Cathay Pacific has announced that its chairman John Slosar is stepping down to retire, the latest high-profile executive to leave the flagship carrier after it drew China‘s ire over pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
In a statement posted on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday, Cathay said Slosar, 63, had stepped down and will be replaced as chairman by Patrick Healy, a veteran from the Swire Group conglomerate, the airline’s majority shareholder.
“His resignation is due to his retirement,” the statement said, adding that the changes would take effect from November 6 at the conclusion of the company’s board meeting.
Slosar’s departure ends a nearly four-decade career with Swire and Cathay and caps a tumultuous month of sudden management changes at the airline as it tries to claw its way out of Beijing’s bad books.
In August, CEO Rupert Hogg stepped down in a move the company said was to “take responsibility … in view of recent events”.
Hogg and another senior executive resigned after China’s aviation regulator banned airline staff who had supported demonstrations from working on flights through its airspace after state media encouraged a boycott in the crucial mainland market.
Cathay was perceived as being sympathetic to protesters, especially after some flight attendants and pilots joined mass protests taking place in the city’s airport.
In July, Slosar said he would not want to tell his tens of thousands of employees what to think or which political views to hold.
But China’s public castigation – and the threat of being blacklisted from the vital mainland market – led to a sudden u-turn by the airline.
The executive issued a series of statements supporting Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leaders, fired at least four staff and ordered employees not to take part in any strikes or illegal protests.
A flight attendant who was a union organiser also said she was dismissed without explanation.
Staff at Cathay have since told the AFP news agency that they believed a “witch-hunt” is under way, with employees frantically deleting social media posts and gutting their friends lists fearing disciplinary action if they are found to have any links with the protests.