June 20, 2023
HONG KONG – Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways on Monday announced a raft of measures to improve its service after a discrimination scandal, including recruiting crew members from Chinese mainland from July and increasing the number of Mandarin-speaking flight attendants.
The move came weeks after the company fired three employees who mocked the English language proficiency of mainland passengers.
In an internal Chinese-language memo to staff published widely in the local media, Cathay CEO Ronald Lam Siu-por, who has led a cross-departmental task force to improve service quality after the incident, said that multiple initiatives will be rolled out in the following months.
Although the cabin crew team will still be primarily composed of employees from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Cathay will hire more staff members from other regions outside the city to serve different customers, Lam said
As the number of Mandarin-speaking customers continues to increase, the company has been planning to recruit cabin crew members from the mainland after the pandemic.
Although the cabin crew team will still be primarily composed of employees from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Cathay will hire more staff members from other regions outside the city to serve different customers, Lam said.
The company will initially increase Mandarin-speaking flight attendants on flights to and from the mainland, and later extend the arrangement to other flights.
From August onwards, every flight to and from the mainland will have cabin announcements in Mandarin, in addition to Cantonese and English.
The company has yet to announce the number of Mandarin-speaking crew members it plans to recruit.
A new monthly allowance will also be offered to Cathay Pacific staff who can speak more than one Asian language. The nameplates of flight attendants will clearly indicate which languages they can speak, including Mandarin and other Asian languages.
Also from July, the cabin crew team will get an additional training program to foster a customer-centric culture. The training will also be extended to other customer service teams later.
The training aims to equip cabin crewmembers with the approach and skills necessary to provide the company’s caring service consistently to all customers, as well as reinforce its inclusive culture, according to Lam.
In a viral online post published last month, a Cathay Pacific passenger who is fluent in Mandarin, English and Cantonese detailed how three flight attendants repeatedly complained about a passenger who asked for a blanket and other passengers who didn’t speak English well.
The passenger said that during the two-and-a-half-hour flight, the attendants continuously made insulting and discriminatory remarks against non-English speaking passengers. The passenger also reported it to Cathay Pacific.
The incident triggered widespread condemnation from different sectors of Hong Kong society. Various officials and community leaders, including Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, criticized the disrespectful behavior of some Cathay Pacific crew members for tarnishing the city’s reputation as an international aviation hub. They stressed that such incidents must not occur again.
Mike Wong contributed to the story.