Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific has confirmed that, after a thorough investigation into tampering with in-flight portable oxygen bottles, they have now caught two of the saboteurs.
The first incidents were noted following a routine inspection at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) on August 17th and 18th aboard two Cathay Pacific Boeing 777s that had arrived from Hong Kong.
Each of the two flights had 22 portable oxygen bottles that are there for cabin crew to use in the event of the aircraft losing pressurization. If the aircraft loses cabin pressure, oxygen masks automatically deploy above each seat for the passengers to use. However, cabin crews still need to be able to move about the cabin, so use the portable bottles while going about their duties.
Between the two flights, it was discovered that the oxygen had either been depleted or partially exhausted from 13 of the bottles. Then just last Friday one of the 16 oxygen bottles aboard Cathay Dragon flight KA730 from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur was found to have been tampered with also.
Before the Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 took off for Malaysia, all the portable oxygen bottles were full, leaving the airline to assume that it was one of the crew performing the malicious act.
Cathay Pacific is treating the oxygen bottle matter very seriously
“Cathay Dragon immediately reported the case to the Hong Kong police, who have launched a parallel investigation into the matter. The Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department has been informed.”
All crew members on the fight were suspended from duties while an investigation was underway.
“Based on the results of the investigation, two cabin crew members have had their employment terminated.”
Cathay Pacific released its statement on the matter which read:
“Cathay Pacific has confirmed that an investigation into tampering involving portable emergency oxygen bottles has resulted in the termination of two flight attendants. All crew members working on the six flights on which oxygen bottles were discovered to been emptied were suspended until being cleared by investigators. In addition to the fired employees, several other flight attendants not cleared for duty continue to assist in the investigation.”
Cathay security chief Richard Howell wanted to ensure Cathay Pacific’s customers that the airline was treating the oxygen bottle tampering very seriously saying:
“Running a safe and secure operation is and always will be our greatest priority – we have robust pre-flight checks in place to identify any irregularities and to ensure all emergency equipment is serviceable, so that the safety of our crew and passengers is upheld at all times,” Cathay security chief Richard Howell said in a statement “Accordingly, we have further strengthened our security measures by adding inflight and post-landing checks for all of our flights. We have communicated with our cabin crew and employees the importance of maintaining impeccable safety standards at all times. There is no compromise in this area.”
Why are Cathay Pacific Airlines oxygen bottles being tampered with?
While the two Cathay Dragon flight attendants have been fired, it still leaves Cathay Pacific to uncover who was behind the previous incidents.
The whole oxygen bottle saga started after Cathay Pacific was warned by the Chinese aviation authorities to prevent its staff from taking part in anti-government protests.
The citizens of Hong Kong first took to the streets three months ago to protest a bill that would have allowed people to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Now, following weeks of protests that included shutting down Hong Kong’s airport and violent clashes with police, the bill has been withdrawn.
Hong Kong citizens who regard themselves as being different from people in communist China are worried that Beijing wants to take away their democratic freedoms.
After being told they would be fired for being seen as supporting the pro-democracy movement, we can only assume that certain employee’s thought the oxygen bottle stunt would send a subtle message to the airline.
For their part, Cathay Pacific has no choice but to follow directives from Beijing if they want to keep flying.
China to celebrate its 70th anniversary on October 1st
Meanwhile, in what could turn out to be related news, China celebrates its 70th anniversary on October 1st in what is expected to be a huge display of military might.
The demonstrators in Hong Kong will no doubt use the occasion to show their disdain for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambition of uniting Hong Kong and Taiwan into China with more protests.
With China and more importantly the Communist Party’s pride on the line a serious escalation by protesters on China’s National Day could prompt a hard-handed response from Beijing.