Cathay Pacific sacks crew members accused of discriminating against non-English speakers

Airline CEO apologised to the passenger after a complaint was posted online, which drew widespread criticism


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Published: Wed 24 May 2023, 7:05 AM

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways has dismissed three cabin crew members after a passenger accused them of discriminating against non-English speakers.

Airline CEO Ronald Lam expressed his apologies Tuesday to the passenger and the community over the incident, which occurred on a flight from Chengdu in southwest China to Hong Kong on Sunday. He reiterated his company's “zero tolerance” of any serious breach of its policies and code of conduct. “There is no compromise for such violations,” he said in a statement.

The sacking came after the passenger complained in an online post that some crew members were disrespectful to passengers who did not speak English or Cantonese, the language widely spoken in Hong Kong. The person accused them of making fun of passengers' English ability when they asked for blankets and other disrespectful behaviour.

Cathay issued an apology on Monday on the Chinese social media platform Weibo for “the unpleasant experience” suffered by passengers on the flight, but failed to pacify the anger triggered by the passenger's post.

On Tuesday, a Weibo account belonging to the overseas edition of the official Chinese People's Daily newspaper sternly criticised Cathay over the incident. “It seems that its company culture still maintains a sense of superiority that worships foreigners and respects Hong Kongers but looks down on mainlanders,” it wrote.

It said the airline should rectify itself and establish rules to halt the unhealthy trend.

Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung said Wednesday he had expressed his deep concern to Cathay and asked the management to improve the company's services immediately. He added he was very distressed by the “inappropriate comments” made by the crew members, calling the incident as a “serious breach of Hong Kong's reputation for service excellence."

Cathay is working to rebuild its business after years of strict pandemic travel restrictions forced the airline into steep losses.

In March, it reported a loss of 6.55 billion Hong Kong dollars ($834.4 million) in 2022 — an 18.5% increase from 2021 amid strict entry restrictions for the city during the first half of last year.


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