Calls for Cathay Pacific boycott over poor response to discrimination incident against Mandarin-speaking passengers


24th May 2023 – (Hong Kong) Cathay Pacific Airways, one of Hong Kong’s leading airlines, has come under fire for alleged discrimination against Mandarin-speaking passengers. The incident occurred on CX987 flight from Chengdu to Hong Kong on 21st May, where cabin crew reportedly mocked Mainland Chinese passengers for their poor English and inability to speak Cantonese.  As a Mandarin speaker fluent in English and Cantonese, the Chinese passenger sat near the galley and overheard flight attendants complaining in English and Cantonese. The passenger recorded some of the conversations as evidence, including phrases such as “If you cannot say blanket in English, you cannot have it” and “Carpet is on the floor” followed by laughter from those around them.

The incident has sparked widespread outrage and calls for action on social media. Many netizens have expressed their anger and disappointment at the airline for allowing such behaviour to occur. Some have even called for a boycott of Cathay Pacific.

In response to the incident, Cathay Pacific issued three apologies within two days and fired three employees involved in the incident. The airline’s CEO also released a statement, saying that the company has a zero-tolerance policy towards any behavior that violates its regulations and ethical standards. Cathay Pacific has promised to conduct a comprehensive review of its policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

While Cathay Pacific’s response to the incident has been swift, the effectiveness of its actions remains to be seen. The airline has faced similar incidents in the past, and in some cases, its response has been criticised for being inadequate.

The incident has also raised broader questions about customer service in Hong Kong and the need to improve it. Many have argued that passengers pay for a service and should be treated with respect, regardless of their language ornationality. The incident has brought back painful memories for those who have experienced similar discrimination in the past and has highlighted the need for a more inclusive and respectful approach to customer service.

However, it is important to note that Cathay Pacific does not represent Hong Kong as a whole, and the actions of a few employees should not be used to generalize about the entire service industry in Hong Kong. Many service providers in Hong Kong go out of their way to provide excellent service to Mainland Chinese and other international visitors, and incidents like this are the exception rather than the rule.

The incident has also highlighted the need for other service providers in Hong Kong to review their practices and ensure that they are not engaging in similar discriminatory behaviour. The Hong Kong government and relevant industry bodies need to take a more proactive role in addressing this issue and promoting a more inclusive approach to customer service.

Cathay Pacific, which received funding from the Hong Kong government during the pandemic, has been embroiled in a series of governance issues. First, pilots were accused of engaging in “considerably slower speed” while taxiing for overtime. Now, a recent incident involving a flight attendant and a blanket has come to light. Elizabeth Quat, a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, expressed anger over the incidents, stating that they reflect not only the personal ethics of the employees in question but also problems with Cathay Pacific’s management.

“As an airline, the training goals for employees should be very clear. The most basic requirement is to genuinely respect and provide services to passengers, regardless of where they come from,” Quat said.

Quat mentioned that not long ago, there were reports that some Cathay pilots deliberately slowed down during take-off and landing, suspecting that they were receiving additional overtime pay. While this incident appears to be a problem of pilot conduct, there are also issues at the company level that need to be examined, she added. “Why do employees continue to display such behaviour? Cathay Pacific should review and improve its employee selection, training, staffing, and assessment mechanisms.”

She also hopes that passengers can view individual incidents rationally. As Hong Kong is in the process of post-pandemic recovery, she hopes to attract tourists from mainland China and around the world. As a well-known local airline, Cathay’s presence of bad apples is detrimental, but this does not represent the overall situation in Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately. From one scandal to another, the airline has been facing a lot of criticism for its poor service and lack of customer care. While the company has issued apologies and promises to do better, many are wondering if this is enough.

As a company that collects money from customers, Cathay Pacific owes them a certain level of respect and decency. However, the airline has been accused of being arrogant, rude, and lacking basic manners. As a result, it has faced numerous complaints from customers, leading to anger from netizens who are pointing out the company’s inherent arrogance and disregard for customers. The root of the problem lies in Cathay Pacific’s continued inability to change its ways, despite multiple apologies and promises to do better.

Consumers have the power to “vote with their feet,” and Cathay Pacific risks losing its market if it fails to improve its service quality and customer care. From a business development perspective, the negative publicity resulting from discrimination against passengers is not just a matter of losing face, but also a loss of market share. To thrive in the long run, Cathay Pacific needs to take a hard look at this public relations nightmare, find solutions from its corporate culture, and not just pay lip service to placate public opinion. If the airline cannot change its ways, it risks losing its market share and long-term viability. Furthermore, Cathay Pacific needs to be more transparent in its operations and decision-making processes. The airline should make its policies and procedures publicly available and seek input from customers and stakeholders. This will help to build trust and credibility with the public and ensure that the company is accountable for its actions.