Hong Kong’s largest airline, Cathay Pacific, has terminated the employment of flight attendants who made discriminatory remarks against mainland Chinese passengers and issued an official apology regarding the incident.
According to Reuters and The Standard in Hong Kong on the 23rd, Cathay Pacific announced that it had fired flight attendants who made discriminatory comments against non-English-speaking passengers. The airline expressed its apology through its official Weibo account, a Chinese social media platform.
Ronald Lam, the CEO of Cathay Pacific Airways, announced in a statement later that evening that three flight attendants involved in the incident had been dismissed following an internal investigation. He stated, “Cathay Pacific will not tolerate any serious violations of company rules and ethics, and we reiterate our commitment to upholding the principle of zero tolerance.” Lam also promised further measures to enhance service quality.
Previously, an anonymous passenger had exposed the incident, stating that on a Cathay Pacific flight from Chengdu, China to Hong Kong on the 21st, some flight attendants had insulted mainland Chinese passengers due to their inability to speak English.
The passenger, who was sitting in front of the flight attendants’ rest area, also released a 31-second audio recording. In the recording, the flight attendants mentioned a passenger who mistakenly requested a “carpet” instead of a “blanket” and stated, “If you can’t say ‘blanket’ in English, you can’t get a blanket. The carpet is on the floor. If you want to lie on the carpet, you can do that.”
The flight attendants conversed in English and Cantonese. Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin, is the official language of mainland China, while Cantonese is spoken in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong.
People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, expressed shock over the discrimination incident targeting Mandarin-speaking passengers and criticized Cathay Pacific’s corporate culture, stating, “They worship foreigners and respect Hong Kong people but look down on mainlanders.” The publication also emphasized that Cathay Pacific should take strict corrective actions and establish rules and regulations, stating, “Apologies alone are not enough.”
People’s Daily further mentioned that the level of Mandarin proficiency in Hong Kong, where English was commonly used alongside Cantonese, has been rapidly improving. They wrote, “The trend of disregarding Mandarin and idolizing English in Hong Kong will disappear.” Since the large-scale anti-government protests in 2019, there has been an increasing emphasis on Mandarin education by Chinese authorities in Hong Kong.
This incident occurred amidst Hong Kong’s efforts to revitalize its tourism industry, which has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hong Kong Tourism Board recently organized large-scale events, including the distribution of 10,000 free airline tickets. Reuters reported, “Cathay Pacific has been striving to rebuild the company after the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2020, the company has faced significant challenges, such as flight cancellations, border closures, and strict quarantine measures for flight attendants, resulting in a sharp decline in passengers.”
By Jungchan Lee/Korea Travel News