Cathay shake-up tipped

Andy Gilbert

THREE recent departures from Cathay Pacific's corporate affairs department have led to suggestions of a shake-up in the company as it moves towards 1997.

The latest casualty in the department was corporate communications manager Phil Burfurd, who left 'by mutual consent' last week.

Mr Burfurd, an Australian, said his position had become increasingly difficult in the past year and hinted that there might be more departures to come.

'We agreed it was best we went our separate ways . . . it had become more and more difficult since last year when the company was re-organised,' he said.

'My position had been downgraded and it became more difficult to do the job. A lot of it was the restructuring of the company which downgraded the corporate section.' Cathay has witnessed big changes in the past few years with its Operation Better Shape: an overhaul of the company, and a re-launch of the airline culminating in a new livery last summer.

But it has also been a tough time, with a flight attendants' strike in 1993 costing an estimated $240 million, a run-in with its pilots last year over pay and conditions, and now a legal battle with Australia over passenger loads and flying rights.

There has also been constant speculation that Cathay's owner, Swire, may sell its controlling stake come 1997 because of fears China may baulk at a British company owning Hong Kong's flag carrier.

Mr Burfurd joined Cathay just after the 17-day flight attendants' strike. Insiders said he was unpopular with many people inside and outside the company, although they were surprised by his sudden departure.

His departure and those of two of his colleagues recently have led to suggestions Cathay is courting a new public relations image.

'My guess is there may be a few more departures. It is an interesting time,' Mr Burfurd said.

Swire spokesman Nick Rhodes said Mr Burfurd's departure was an internal matter, but added that all three departures in the public relations department were unrelated.

'The positions will be refilled and do not reflect any reshuffling of the department,' he said.