Cathay Pacific Airways has launched an investigation after oxygen bottles on two of its planes were found to have been discharged and possibly tampered with.
The 13 discharged or partially discharged canisters were discovered on August 17 and 18. Of the 22 bottles carried on each plane, five were affected on one aircraft and eight on another.
Oxygen bottles are typically used by crew to move around in the cabin in the rare event of an emergency depressurisation.
The two affected planes were plying the same route, with problems uncovered during inspections when they arrived in Toronto. The Post understands the flight in question was CX826 from Hong Kong International Airport. The incidents took place on two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, identified as B-KPY and B-KQB.
“Cathay Pacific confirms that a number of portable oxygen bottles stored on board two of its aircraft were found to be discharged or partially discharged while the aircraft were on the ground prior to departure in Toronto,” the airline said in a statement. “Cathay Pacific is taking the issue very seriously and has launched an internal investigation into the matter.”
Hong Kong’s flag carrier said it had discovered the issue prior to departure during routine preflight inspections. The carrier stressed that “at no point” was safety compromised.
The airline added that the bottles were immediately refilled and checked by engineers before the flights to Hong Kong.
An aircraft engineer, who wished to remain anonymous, said the portable bottles are typically placed throughout the plane, and can be found closest to bulkheads or closets.
“Anyone can find these bottles if they look hard, because there are placards saying what’s inside,” the engineer said.
“Anyone actually can purposely deplete them. The attendants know how to use them. Just plug the mask and turn it on.”
The incident comes at a testing time for Cathay Pacific, though the was no indication it was linked to recent events.
The carrier has lately borne the brunt of pressure exerted on Hong Kong businesses over the city’s anti-government protests, with the mainland Chinese aviation regulator barring any of its staff who supported or were involved in the unrest from entering Chinese airspace.
The furore culminated in the resignations of CEO Rupert Hogg and one of his deputies, Paul Loo Kar-pui. The company has since offered repeated public backing for the Hong Kong government.
On Tuesday, Cathay Pacific’s third-largest shareholder, Qatar Airways, said the airline’s future was not in any doubt.
“Cathay Pacific is there to stay, and to expand and to serve the people of both Hong Kong and China, as Hong Kong is an integral part of mainland China,” Qatar Airways’ chief executive Akbar Al Baker told Reuters. “We have no concern about the brand, we have no concern on the viability of the airline.”