The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a claim that Cathay Pacific discriminated against female flight attendants through its former retirement policy. Three judges unanimously ruled Cathay had breached the Sex Discrimination Ordinance by forcing stewdardess Helen Tsang Hei-lun to leave the company in October 1997. Until 1993, female attendants had to retire at 40, although they could work a further five years on contract. Male cabin attendants could work until 55. Ms Tsang, 49 - who joined the airline's ground staff in March 1977 and started work as a flight attendant in January 1979 - was forced to retire in October 1992, aged 40. She was allowed to continue to work on a yearly contract until October 3, 1997 - the day before she turned 45. When she left the airline, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance had been in effect for 10 months. It had been argued in court that Ms Tsang retired in 1992 and nothing in the ordinance indicated it had retrospective effect. But Vice-President Mr Justice Simon Mayo, Mrs Justice Doreen Le Pichon and Mr Justice Wally Yeung found that Ms Tsang was employed by Cathay until she left in 1997. Mr Justice Mayo compared the treatment of Ms Tsang to a male flight attendant who had been employed over the same period and was entitled to work until 55. 'Over and above this, when the terms of service were amended in 1993 he was given an option to retire at 45 if he wished to do so and obtain more favourable retirement benefits,' Mr Justice Mayo said. 'He was accordingly in a much better position than Ms Tsang was and the only reason for this was his gender.' Mrs Justice Le Pichon added: 'The discrimination suffered by the claimant was not a 'one-off' act that predated the entry into force of the ordinance; rather, it was a continuing act of discrimination that extended to the end of the period during which the claimant was employed by Cathay.' Last December, District Court judge John Saunders ruled in favour of Ms Tsang. The issue of damages has not been resolved. Cathay Pacific's corporate communication manager, Lisa Wong Lai-shan, said yesterday the airline was disappointed at the decision and would seek legal advice. Ms Wong said that in July 1993 the airline made 45 the retirement age for all cabin crew. In July 1999, the retirement age for men and women who joined before July 1993 was 55. Ms Tsang, who now works for United Airlines, flew out of Hong Kong yesterday.