Cathay Pacific Airways’ handover of crew details ‘satisfies mainland Chinese regulator’

Danny Lee

Cathay Pacific Airways’ handover of details on crew working in mainland Chinese airspace has met the requirements of the country’s aviation regulator, a senior official says, as the airline submitted a report to the authorities to show how it will strengthen its safety and security.

Gu Xiaohong, deputy head of the general department of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said on Thursday the submission had satisfied requirements, easing pressure on Hong Kong’s largest airline.

However, Cathay did not clarify what information it had submitted in response to the three demands the CAAC stipulated last Friday. The regulator’s unprecedented move was widely seen as a warning over the airline’s earlier ambivalence to the anti-government protests in Hong Kong in spite of some high-profile actions involving its employees.

The regulator’s comments came as it emerged that Hong Kong Airlines had dismissed a worker in relation to the protest movement. The employee’s last day was Thursday. Cathay has fired four staff in protest-related dismissals.

The remarks by Gu were the first time the aviation regulator had commented on Cathay Pacific since its move to implement strict rules on the company.

“Cathay Pacific has submitted the report to the CAAC as required. We strictly abide by the rules and regulations of all regulators that have jurisdiction over us,” a spokeswoman for the airline said.

Apart from submitting a detailed plan by Thursday on how it would step up internal safety and security controls, other unprecedented requests included the airline submitting aircrew lists for Cathay flights entering Chinese airspace for approval. Flights that did not go through the procedure would be barred from mainland airspace.

It was unclear whether Hong Kong’s flagship airline would release details on the strengthening of its internal processes, but more details from the company were not forthcoming on Thursday.

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Transport analyst Luya You of Bocom International said the regulator’s comments would be a welcome sign for the airline.

“The CAAC seems appeased for the moment but the mainland backlash is still quite harsh,” she said.

Cathay Pacific has come under enormous pressure from the regulator, which banned any airline employees who took part in illegal protests from operating flights in mainland airspace.

Threatened with losing the right to fly to and over the mainland, Cathay has cracked down hard on staff.

The airline sacked four employees in relation to the ongoing crisis, including a pilot who was arrested and charged over clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Sheung Wan on July 28. In total, two pilots and two airline airport employees lost their jobs.

CEO Rupert Hogg threatened to sack any employee who actively supported the protest movement, including taking part in the illegal airport demonstrations.

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The Hong Kong airline group’s share price advanced 5.7 per cent on Thursday, closing at HK$10.38 (US$1.33), and returning to levels prior to the CAAC warning. The price rise reflected a recovery in investor sentiment, as fears eased of further punishment from the authorities.

However, the CAAC warnings have led to a boycott of the airline on the mainland.

A note to “all staff of China Citic Bank International”, part of the nation’s largest state-run lender, instructed staff to stop flying with Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, citing the safety warning from the aviation regulator.

Cathay Pacific has cracked down on staff after the warning from the aviation regulator. Photo: Winson Wong

Struggling Hong Kong Airlines, the city’s third largest carrier, would stand to gain in some small part. China Citic Bank International’s parent CITIC Group is part of a consortium planning to invest in the HNA-backed carrier.

A subsidiary of China Huarong Asset Management, one of the country’s largest asset management companies, and China Resources National Corporation are also boycotting Cathay.

Since Hong Kong’s largest airline’s about-turn on the protests, it said it “strongly supports” the government. Its parent Swire Pacific also said it “resolutely” supported the administration.

The stance has also sparked some calls for a boycott of the airline among Hongkongers.

“The Hong Kong boycott, if any, won’t do much to dent Cathay Pacific’s earnings. But since Chinese firms are issuing boycotts, now that seems far more noteworthy,” Bocom’s You said.

A spokesman for Hong Kong Airlines, meanwhile, would not reveal the axed worker’s position in the company.

The carrier would only say it had strict guidelines for staff regarding their code of conduct.

“Any proven improper actions which are non-compliant to our company’s policies, or affect our reputation, business or operation are not accepted and will result in serious consequences, including termination of employment,” the spokesman said.

This article Cathay Pacific Airways’ handover of crew details ‘satisfies mainland Chinese regulator’ first appeared on South China Morning Post

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