Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific fires staff accused of discriminating against non-English speakers

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways fired three cabin crew after a passenger accused them of discriminating against non-English speakers in a case criticized by Chinese state media.

Ronald Lam, the airline’s chief executive, apologized to the passenger and the community on Tuesday for the incident on a flight from Chengdu in southwest China to Hong Kong on Sunday. He reiterated that his company has “zero tolerance” for any serious violations of its policies and code of conduct.

“There is no compromise for such violations,” he said in his statement.

The firing came after the passenger complained in an online post that some crew members were disrespectful to passengers who did not speak English or Cantonese, a language widely spoken in Hong Kong. The person sitting near the crew rest area heard them complaining about the customers.

“During the entire flight, not a single moment passed when I wasn’t sad or angry,” the passenger wrote.

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In particular, crew members mocked other passengers who confused the terms “blanket” and “carpet” in English and seemed impatient even when someone tried to ask for help in English, the post said.

“If you can’t say blanket in English, you can’t get it,” one person said in an audio clip posted on social media. The comment was followed by laughter. “The carpet is on the floor,” the recording continued. The Associated Press could not independently verify the audio.

Cathay apologized on the Chinese social media platform Weibo on Monday for the “unpleasant experience” suffered by passengers on the flight, but failed to quell the anger sparked by the passenger’s post.

On Tuesday, the Weibo account of the overseas edition of China’s official People’s Daily newspaper slammed Cathay over the incident.

“Its corporate culture still seems to maintain a sense of superiority that worships foreigners and respects Hong Kongers but looks down on mainlanders,” he wrote.

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He said the airline must correct itself and make rules to stop the unhealthy trend.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said he was disappointed to learn of the disrespectful actions that had damaged the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese residents. He said he told Lam it was a serious incident and should not happen again.

Transport and Logistics Minister Lam Sai-hung said on Wednesday that he expressed deep concern to Cathay and asked management to immediately improve the company’s services. He added that he was deeply saddened by the “inappropriate comments” made by the crew members, who said the incident was a “serious breach of Hong Kong’s reputation for excellent service”.

Cathay is working to rebuild its business after years of strict pandemic restrictions saw the airline suffer steep losses.

In March, it reported a loss of 6.55 billion Hong Kong dollars ($834.4 million) in 2022, up 18.5% from 2021, while the city was under strict travel restrictions in the first half of last year.

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Source: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/hong-kongs-cathay-pacific-sacks-crew-members-accused-99542141