26 September 2023

False: Cathay Pacific did not say the company will slash 5,300 jobs because of the 2019 HK airport protest

Restructuring is due to the pandemic crisis. Many major airlines in the region are also restructuring their operations.

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A photo of people going to the Hong Kong International Airport to join the protests in August 2019 alongside an announcement about the restructuring of the Cathay Pacific Airways Limited was posted on Facebook on Oct. 21.

The Hong Kong flagship carrier announced on that day it would eliminate 8,500 positions globally, consequently letting go of 5,300 Hong Kong-based employees as well as ceasing the operations of Cathay Dragon on their official website.

The Facebook post reads:

“正常香港市民記得去年,機場和你塞嗎? 今天它們自食其果,攬炒成功,國泰航空裁走本地5300位員工,多謝空姐工會!”

It translates in English as:

“Normal Hong Kong citizens, remember the airport protest from last year? Today they reap what they have sown. They succeed in mutual destruction. Cathay Pacific fires 5300 local staffers, thanks to the cabin attendants union!”

The post gathered more than 662 likes, 113 comments and 38 shares.

However, the claim is false. The press release issued by the airline on its website says, “The Cathay Pacific Group today announced a corporate restructuring in response to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation market.”

The aviation industry in Asia has experienced a historic loss this year due to the global pandemic crisis and many major airlines in the region are also restructuring their operations.

Cathay Pacific has lost close to HK$10 billion (about US$1.3 billion) in the first six months this year. It is losing more than HK$1.5 billion (about US$194 million) a month, the carrier says, and even in a best case scenario its passenger capacity would be under 50% of the pre-pandemic level at the end of 2021.

The photo in the Facebook post in question seems to have been taken from another post dated on Aug. 12, 2019. It shows people walking towards the Hong Kong International Airport to participate in a protest against a bill amending the extradition law, which was later withdrawn. The protest resulted in the shut down of the airport and all flights were cancelled.

The official announcement from Cathay Pacific on Oct. 21, which was also included in the Facebook post with the false claim, discusses the restructuring plan including layoffs and changes in the conditions of service of Hong Kong-based cabin and cockpit crew.

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The screenshot of the official document on the Cathay Pacific Airline website
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The first photo showed people walking towards the airport to protest.
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The second photo of the Chinese version an official announcement from Cathay Pacific Airways Limited.