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Cathay Pacific CEO says discrimination incident caused 'significant damage' to image

Cathay Pacific CEO says discrimination incident caused 'significant damage' to image

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CEO of The Cathay Pacific Airways Ronald Lam has told employees that a recent incident of discrimination on its planes has caused "significant damage" to the image of Hong Kong and the airline, according to an internal memo that was seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.

He added that the incident reinforced a perception held by some customers that they have not been able to provide high-quality services to customers from different backgrounds consistently and that this was "more than a single incident" but rather, something deeper that they need to address. 

Don't miss: Cathay's flight attendant union slams management for ignoring manpower shortages

Lam was referencing an incident this week wherein three cabin crew members were accused by a passenger of insulting and discriminating against non-English speakers.

The incident happened during a flight from Chengdu in Sichuan province to Hong Kong on Sunday. After the flight, a passenger took to lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu to make several accusations against some cabin crew members on the flight CX987. They said that some members teased passengers’ language ability by saying in English: “If you cannot speak ‘blanket’, you cannot have it,”, “Carpet is on the floor”. The post has garnered over 10k likes and 1,000 comments. Since then, Cathay apologised twice on Weibo on 22 and 23 May respectively, stating that it has suspended the flight attendants involved during the course of an internal investigation.

cathay apology


In the internal memo sent to employees, Lam wrote, “The incident has been widely circulated in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong media, causing significant damage to the image of Hong Kong and Cathay.” 

“We had to respond and act swiftly, which was necessary to protect the interest of the company and in turn our people overall,” he continued.

Lam noted that as a company, they must "reflect humbly" and "examine [its]culture deeply" in order to take concrete measures to change measures. 

“While the incident has caused a setback to our rebuild journey, let’s embrace it as a valuable lesson. Let’s take it as an opportunity for us to further uplift the quality and consistency of our services,” he said. 

Following the incident, The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union came out to defend its frontline cabin crew members and requested that the airline company provide clear guidance on staff protection.

According to the official statement, the union said Cathay's cabin crew members have always respected and treated all passengers from different countries equally, providing attentive service to passengers from different cultural backgrounds. "Our crew members follow the company's guidelines and communicate with passengers in English or other languages that have been assessed by the company," the statement read. 

The union said it noticed there's an online appeal for passengers to provoke and record the behaviour of crew members. "This action seriously disturbs crew members' work. Crew members are currently under huge pressure and extreme fear," the statement read.

Meanwhile, local reports have emerged around Cathay's cabin crew members have the right to request passengers to delete pictures or videos taken or recorded without consent. According to Ming Pao, FAU issued an internal email to its member on 24 May, stressing that if flight attendants were photographed or video recorded without consent, they can ask the owner of the content to delete the relevant material. They can notify the captain and the cabin service manager if the passengers refused to do so.

Related articles: 
Cathay Pacific's apology and firing of cabin crew members: Will it be enough to weather the PR storm?
Atome expands Cathay Pacific partnership to Malaysia
Cathay Pacific's new brand campaign encourages passengers to 'get themselves moving'

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