Cathay Pacific’s CEO Stands Down Amid Hong Kong Protests

The boss of Cathay Pacific, CEO Rupert Hogg, has resigned. This follows the recent crisis in Hong Kong involving anti-Beijing protests, during which Hogg had threatened staff with losing their jobs if they supported or participated in the demonstrations.

Cathay Pacific A350
Cathay boss has resigned. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Hogg’s deputy and Chief Customer and Commercial Officer, Paul Loo, has also resigned from the airline. In a statement reported by the BBC, Hogg said of the resignations,

“These have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company.”

The airline has named Augustus Tang as the new CEO. Tang was previously the head of Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO), which is owned by Swire Pacific Ltd, as is Cathay. Loo will be replaced by the head of HK Express, Ronald Lam.

The shock resignations follow the sacking of four members of staff for taking part in the recent demonstrations. They were first reported by Chinese state media TV CCTV.

What’s happening?

It was announced earlier today that CEO Rupert Hogg would be stepping down from his role in leading Cathay Pacific. In addition to his resignation, CCO Paul Loo also stepped down at the same time. In a statement to the South China Morning Post, Cathy chairman John Slosar said,

“This is regrettable as we have always made safety and security our highest priority. We therefore think it is time to put a new management team in place who can reset confidence and lead the airline to new heights.”

Rupert Hogg said that it had been an ‘honor’ to lead the airline for his almost three years at the helm.

Rupert Hogg
Rupert Hogg is ‘honored’ to have served at Cathay. Photo: RISE via Flickr

Replacements Tang and Lam are said by Cathay to be “highly experienced executives with long careers at Cathay Pacific” and that they are “ideally suited to lead the company”.

CCTV broke the news of Hogg’s resignation as Cathay Pacific CEO almost half an hour before the Hong Kong stock exchange did. In a cryptic statement to the media, John Slosar is quoted as saying,

“Cathay Pacific fully supports Hong Kong’s implementation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle and we have full confidence in Hong Kong’s bright future,”

Hong Kong demonstrations

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have grown to become one of the biggest demonstrations the city has seen to date. Thousands of protesters thronged the streets of the city and descended on the airport, making it impossible for passengers to travel.

Protestors blocked the streets and airport. Photo: Wikimedia

Cathay has been the airline which was hurt the most by the recent protests, as swathes of demonstrators brought the city and, notably, the airport to a standstill. China’s aviation regulator, noting Cathay staff’s involvement in the protests, demanded that any staff taking part be stopped immediately or risk having their rights to fly over the mainland revoked.

Cathay embarked on a course of damage limitation, with Hogg himself stating any participants in the protests risked losing their jobs. On the 14th August, four members of staff at the airline, including two pilots, were indeed sacked for being associated with the protests.

However, it seems that not even this bold move was enough to save Hogg, who had previously been credited with helping to turn the airline around following two years of losses. Hogg took the helm at Cathay just over two years ago, and is said by Bloomberg as having been “tasked with one of the toughest turnaround jobs in Asian commercial aviation”.

This is a breaking story and will be updated as further details emerge.