Flight attendants are threatening to stop smiling, in protest at Cathay Pacific's plans to scrap their automatic pay rises. The airline, which employs 5,500 attendants, is demanding employees fly an extra eight hours a month to win a 3.5 per cent rise. Other options are to work the same number of hours for the same money or take a voluntarily severance package. As a form of industrial action against the airline that promises 'warmth and friendly service straight from the heart', cabin crew are considering refusing to smile at passengers for one hour on each flight. Becky Kwan Siu-wa, who chairs the Flight Attendants' Union, representing three-quarters of cabin crew, said not smiling was one way to express dissatisfaction. 'Our contracts do not say we have to smile,' she said, adding that other types of action were being considered. 'We won't jeopardise passenger safety or inconvenience passengers. And we will fulfil contractual duty as cabin attendants.' The starting package for flight attendants, including allowances and overtime, is about $12,000 a month. The union says Cathay, which recorded a $175 million loss to the end of June last year - its first in 35 years - is seeking to exploit the economic downturn. 'They're trying to use this chance to attack our automatic pay rise system, which for the past 35 years has guaranteed us a rise of one to four per cent for every additional year of service,' Ms Kwan said. Yesterday, flight attendants began pinning protest badges to their uniforms. An airline spokeswoman, Quince Chong Wai-yan, said: 'It's not fair to the passengers. Our company is service-oriented. Since they're in the service industry, they should understand what's good service.' Union leaders have accused the company of trying to break the union by abandoning collective talks and going directly to employees to persuade them to accept the offers. But Flight Attendants' Union membership has risen by 316 members to 4,180 since the pay options were announced on December 16. Frontier legislator and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan, said: 'They're forcing flight attendants into a showdown. 'When flight attendants don't want to smile, you know they're really unhappy.'