Cathay Pacific faces public rage after passenger alleges discrimination

On Monday, a passenger posted a record clip online showing flight attendants using abusive language to other passengers throughout a flight.

By XUE Bingbing


Cathay Pacific fired three cabin staff on Tuesday when a recording appeared online showing flight crew making fun of non-English speaking passengers during a recent flight.

As social media indignation mounts, the Hong Kong flag carrier has already issued three public apologies.

The trouble started on Flight CX987 from Chengdu to Hong Kong, the whole trip took about three hours.

On Monday, a passenger posted a clip on Xiaohongshu showing two flight attendants using abusive language in Cantonese and English when talking to and about Mandarin-only speaking passengers throughout the flight.

In the recording, a passenger asks for a blanket in English but mistranslated and asked for a “carpet” instead. One of the crew replied, “the carpet is on the floor.” Another went on to say: “If you cannot say blanket, you cannot have it.”

Another passenger who asked about the landing card got similarly rude treatment.

“For the whole journey, I could hear them constantly speaking ill of the passengers who couldn’t speak English or Cantonese,” said the whistleblower in his post, which he will not take down until the three crew themselves apologize.

“I don’t expect warm hospitality but I seriously don’t understand why someone would be so malicious to strangers,” he said.

On Monday night, Cathay Pacific apologized and said it would “sternly” investigate the incident. On Tuesday morning, the airline said the crew members had been suspended and the company would release an investigation report in three days. Around 10 pm, the carrier apologized for the third time and said the three crew members involved had been fired. 

Ronald Lam, CEO of Cathay Pacific, said in a statement that he would personally lead a group of staff to "have a complete reflection from bottom to top" to rectify services and personnel training to prevent such incidents from happening again.

This is not the first time the Hong Kong carrier has stirred up public rage in the Chinese mainland. Under the Xiaohongshu post, many passengers shared similar experiences with the Cathay Pacific crew.

In 2019, a crew maliciously leaked passenger information, which posed a serious threat to aviation security. The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued a significant aviation safety risk warning to Cathay Pacific at the time. In response, the carrier stated that passenger safety is always their top priority, and they maintain a zero-tolerance policy towards any improper and unprofessional behavior.

Cathay Pacific occupies about 80 percent of Hong Kong's aviation market. Due to its location, any airline operating in Hong Kong can reach half the global population within five hours. It also connects Hong Kong with the Greater Bay Area. Cathay Pacific has capitalized on these advantagea to attract a large number of mainland Chinese passengers.