Swire Pacific denounces protests, suspends another pilot

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The top shareholder and manager of Cathay Pacific Airways condemned the protests and vowed to follow China's aviation regulations, after the airline suspended a second pilot today, Reuters reports. 
Shares in Cathay Pacific sunk to a 10-year low, hit by concerns that Beijing could impose further sanctions on the airline, causing more damage to its brand. 
Just last week, China's aviation regulator demanded Cathay suspend personnel who engaged in or supported illegal protests in Hong Kong from staffing flights into its airspace, a directive the carrier complied with by suspending a pilot. The airline also fired two ground staff and sent out a warning email to its employees. 
"We condemn all illegal activities and violent behavior, which seriously undermine the fundamental principle of 'One Country, Two Systems' as enshrined in the Basic Law," Swire Pacific said in a statement. 
Swire Pacific said it supported the Hong Kong government, CEO and police in their efforts to restore law and order. 
Swire Pacific's comments supporting Beijing come a day after China's aviation regulator said its deputy director had met with Swire Pacific Chairman Merlin Swire. 
While Swire Pacific declined to say what was discussed, its statement today underscores the political pressure both it and Cathay are facing.

Cathay suspended a second pilot today, reportedly for encouraging protesters to continue at the Hong Kong airport. Cathay said the action was taken over "misuse of company information" and declined to comment further. 
Some Cathay employees expressed concerns over what the company's position could mean for them.  
"I think there is an underlying concern now about what this does to Cathay," one of the airline's pilots said of the regulatory scrutiny. 
"This could be a storm in a teacup and we'll be back to making lots of money next month. Or this could be the collapse of the airline. No one really knows," the pilot told Reuters. 
Another employee said she was concerned about what it could mean for staff liberties. 
"I am very worried about the ban on flight attendants' freedom," a cabin crew member, who declined to be named, told Reuters outside Cathay's headquarters today. 
"I am a bit worried about if I can go to mainland China safely because I protested before, even though it's a legal march," said Andy, a Cathay head office employee who declined to provide his last name. "But who knows?"