Cathay Pacific has sent a message to its cabin crew to dispel rumours that it conducted on-board security checks last week to catch any thieving flight attendants.
But the airline, citing "aviation safety", says it cannot reveal any more about the mysterious people who have been seen entering Cathay planes and inspecting the interiors after passengers have disembarked.
The official response came after crew members complained that two or three unidentified people had been boarding landed planes for no apparent reason several times a day since about Monday last week.
The incidents stopped after the South China Morning Post reported the matter on Saturday, Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union chairwoman Dora Lai Yuk-sim said.
It was suspected that the impromptu intrusions were mounted to see if flight attendants were removing on-board refreshments such as wine and caviar, following instructions for in-flight managers to keep an eye on any attempts to remove or tamper with company property.
In a message posted on its staff intranet dated Monday, the management says: "[We are] aware that there have been rumours circulating around the crew community about security checks on crew for potential pilferage. [We] would like to dispel these rumours here."
Referring to the earlier message to in-flight managers on pilfering, it continues: "We sent this e-mail … because there had been reports regarding the removal of items from the aircraft, but none of these incidents involved cabin crew."
It says the airline is aware of rumours about ground staff performing checks on planes.
"We have received one report but as it is related to aviation safety, [we] cannot divulge any additional information. [We] can however say that we take the safety and security of our aircraft very seriously and follow up on all reports."
Earlier, the airline said in a reply to the Post that the intruders were not its staff.
Crew members said the intruders, both men and women in suits or casual wear, would walk from the front of the cabin to the back.
They appeared to be looking for or inspecting something but did not take anything away. When flight attendants asked those people who they were, they either refused to answer or replied "ground staff", before walking away.
Some flight attendants had speculated that the intruders could be Cathay staff sent on board by the management to check if cabin crew were removing on-board refreshments.