Third Cathay Pacific Group oxygen tank found emptied before take-off from Hong Kong airport

Danny Lee

A third Cathay Pacific Group plane was found with an emptied oxygen bottle on Friday, prompting the airline to call in police and the aviation authority to investigate.

The latest discovery, during pre-departure cabin checks, involved one discharged oxygen bottle on a Cathay Dragon plane.

It comes after Cathay Pacific Airways’ Tuesday disclosure that it was investigating how two different Boeing 777 planes ended up carrying empty and partly empty oxygen bottles – 13 in total – when they arrived in Toronto from Hong Kong on August 17 and 18.

In the newest case an Airbus A330, registered B-LBI, arrived from Bali, Indonesia, and the post-arrival checks found all oxygen bottles were full. By the time it was readied to fly to Kuala Lumpur the next morning, one of the canisters had been discharged.

Cathay Dragon confirmed the bottles – which crew typically use to move around the cabin in the rare event of an emergency depressurisation – had been found depressurised.

“Cathay Dragon is taking the issue very seriously and has launched an internal investigation into the matter. We have also reported the matter to the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and the police,” a company spokeswoman said.

“We can confirm that the depleted oxygen bottle was immediately recharged and checked for serviceability by engineers prior to the flight.”

The plane was parked at remote stand S101 overnight having arrived from Bali, staying there before leaving from the same spot for the Malaysian capital. There were 16 oxygen bottles aboard and one bottle, stationed at the first door on the left-hand side, was affected.

At no point was the safety of our crew and passengers compromised

Cathay Dragon spokeswoman

“At no point was the safety of our crew and passengers compromised,” the airline spokeswoman said.

Initial internal suspicion over the apparent acts of sabotage fell upon cabin crew, a source said, adding that the manner in which the third incident came about – despite the publicity surrounding the first two incidents – made it less clear what the motive was. Company tensions have escalated over the airline’s “zero tolerance” for staff supporting for the anti-government protests, threatening them with dismissal. Several members of staff have been dismissed or resigned.

The latest incident happening in a parking bay makes it more likely the culprit was familiar with the aircraft – knowing for example where to find oxygen bottles and how to access a plane – and had access to a wide area of the airport.

Sources said it was critical that CCTV evidence be found quickly to identify the culprit.

Cathay Pacific reminds staff of policy to act as ‘whistle-blowers’

Cathay Dragon is the Asia-focused subsidiary of the Cathay Pacific Group, which includes its eponymous flagship brand, operating mainly long-haul flights and routes to top-tier Asian cities, and newly acquired budget carrier HK Express.

There was no indication the three incidents were linked to recent events at the group. The carrier was the highest-profile casualty among Hong Kong businesses initially declining to take action over staff support of protests in the city. The mainland Chinese aviation regulator issued it a safety warning and barred any of its staff who supported or were involved in the unrest from entering Chinese airspace.

The pressure exerted by Beijing culminated in the resignations of CEO Rupert Hogg and chief customer and commercial officer Paul Loo Kar-pui. The company has since offered repeated public backing for the Hong Kong government.

The Post has contacted police and the Civil Aviation Department for comment.

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