Cathay attendants threaten no smiles, meals or alcohol on flights
Flight attendants at Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways are threatening to withhold food, alcohol and even smiles from passengers during the Christmas holidays over a pay dispute, a union official said on Thursday.
Cabin staff at the airline, which has a reputation for top-notch service, voted at a union meeting this week in favour of industrial action that could also result in flight delays.
The union is demanding a 5 per cent pay increase but the airline, which is struggling to cut costs after posting a first-half loss of HK$935 million, has offered 2 per cent.
The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union would soon announce when the action approved in the vote would be carried out, General Secretary Tsang Kwok-fung said.
“We may not provide alcoholic drinks to our passengers, or we may not even provide meals to passengers,” in which case the union would advise travellers to bring their own food and drinks, said Tsang.
Limited service could also include withholding smiles and greetings from passengers.
“We cannot smile because of the situation, because of how the company treats us,” Tsang said.
The union is also considering working to rule, which involves doing no more than the minimum work required in contracts and precisely following safety regulations. Such tactics could include strictly enforcing size limits on hand luggage or waiting for all cleaning staff to leave the plane before boarding. The measures could delay flights by 20 to 30 minutes, Tsang said.
Some 1,600 of the union’s nearly 6,000 members voted on Monday for industrial action after negotiations with the airline broke down.
The union is also considering a strike as a last resort, but not until the new year.
Cathay took out ads in Hong Kong newspapers last Thursday saying it’s waiting to hear back from the union on an invitation to hold further talks. “We fully understand how important it is not to disrupt passengers at this busy time,” the airline said.
Cathay has said it will negotiate but only if the union drops the threat of industrial action.