Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s female staff win right to wear trousers in historic move for Hong Kong carrier    

Talks to end skirt-only rule concluded successfully with an understanding between carrier and its cabin crew union, Post has learned

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 11:21pm

Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon will give all female uniformed staff the option of wearing trousers for the first time, marking a historic and progressive change for the more than 70-year-old Hong Kong carrier.

Talks to end the skirt-only rule concluded successfully on Thursday with an understanding between Cathay Dragon and its cabin crew union, both sides said.

Frontline staff of both airlines will benefit including airport ground staff.

Earlier this month, the flight attendants’ union for Cathay Dragon sparked a debate over that stipulation, with its public request for female crew to be given the right to wear trousers.

Rebecca Sy, the union’s cabin crew chair for Cathay Dragon, confirmed the successful negotiations had taken place.

“The company agrees to consider the option of a trouser uniform item for female crew. This will take place during the next uniform refresh,” the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association said in a statement.

Sexist baggage must be ditched by airlines

A spokesman for Cathay Pacific also said there had been an agreement.

“We are pleased that we have reached an understanding on matters raised,” the airline said. 

“There is no progress without change. Now is the time to make this happen by working together to review the uniforms that accurately reflect the values we represent.”

It added that it was “imperative” that staff not only feel pride in wearing the uniform of both airlines but “feel comfortable and empowered to carry out their duties to the best of their abilities”.

Winning more progressive rights comes as equal workplace treatment for women and an end to sexual harassment were put on the media agenda with the #MeToo movement, encouraging women to speak up about issues at work and in society at large.

Attention is likely to turn to Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express, the two other local carriers, which stipulate female staff can only wear knee-high skirts. Both airlines have been contacted for comment.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon join the likes of South Korean firms Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, which are among the few airlines in Asia that give female flight attendants the option to wear trousers.

Seven airlines whose female flight attendants wear trousers, Cathay take note

Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet stands alone with its use of female crews to sell sexualised calendars featuring bikini-clad staff as part of an edgy branding image.

Meanwhile, concluding the rest of the Cathay Dragon cabin crew talks, both sides agreed to a below-inflation 1 per cent pay rise for basic salary and flight duty payments, effective for one year. The incremental rise is much lower than the 4 per cent sought by the union. The inflation rate in Hong Kong was 1.7 per cent for 2017.

“After three rounds of [negotiations] with the management today, the result was not what we expected. However, [while] we do acknowledge it has been a very difficult year for the company since there was a HK$4 billion loss, we are reluctant to accept the pay rise part. We urge the company to pay back the crew when the business picks up,” the union said, referring to the annual loss for the two airline businesses, excluding associates and subsidiary profits. 

Cathay Pacific, Asia’s largest international airline, saw its net loss more than double to HK$1.25 billion (US$160 million) in 2017, marking the carrier’s first back-to-back loss in its 71-year history, however, managed a half year profit of HK$792 million for the period of 2017 between July and December.