Cathay Pacific’s boss has quit after protests in Hong Kong led to the airline’s share price plunge, as it came under intense pressure from Chinese authorities to rein in employees who supported the demonstrators.
Rupert Hogg, the British chief executive, tendered his resignation to the board on Friday, along with the chief customer and commercial officer, Paul Loo.
The airline’s chair and former CEO, John Slosar, said: “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.”
Cathay had been downgraded by Chinese banks and told its crew would have to submit to checks before flying over the mainland after initially refusing to censure its employees for taking part in the pro-democracy protests.
However, Cathay has since dismissed a number of its employees. Protests by thousands of demonstrators in the main terminal of Cathay’s home hub at the Hong Kong International airport, halted all passenger travel, eventually forcing the airline to cancel more than 200 flights this week.
On Tuesday the airline said it was “deeply concerned by the ongoing violence and disruption impacting Hong Kong”. It added: “We resolutely support the Hong Kong SAR government, the chief executive and the police in their efforts to restore law and order … We must act now to stop the violence and preserve the stability, peace and prosperity of Hong Kong.”
Shares in the carrier fell this week to their lowest point in a decade.
Before being caught in the crossfire of Hong Kong’s political clashes, Cathay had already suffered from the Chinese slowdown and the effects of the US-China trade skirmishes, with its cargo business taking a hit as exports slowed.
Hogg, after three years at the helm, will be replaced by Augustus Tang, who is currently the chief executive of Cathay’s sister company, Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering. Hogg said: “These have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul [Loo] and I take responsibility as leaders of the company.”