Hong Kong authorities this week said an incident on board a Cathay Pacific flight from Chengdu to Hong Kong on May 21, when cabin crew were recorded making negative comments about a passenger’s lack of English, “destroyed Hong Kong’s traditional culture and values of courtesy and respect”.

On May 23, oneworld alliance member Cathay terminated the employment of three members of the cabin crew on duty aboard the flight.

“Cathay Pacific has zero tolerance for serious violations of our rules, regulations and code ethics by individual employees and will not allow a similar situation to happen again.”

Cathay Pacific’s flight attendant union (FAU), however, is fighting back.

On May 24, FAU issued a statement highlighting the ‘extremely low morale’ at Cathay following years of managerial missteps and turmoil in Hong Kong.

“Our crew members follow the company’s guidelines and communicate with passengers in English or other languages that have been assessed by the company.

After the epidemic, the number of passengers gradually increased as flights resumed, but the company has no intention to resume the previous manpower on each flight […]. We are facing a shortage of both manpower and resources, a significant increase in workload and low salaries.

The company ignores these problems and as a result the morale of colleagues is extremely low, and complaints regarding the cabin crew have arisen,” the Cathay flight attendant union said.

There appears to be some truth to the FAU’s assessment if one fields the latest online reviews of Cathay.

“Nothing comes from nothing. The Union urges the company to address the problem at its root cause, rebuild a reasonable and safe work environment, and hence to improve employee morale.”

Cathay on May 25 issued a statement saying it would like to clarify that “the FAU is an independent trade union which does not represent the Company in any way”.

“We want to make it clear that the Company does not condone, support or agree with the FAU’s position on this matter. The Company has always been and will continue to communicate directly with our crew through multiple online and in-person channels. We will continue to listen to and act upon feedback from our crew directly.”

Cathay continues operating at just over 50 per cent of its pre-Covid capacity.

Other airlines had to delay the resumption of flights to Hong Kong because local authorities were unable to sufficiently revive the aviation supply chain in time following years of draconian Covid prevention measures.