Rupert Hogg, the CEO of Cathay Pacific, sent a message to staff today (Monday August 12) warning staff that they would face "disciplinary consequences" if they took part in pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. “These consequences could be serious and may include termination of employment,” he wrote.
His warning comes after a weekend of turbulence for the airline. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), China's aviation regulator, has said that Hong Kong's flag carrier must stop members of staff who support or have taken part in any of the pro-democracy protests from working on any flights operating between the city and mainland China.
The CAAC issued the edict, citing safety risks, on Friday. It also included the demand that Cathay share information about any crew members flying through Chinese airspace for approval.
Cathay began to meet these demands on Saturday and Sunday, after Hogg said that the airline is "legally required" to follow CAAC regulations and it “must and will comply”. Cathay said it had already sacked two employees, reportedly for leaking the travel arrangements of a Hong Kong police football team due to fly to Chengdu, and suspended a pilot from flying duties after he was arrested and charged with rioting at a Sheung Wan protest on July 28.
The airline, which employs 27,000 staff in Hong Kong, recently reported a double-digit fall in ticket sales for trips to Hong Kong in the coming months, but said it expected sales to settle down later in the year. The company's shares were down 4.4% by half way through Monday.
Many members of staff reportedly called in sick on August 5, to join city-wide strikes in Hong Kong. At least 130 Cathay flights were cancelled on that day because of traffic chaos. At a conference, John Slosar, Cathay Pacific chairman, said that the company "wouldn't dream of telling [employees] what they have to think about something," but it appears to have been forced to re-consider its outlook on the protests.
Hong Kong Airport was occupied by protesters from Friday to Sunday last weekend. Thousands are reportedly occupying the airport today as well, to show their anger at violent police actions over the weekend. Hogg warned staff not to "support or participate" in this protest.
[Thread] Thousands have gathered @ HK airport to protest what many see as the horrific & excessive use of force by police yesterday. Cops disguised as protesters made violent arrests; tear gas & rubber bullets fired inside a train station; a beanbag round fired at a woman's eye pic.twitter.com/Iqj2Tgo2pl— Mary Hui (@maryhui) August 12, 2019
Read more: Brands and the Hong Kong protests