Upset by the service? Have another drink...

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 January, 2011, 12:00am

The work-to-rule campaign by Cathay Pacific flight attendants may disrupt holiday flights over the Lunar New Year, but will include some unexpected perks for passengers - like an offer of extra drinks.

Cabin crew taking part in the action are urged to be more generous with the drinks trolley and to 'proactively offer' drinks. They may also offer a second drink without being asked.

The guidelines for the work-to-rule were drawn up by the Flight Attendants' Union (FAU) and distributed to members.

FAU vice-chairwoman Becky Kwan Siu-wa said the goodwill measure would seek to compensate passengers for the disruption the work-to-rule might cause and to reverse some of the recent cutbacks in the airline's in-flight food and drinks.

Kwan said Cathay had gradually reduced its food-and-drink service since the 2003 Sars crisis and had been 'stingy' by not restoring the service when the economy picked up.

Flight attendants were instructed, for instance, not to open bottles of wine on drinks trolleys until passengers requested wine, she said. They had also started serving snacks rather than full meals on short-haul routes, such as those to Manila and Taiwan.

'Sometimes we feel embarrassed to give passengers so little. Now it's time to show passengers we do want to give them something more.'

Other elements of the work-to-rule, however, may leave an unsavoury taste in passengers' mouths by disrupting flights and diminishing in-flight service. 'We will definitely not be doing the company any favours by working on our days off,' Kwan said.

'And we have also advised our members to be 100 per cent fit so that nobody risks going on a flight if they might be ill and might pass an infection on to passengers.'

She added: 'On busy short-haul flights, if we really have to wait for the 'fasten seat belt' sign to go off before we start the service, it can mean that maybe half of the passengers don't get their meals before the plane lands.

'We bend over backwards sometimes in order to ensure our passengers get their meals. Sometimes we put ourselves at risk by starting the service when the plane is still climbing. If we withdraw goodwill, we will probably want to take care of ourselves first.'

The guidelines also advise the union members to strictly enforce the cabin-baggage allowance, stopping passengers at the aircraft door if they have too much baggage, and to meticulously follow guidelines on hygiene and security checks.

In his memo to staff following the work-to-rule vote, general manager of in-flight services Charlie Stewart-Cox offers support to any flight attendants who will not join the action.

'It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in such unpleasant circumstances and I understand that you may be in a difficult position as a result. I am confident that you will continue to uphold the excellent standard of service that Cathay Pacific is famous for.'