Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg has resigned from his position, along with the airline’s chief customer and commercial officer, following controversy over his threat to fire staff over protests in Hong Kong.

Last week, China ordered the airline to suspend workers who support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and Hogg warned staff on Monday that they would be let go if they were found to support or participate in “illegal protests”.

However, the flag carrier of Hong Kong had previously told employees it would not stop them joining demonstrations that originally started over a proposed bill that would allow criminals to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Protesters, who staged a sit-in at the airport that forced flight cancellations, are now urging its leaders to protect Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms and are angry about alleged police brutality during the rallies.

Both Hogg and chief customer and commercial officer Paul Loo are now stepping down, with Augustus Tang and Ronald Lam replacing them, respectively, at a “sensitive time” for the airline, according to chairman John Slosar.

Slosar added: “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. 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. 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.”

Announcing his resignation, Hogg said: “It has been my honour to lead the Cathay Pacific Group over the last three years. I am confident in the future or 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.”

Cathay Pacific has suffered reputationally in recent years, with a data breach affecting millions of passengers revealed in October 2018. It also posted a second year of losses in 2017, more than doubling a loss reported in 2016.

Subscribe to the BBT Newsletter

Join the Buying Business Travel newsletter for the latest business travel news.

Thank you for signing up!