In a surprise move, Rupert Hogg has resigned as chief executive officer of Cathay Pacific Airlines in a week that the airline as been under intense pressure from China over staff participation in Hong Kong protests.
Paul Loo, the chief customer and commercial officer of Cathay who was one of Hogg’s deputies, has also stepped down.
Augustus Tang has been appointed chief executive officer and Ronald Lam appointed chief customer and commercial officer.
“The Board of Directors believes that it is the right time for new leadership to take Cathay Pacific forward and that Augustus Tang and Ronald Lam, both of whom are highly experienced executives with long careers at Cathay Pacific, are ideally suited to lead the company,” the carrier’s Board says.
The airline has been under pressure from Chinese authorities to clamp down and take punitive action against staff participating in the protests.
Four employees including two pilots have already been let go. On Monday Hogg warned that staff could be fired if they “support or participate in illegal protests” in Hong Kong. Just a week earlier the airline’s tone was somewhat more lenient with its chairman John Slosar defending his staff’s right to freedom of thought, saying: “We certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something”.
Saying it was an “honour” working at Cathay for three years, Hogg says he confident in the future of Hong Kong as the key aviation hub in Asia. “However, these have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company.”
Slosar says the recent events “have called into question Cathay Pacific’s commitment to flight safety and security and put our reputation and brand under pressure.
“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,” Slosar adds.
And in an obvious nod to Hong Kong’s ultimate political masters, Slosar says: “Cathay Pacific is fully committed to Hong Kong under the principle of ‘One Country Two Systems’ as enshrined in the Basic Law. We are confident that Hong Kong will have a great future.”
In parting, Slosar adds: “Rupert Hogg and his team executed the three-year Transformation Programme which has been important to Cathay Pacific’s recovery and provides a strong platform for continued development.”