Cathay Pacific under pressure by mainland China after protests

In an editorial on Sunday, Global Times of China said: “If the airline cannot guarantee compliance with the new regulatory demands on flight safety, its flights cannot be allowed to fly to or over the mainland. It will also have to face the snub of mainland passengers.”

CAAC last Friday ordered Cathay Pacific to ban staff who had supported protests from working on flights to China and through its airspace, and to hand over information of staff on China-bound flights starting Sunday.

“We hope Cathay Pacific will stick to professionalism, making it its lifeline to expand the mainland market. It should make arduous efforts to prevent radical political sentiments spreading within the company, ” said Global Times.

One country, two systems

The news portal, owned by the Communist Party of China, told Cathay Pacific not to condone some employees’ hostility against the “one country, two systems” principle or allow crew members with “violence record” to fly to the mainland. The editorial noted that only after CAAC’s “severe risk warning” to Cathay Pacific and pressure, the airline announced that a pilot charged with rioting had been removed from duties on July 30 and two staff were sacked for misconduct.

“These actions can only be seen as a small step taken by Cathay Pacific in the right direction. The airline’s sincerity remains to be tested by time, ” said the news portal, pointing out that the airline did not even condemn the pilot facing rioting charges for violent protests in late July.

According to news reports, some 2, 000-3, 000 Cathay Pacific employees, including 1, 200 cabin crew and pilots took part in a general strike on Aug 5. This had forced hundreds to flights to be cancelled or delayed.

Airline to regain the trust 

And one staff leaked the flight information of a group of Hong Kong police flying to the mainland.

Global Times accused the airline of “downplaying these abominable actions”, hence severely undermining the trust of the industry and the public.

It said: “Whether Cathay Pacific can ensure the highest standard of flight safety and services quality in the future has become unknown. It is hoped the airline could make efforts to regain the trust of mainland people.

“If Cathay Pacific continues sacrificing aviation safety and high-quality services for political passion within the company, it then chooses to undertake the price of great losses on the mainland market.”

Shares falling

Yesterday Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd shares fell at the opening bell in Hong Kong trading after Chinese authorities made demands on safety measures last Friday, Reuters reported.

Cathay shares lost 4.4% to HK$9.85 at 9:37 am.

Cathay is controlled by the United Kingdom’s Swire family. China’s state-owned Air China Ltd is its second-largest shareholder.

Visible target 

Cathay became a visible target for Beijing last week after many of its employees took part in a general strike that resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Though the carrier doesn’t disclose a breakdown of its mainland China business, flights originating from there and Hong Kong account for about half of the firm’s revenue.

The carrier is required to submit a plan for boosting internal controls, flight safety and security by Aug 15, CAAC said.