incident occurred on flight CX987 from Chengdu to Hong Kong and led to widespread concern, prompting the airline to issue a sincere apology.
Cathay Pacific CEO Ronald Lam announced the staff dismissals after an internal investigation and reiterated the company’s zero-tolerance approach to serious violations of company rules and ethics.
Lam also stated that he would lead a cross-departmental working group to review service processes, staff training, and related systems in order to improve service quality. The primary goal is to ensure that all Cathay Pacific staff respect passengers from different backgrounds and cultures and provide professional and consistent service across all areas served.
The controversy began when a passenger on the flight from Chengdu shared an online post claiming that flight attendants complained about passengers in English and Cantonese. They allegedly made fun of a passenger for asking for a carpet instead of a blanket in English. A recording of the conversation was circulated widely online, but its authenticity could not be verified by Reuters. This incident sparked criticism on social media.
Cathay Pacific has been working to rebuild its reputation as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. The airline experienced significant setbacks due to flight cancellations, border closures, and strict quarantine measures for the crew, leading to substantial staff reductions since 2020.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee, commented on the discrimination incident, stating that it was serious and must not be repeated. He emphasised that the actions of the flight attendants hurt the feelings of both Hong Kong and mainland compatriots, damaging Hong Kong’s traditional culture and values of respect and courtesy.
China’s state-owned People’s Daily expressed shock at the incident and criticised Cathay’s corporate culture for favouring foreigners and Hong Kong residents over mainlanders. The newspaper urged Cathay Pacific to establish rules and regulations to prevent such incidents from happening again. The People’s Daily also noted the improving level of Mandarin in Hong Kong and predicted that the trend of prioritising English over Mandarin would eventually disappear.
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