Rupert Hogg, the CEO of Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific, has resigned amid recent controversies surrounding the city’s anti-extradition law crisis.
Hogg will be replaced by Augustus Tang, CEO of Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Limited (HAECO), which – like Cathay – is also under the Swire Group.
Paul Loo, chief customer and commercial officer of Cathay Pacific, also resigned on Friday. He will be immediately replaced by Ronald Lam, CEO of Hong Kong Express, who will remain in the role until a successor has been appointed.
Cathay Pacific said in a statement that its board of directors believed that it was the right time for new leadership, after a meeting on Friday.
“Augustus Tang and Ronald Lam have the experience and depth of knowledge of aviation and our people to be strong and effective leaders of Cathay Pacific at this sensitive time. Hong Kong is a fantastic home for our airline. It is a world class city and has a premium airport which is the biggest international passenger and cargo hub in Asia. Cathay Pacific has a relentless focus on standards of safety and care, and an unrivalled reputation for customer service,” John Slosar, chairman of Cathay Pacific, said in the statement.
Slosar praised Hogg and his team for overseeing a three-year transformation programme for the airline: “However, 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,” Slosar said.
“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. 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.”
Hogg said in the statement he was confident in the future of Hong Kong as the key aviation hub in Asia.
”In Full: Hogg’s statement – Click to view“
I think that everyone in the Cathay Group would agree that the disturbances in Hong Kong, and the subsequent focus that these events have brought upon Cathay Pacific, has put great stress upon the company and our people.
This is a grave and critical time for our airlines. There is no doubt that our reputation and brand are under immense pressure and this pressure has been building for some weeks, particularly in the all-important market of mainland China.
Some of the damage to our brand may have been caused by external factors but, Paul and I, as the most senior members of the leadership team, have been at the forefront of this crisis and must take responsibility for the way it has been managed. Could we have managed things differently? In hindsight, “yes.”
We believe, therefore, that it is our collective responsibility to take accountability for the situation we now find ourselves in and we have decided to step down from our current positions with effect from midnight on Monday. Now is the time for swift and decisive action to restore the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders in Cathay Pacific and to assure them that safety and security will always be our number one priority.
We believe that a change in leadership is required to take the company forward at this critical juncture. It is clear that the environment in which we operate has changed and there will be new and different challenges that arise as a consequence. We take this step secure in the knowledge that we have able replacements who will rise to these challenges and provide strong leadership and direction.
It is a testament to the ‘bench strength’ of the Swire Group that the new members of the senior leadership team; Augustus Tang and Ronald Lam bring such a wealth of relevant experience, both in aviation and in doing business in China. They will complement the considerable experience and capability that already exists in our senior team, particularly on the operational and service delivery sides of the business.
We will have a strong new team to take the Cathay Group forward as we embark on the next chapter of a long and wonderful history. We have been through many crises before and we have not only survived but thrived. This is in large part because we have always been able to adapt, to be quick on our feet to make changes when they are necessary.
Looking forward, some things will not change:
• Running a safe and secure airline will be our highest priority and we must ensure that our customers are confident of this
• We must continue to deliver a customer experience that is different and better than others can provide
• We must work together as a strong, united, highly professional team
• We must [strengthen] the unique culture and the values that reflect all that is really special about working for the Cathay Group; thoughtfulness, the can-do spirit and progressiveness
I remain convinced that Hong Kong, and the Cathay Group have a great future. It is up to you to make it happen and I am supremely confident that you will. With a new management team in place it is now critical that we all align, are professional and work together to ensure that Cathay Pacific seizes that future.
Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for your hard work, dedication and support, and most important of all, your unwavering commitment to the Cathay Group.
“However, these have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company,” he said.
On Wednesday, Cathay Pacific fired two pilots over incidents connected to the city’s anti-government protests. Both were second officers.
One of them was arrested and charged for rioting in Sheung Wan on July 28. The other was sacked for misusing company information on flight CX216 on Monday. On that day, the airport announced that all flights would be cancelled after 6pm amid an anti-police violence protest at the airport.
A user of the Reddit-like LIHKG forum, who was thought to be the Cathay pilot in question, posted internal information from the flight in a forum thread, to apparently inform protesters that they could return to the airport sit-in.
The company warned this week that staff could be fired if they “support or participate in illegal protests,” after China’s aviation regulator required Cathay to submit staff lists on flights to the mainland or travelling through its airspace.
Also on Wednesday, Cathay Pacific had issued a statement in support of the government: “[W]e would like to reiterate our firm support for the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Chief Executive and the Police in their efforts to restore law and order,” it said.