Cathay Pacific chief to step down amid Hong Kong turmoil 

Cathay Pacific Airways ©AirTeamImages

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s largest and flag-carrying airline has announced on Wednesday, September 4, that it’s current chairman, John Slosar, is to step down, effective from November 6 at the conclusion of the carrier’s board meeting.

According to Cathay Pacific, his relinquishing of his role is due to retirement, though the airline has come under heavy criticism from China during the current period of civil unrest in Hong Kong. He will be succeeded by Patrick Healy from the Swire Group conglomerate which is currently Cathay Pacific’s majority shareholder. Cathay Pacific has found itself, politically, stuck between a rock and a hard place in relation to recent unrest, having to walk a delicate line between Chinese authorities, passengers, and its employees. A number of employees were fired over involvement in the protests which began some 14 weeks ago in opposition to a bill allowing authorities to extradite locals to mainland China. Cathay Pacific operating profits have subsequently been hit as a consequence of the drop in numbers of inbound passengers from China and boycotting of the carrier by travelers on China’s mainland.

On August 7, John Slosar said the company could not dictate the political activities of its employees, explaining, “We employ 27,000 staff in Hong Kong doing all sorts of different jobs…we certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think.” The South China Morning Post subsequently commented that Slosar’s words may well have backfired and that instead they had become a prompt for the Chinese aviation authority to clamp down on the airline with sanctions. On August 10, Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg announced that the Civil Aviation Administration of China had just issued new requirements of the company, including suspending employees who “support or take part in illegal protests, violent actions, or overtly radical behavior” from participating in flights involving mainland China. Cathay Pacific now have to submit information about crew members who do participate in such flights and will have to report back to the Chinese authority about what steps it has taken internally to “improve flight safety and security.”

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