Aviation

Cathay Pacific CEO resigns as airline investigates anonymous staff letter supporting Hong Kong protests

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg and chief customer and commercial officer Paul Loo have resigned in the midst of ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

The airline announced the changes on Friday, revealing Augustus Chang will replace Hogg (pictured above) as CEO, effective today.

Ronald Lam will replace Loo as chief customer and commercial officer. Lam will remain CEO of Hong Kong Express – a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific – until a successor is appointed.

“These have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company,” Hogg said in a press statement.

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The shake-up in leadership follows a chaotic week for the carrier, which saw two days of airport wide cancellations at Hong Kong International. Cathay Pacific had been rebuked by authorities in China – its largest market – over the participation of some of its employees taking part in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

Cathay, at the time, responded by sacking two of its staff and suspending another who had taken part.

This came after China’s aviation regulator ordered the airline to hand over “identifying information” for staff on mainland routes. The airline has reiterated that it will comply with the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s safety directives at all times.

Chairman John Slosar said recent events had called into question Cathay Pacific’s commitment to flight safety and security and “put our reputation and brand under pressure”.

“This is regrettable, as we have always made safety and security our highest priority,” he said.

“We therefore think it is time to put a new management team in place who can reset confidence and lead the airline to new heights.”

Cathay Pacific jet at Melbourne Airport
Cathay Pacific has suffered a tumultuous last few days amidst the Hong Kong protests.

The airline reiterated its support for Hong Kong’s constitutional principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, which affords distinct Chinese regions like Hong Kong the right to maintain their own economic and administrative systems of government, while still being a part of China.

But some residents of Hong Kong have accused Beijing of eroding their freedoms in recent years, as reported by ABC News.

Following the announcement of a shake-up in leadership, Cathay Pacific revealed on Sunday that it is investigating rumours of an anonymous letter from staff that reiterates support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

“While we cannot confirm the authenticity of this letter, we are taking the matter very seriously and are conducting an internal investigation,” the airline said in a statement.

According to the South China Morning Post, the letter, which claims to be from employees at the airline, attacked the Hong Kong government for not responding positively to protesters, including the estimated two million people who marched peacefully on Friday.

The airline said it was “deeply concerned” by the ongoing violence and disruption impacting Hong Kong and that it “resolutely” supports the Hong Kong government, its leader Carrie Lam and the police in their “efforts to restore law and order”.

On Friday 16 July, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) updated its travel advice for visits to Hong Kong, urging travellers to exercise a high degree of caution, be alert and avoid large gatherings and demonstrations.

For a breakdown of what you need to know about the Hong Kong protests as a travel professional, click here.

Featured image credit: ‘Rupert Hogg, CEO, Cathay Pacific Airways’ by Seb Daly/RISE via Sportsfile, available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/riseconf/42451356795. Licensed at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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