Emirates airline crew members from Hong Kong have been required to wear both China and Hong Kong flag pins since last March. Staff may be punished if they do not follow the uniform policy, HKFP has learned.

In an email sent to them in January 2015, cabin crew members were told they must wear a nationality flag pin on their waistcoats. The nationality flags they received were based on the nationality stated in their passports.

Artist’s impression.

“The aim was to celebrate the international team that we have on board each flight, as well as to help both our customers and cabin crew teams to make an instant connection – whether it is finding comfort and assistance, or common ground to start a conversation,” an Emirates spokesperson told HKFP. “We’ve received very positive feedback on this initiative to date.”

However, Hong Kong crew members objected after their nationalities were switched from Hong Kong to China, following complaints from mainland Chinese crew members. Some Hong Kong staff were concerned that, since their new China flag pins were part of their standard uniform, they may “fail” company image and uniform checks if they did not wear them. Three “fails” could affect their promotion hopes, sources at the airline told HKFP.

Photo: HKFP screenshot.

Emirates said the company has more than 500 cabin crew who can communicate in Chinese, including Cantonese and Mandarin speakers. They confirmed they had received feedback from crew after the initiative was first introduced.

“This was evaluated and addressed and a compromise reached,” the spokesperson said. The compromise made in February 2015 was that Hong Kong crew must wear both China and Hong Kong flag pins starting from March 14 last year.”There have been no complaints or feedback since, particularly relating to the use of the flag pins from either our Hong Kong or Chinese crew,” the spokesperson added. “We will of course continue to review this matter.”

Sources told HKFP that some Hong Kong staff still preferred wearing only the Hong Kong flag. Though anyone spotted doing so could potentially face disciplinary action, with management threatening to revert to the China flag alone if staff did not wear both.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.