Hong Kong Airlines staff may stage 'No Putonghua' protest after sit-in

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 4:25am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2014, 9:24am

Some Hong Kong Airlines staff have expressed support for a "No Putonghua" protest on July 1 after more than 70 passengers, mostly mainlanders, staged an 18-hour sit-in on a plane when their flight to Shanghai was cancelled.

Problems with the Hong Kong-Shanghai flight started at about 9pm on Friday after 276 passengers had boarded. Due to problems with mainland air traffic control, the passengers were asked to leave and offered alternative flights.

However, about 70 passengers, said to be mostly mainlanders, refused to disembark and occupied the plane for 18 hours. They finally left after the airline offered an undisclosed amount of compensation.

Watch: Hong Kong Airlines passengers stage 18-hour sit-in on plane

On Sunday, a message was posted anonymously on a Facebook page targeting staff of Hong Kong Airlines and prompting discussion of the incident.

The message suggested that the airline staff refrain from speaking Putonghua on July 1. The online post had received about 2,530 "likes" as of last night.

High fashion: How Cathay Pacific's uniforms have evolved through the ages

An airline flight attendant, who asked not to be identified, said she had heard about the campaign from colleagues.

"I support it. But my concern is if it can really work," she said, adding that she would have to speak to the passengers in English instead.

An airline ground staff member said it was "very likely" he and his colleagues would join.

"I am thinking that I will talk to [mainland passengers] in Cantonese first, and act surprised when they speak Putonghua, just to tease them a bit," he said.

He was upset that the airline had not shown any appreciation of the cabin crew, who had acted professionally during the sit-in.

He said that the crew onboard the "occupied" plane last Friday has served food and handed out blankets to the passengers.

Some crew members even lent the protestors their portable phone "power banks".

"But the passengers took pictures of the crew and posted them on the internet after their phones were charged," the Hong Kong Airlines employee said.

An airline spokesman said he believed that its staff would do all they could to serve passengers in accordance with a professional code of conduct.