Emirates airline has said that it is recalling all flag pins worn by cabin crew as part of a uniform update, after an internal email ordering crew members to remove Taiwanese flags from their uniforms was leaked to the public.

“We have been instructed by the Chinese Government that with immediate effect, Emirates airline cabin crew are to follow the One China policy,” the email sent by the airline’s Uniform Standards and Development Manager on Tuesday said.

It ordered Taiwanese crew to remove their Taiwanese flags from their waistcoats and replace them with Chinese flags without exception.

Photo: Screenshots.

Another email was sent out hours later by the manager, saying that the original request was “incorrect and inappropriate” after reviewing responses to the email. It asked crew to refrain from wearing Taiwanese flags on flights until further notice.

A statement from an Emirates spokesperson sent to HKFP on Wednesday said the original email was sent in error and has since been retracted.

“Our intent is to recall the flag pins worn by all our cabin crew as part of our uniform update,” they said, adding the decision was based on ongoing feedback and review from staff.

Photo: Emirates.

“All cabin crew are no longer required to wear a flag pin as part of their uniform. Emirates apologises for the communication error.”

It was not the first time the airline has stirred controversy with its policy of requiring crew members to wear nationality flags on their uniforms. The initiative began in 2015 as a way to help passengers identify the nationality and languages spoken by crew members, and to celebrate their diversity.

But shortly after it was launched, Hong Kong crew members objected when their flag pins were switched from Hong Kong to China upon complaints from mainland flight crew. Emirates then came to a compromise with them and changed the rules to require Hong Kong crew to wear both Hong Kong and China flag pins.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.