Airline grounds radical HK pilot after regulator's warning

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, August 11, 2019
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File photo shows an Airbus A350-900 passenger jet belonging to Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific landed at Vancouver International Airport in Vancouver, Canada. [Photo/Xinhua]

A Hong Kong pilot charged with riot in the recent political saga has been grounded, the Cathay Pacific airline confirmed Saturday, after receiving a warning by China's aviation regulator over potential safety risks and over queries from concerned passengers and the public.

The airline also confirmed that two staff members were sacked for misconduct.

The move by the airline came after the Hong Kong community, including political parties, residents and tourists, voiced support over the decision by the nation's aviation regulator to ban Cathay Pacific staff involved in radical protests from flying mainland routes. They also condemned the breach of passengers' personal information after some police officers' flight information was leaked over the political dispute that has engulfed the city for more than two months.

In a warning issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China on Friday, it said some flight personnel of Cathay Pacific had participated in violent acts and were charged for related crimes, but they were not being banned from flying.

Such practices have shown that there have been hidden dangers to aviation safety and security, and there are increased aviation risks from Hong Kong to the mainland, the regulator said in a statement.

On July 28, a Cathay Pacific pilot was arrested and charged with riot during an illegal protest in the western area of Hong Kong Island. The man, released on bail, was not banned from aviation activities. In the meantime, personal information of some passengers who are city police officers also was leaked.

The airline said Saturday that no flights for the pilot have been scheduled since July 30, and he wasn't involved in any flying activities since July 15.

Agreeing to the ban, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong – the city's largest political party, in a statement said the bans are necessary for passenger safety, as it is unknown whether the pilots would protest while working for the airline.

Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, also expressed his support for the Civil Aviation Administration's decision, on his social media account.

In one post, the former chief executive said those employees should be fired, as they brought political issues into the workplace and affected passengers with their political demands.

At the airport, a mainland visitor surnamed Zou expressed her disappointment with Cathay Pacific, noting it is irresponsible if the airline allows an employee involved in violent protests and charged with related crimes to continue to work.

"The information leakage is despicable and it violates professional ethics," Zou said, adding that she won't take the company's flights in the short term because of safety concerns and fears of personal information leaks.

A Hong Kong artist, Yeung Mui-na, told China Daily that she was outraged over the leaking of police officers' personal information.

The actions not only infringed passenger privacy, but also violated the law, Yeung said.

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