HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways said on Friday its CEO and CCO have both resigned, taking responsibility for recent events in which the airline came under pressure to fire two pilots for taking part in the mass protests sweeping over the Chinese special autonomous region and former British colony.
The resignations of Chief Executive Rupert Hogg and Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Paul Loo came after the airline earlier this week threatened to fire staff involved in protests against the city’s government, racing to placate Beijing and avert a boycott from its mainland Chinese customers.
In a statement, Cathay Pacific said that – following a meeting of its board of directors – it believed it was “the right time for new leadership.”
Chairman John Slosar praised Hogg in the same statement for overseeing a three-year transformation program.
“However, recent events have called into question Cathay Pacific’s commitment to flight safety and security and put our reputation and brand under pressure,” Slosar said. “This is regrettable as we have always made safety and security our highest priority.”
In an email sent to staff on Monday, Hogg said the company had “a zero-tolerance approach to illegal activities.”
He added that “there will be disciplinary consequences for employees who support or participate in illegal protests. These consequences may include termination of employment.”
The tough stance was in contrast to the approach the airline had taken just a week earlier, when Slosar said Cathay Pacific respected the right of its employees to take part in the protests.
“We certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something,” Slosar said at the time.
Meanwhile, the city’s airport has been the latest scene of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong this week. The protests, which turned violent, overwhelmed one of the world’s busiest travel hubs and led to hundreds of flights being canceled.
Cathay Pacific said Augustus Tang – the CEO of the aircraft engineering HAECO Group – has been appointed to replace Hogg as chief executive, while Ronald Lam – the CEO of low-cost airline Hong Kong Express – will be its new chief customer and commercial officer.
Both have been seconded to the company by the Swire Group, which owns Cathay Pacific, HAECO and Hong Kong Express.
“Augustus Tang and Ronald Lam have the experience and depth of knowledge of aviation and our people to be strong and effective leaders of Cathay Pacific at this sensitive time,” Slosar said about the newly-appointed officers.