Time for Cathay to come clean on junket
Something strikes me in a complaint letter sent to us courtesy of Cathay Pacific's corporate affairs chief, Chitty Cheung.
"For many years," Cheung wrote, "It has been Cathay Pacific's practice to invite guests to events such as aircraft delivery trips and new destination launches."
Now that's the story we seem to be missing, because we still don't know much about those lavish junkets, sorry, I mean business trips. Readers need to have a better understanding of how far they date back, how frequent and costly they have been and who was on previous trips. My guess is that past sponsored travellers would be a who's who in Hong Kong.
I suspect the reason no one anticipated the furore over the trip to France is because such trips have been, as Cheung implied, common and nothing out of the ordinary for Cathay. That may be why the 10 holidaymaking lawmakers and an Executive Council member, Cheng Yiu-tong, felt hard done by.
Of course, things are supposed to be business as usual - until it is not.
In the letter, Cheung said the trip was not a junket because that implied "an extravagant celebration that had no clear purpose other than to entertain". No doubt in Cheung's exalted business circles, two business-class round-trip tickets to France - the lawmakers had either a spouse or a child with them - costing north of HK$100,000 and an extended stay in a luxury hotel don't count as extravagant. To a guy like me, that qualifies as the trip of a lifetime.
Cheung said it was really a business trip to inform because "aviation is an important industry in Hong Kong that employs thousands of people and is a pillar of the local economy". You got that right. It's precisely because of the importance of national airlines - and CX is Hong Kong's equivalent - that they are almost always heavily regulated. Hong Kong's aviation industry is no exception.
The reverse of regulation is sometimes called "regulatory capture", the co-opting of regulators and people with policy influence through usually legitimate or legal means to manipulate regulatory outcomes. That line must not be crossed, otherwise it's called corruption.
Now is not the time for Cathay to be angry with the media, but to re-examine its practice.