Cathay Pacific Offers Staff Free Flight Tickets Following Hong Kong Protests

Cathay Pacific has offered free flight tickets to its staff to thank them for “pulling through during the challenging period” of the Hong Kong protests. The announcement was made in a Cathay Pacific internal newsletter which was released on Friday.

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777
Cathay Pacific employees could be in for a winter of free traveling. Photo: Windmemories via Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong’s largest airline, Cathay Pacific, has offered its staff free economy-class flights across Asia over the winter. The airline says it has offered up the freebie tickets as a way of thanking its staff for their support and hard work during the Hong Kong protests of the past few months.

According to reports by the South China Morning Post, news of the free flight tickets was spread via an internal newsletter on Friday. Addressing Cathay Pacific staff, Tom Owen, the airline’s people director, said:

“With this special promotion, I hope we have found a meaningful way to thank you all for your continuing commitment, professionalism and support.”

From today until 28 March, Cathay Pacific staff will be able to pick up free flight tickets to nearly 70 destinations across Asia through the giveaway. In total, around 27,000 staff will be eligible to receive the free flight tickets.

Why the sudden change of heart?

It’s no secret that the past few months have been rocky for Cathay Pacific and its employees. Tensions between the two have been fuelled by the Hong Kong protests in a number of ways.

Back in mid-August, China announced it would be banning Cathay Pacific staff who had participated in the protests from landing at Chinese airports.

A Cathay Pacific Airbus A330
The Hong Kong protests have been a highly destructive force on Hong Kong’s airlines. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

This was obviously a big problem for the airline as it couldn’t afford to have large portions of its cabin crew unable to fly to one of its biggest markets. Cathay Pacific soon responded with a warning to its employees, stating that it has a “zero-tolerance approach to any support for or participation in illegal protests, violent activities or overly radical behaviour.”

This obviously didn’t go down very well with many Cathay Pacific employees and outside observers. Cathay Pacific’s statement was seen as an affront against freedom of speech, and the airline’s relationship with its staff doesn’t appear to have been quite the same since.

Building bridges with free flights

Gifts are a great way to show someone you care, which may be the thinking behind Cathay Pacific’s staff flight giveaway. But if that were the case, it could quickly become very expensive, considering there are 27,000 eligible members of staff.

The less obvious reason that has been pointed out is that Cathay Pacific is trying to fill the extra seat capacity left behind by the swathes of Chinese and foreign passengers who have moved away from the airline and Hong Kong itself.

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777
Most of Cathay Pacific’s flights are now significantly under capacity. Photo: Masakatsu Ukon via Flickr

Flying with empty seats can set a negative impression with paying customers, especially when they’re choosing to fly with a premium airline. Regardless of the motivations behind a decision like this, free flight tickets are a great way to get your employees on side.

Cathay Pacific was not available to respond to Simple Flying’s request for comment on the staff flight giveaway.