Cathay needs to boost staff morale, union says, after 'blanket-carpet' furore

HONG KONG – Cathay Pacific needs to address staff and resource shortages and raise pay to boost morale, its flight attendant union said, after three staff were fired for allegedly mocking passengers who could not speak English.

A passenger on the CX987 flight from the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu to Hong Kong on Sunday (May 21) wrote in an online post that flight attendants had made fun of passengers for asking for a carpet instead of a blanket in English.

The incident, which went viral on mainland Chinese social media platforms, prompted a torrent of criticism by Chinese state media and Hong Kong government officials including leader John Lee.

“Nothing comes from nothing. The Union urges the company to address the problem at its root cause, rebuild a reasonable and safe work environment, and hence to improve employee morale,” the union said in a statement late on Wednesday.

It said it expressed deepest regret regarding the “recent unpleasant incident” and that Cathay’s cabin crew members have always respected and treated all passengers from different countries equally.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic the number of passengers has increased as flights resumed but frontline aviation workers are facing a shortage of both manpower and resources, a significant increase in workload and low salaries, it said.

“The company ignores these problems, as a result the morale of colleagues is extremely low, and complaints regarding cabin service have arisen.”

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the union’s statement. The carrier has apologised several times since the incident and CEO Ronald Lam said Cathay takes a “zero tolerance” approach to violations of company’s rules and ethics.

The passenger on CX987 on Sunday wrote that flight attendants complained about passengers amongst themselves in English and Cantonese.

“If you cannot say blanket in English, you cannot have it … Carpet is on the floor. Feel free if you want to lie on it,” a flight attendant said, according to a recording that was circulated widely online. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the clip, which triggered criticism on social media.

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