HONG KONG — Cathay Pacific Airways recently found itself embroiled in controversy when a passenger exposed allegations of discrimination by its cabin crews against non-English speaking passengers.
The Hong Kong-based airline promptly issued an apology for the incident and fired three flight attendants involved in the incident after an internal investigation.
On Sunday (21 May), a Mainland Chinese passenger on a flight from Chengdu took to the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu to reveal that the flight attendants had been complaining about passengers in English and Cantonese.
The passenger managed to record a portion of their conversation, where the flight attendants were heard mocking another passenger who had mistakenly asked for a carpet instead of a blanket in English.
One of the flight attendants remarked, “If you cannot say blanket, you cannot have it.”
Another flight attendant chimed in, saying, “Carpet is meant for the floor. Feel free if you want to lie on it.”
The passenger assumed that this was directed towards a non-native English speaker who had mistakenly requested a blanket.
Additionally, the passenger mentioned that a female traveler nearby had attempted to ask in English about filling out a customs clearance form, only to receive an impatient response from the flight attendants.
“I truly don’t understand why there is such animosity towards passengers who don’t speak English or Cantonese. We don’t expect extra attentive service, but why can’t the basic respect for passengers be upheld?”
He also told the purser before disembarking and informing her that he would file a formal complaint.
On 23 May, Cathay Pacific CEO Ronald Lam, in a statement expressed apologies to the affected passengers and the wider community regarding the incident that occurred on flight CX987 on 21 May.
“We have completed an investigation into the matter and, in accordance with our company’s regulations, have terminated the employment of the three flight attendants involved. ”
Ronald Lam reiterated that the airline maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards severe violations of the company’s regulations and ethical standards.
“To prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, I will personally lead a cross-departmental working group to conduct a comprehensive review, reassessing our service processes, personnel training, and relevant policies to further enhance the quality of service provided by Cathay Pacific Airways, ” he said.
HK Chief Executive condemns the disrespectful behaviour of the cabin crew in the incident
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee expressed his disappointment on Facebook, addressing the disrespectful behaviour of the cabin crew in the incident.
He stated that such disrespectful words and actions had hurt the feelings of both Hong Kong and mainland compatriots, undermining Hong Kong’s long-standing culture and values of respect, courtesy, and inclusiveness.
“It is a serious matter that should not be repeated. Cathay Pacific needs to review its training and service standards, enhance its customer service culture, reshape a hospitable image characterized by respect and courtesy, and live up to the expectations of society.”