Cathay Pacific will likely delay its planned global marketing campaign promoting its crew after photographs of crew members allegedly engaging in sexual acts were circulated online and in Chinese-language newspapers.
The photographs posted on the Internet showed a woman in a red outfit resembling the airlines cabin crew uniform performing a sexual act on a man, reportedly her boyfriend, on board. The photos, widely reported to be a pilot and a flight attendant, have received a flood of coverage not just in Hong Kong, where the airline is based, but abroad.
Cathay chief executive John Slosar said in a statement released late on Friday that two members of crew "shown in compromising situations" in the photographs "are no longer employees of the company."
He added that there was no evidence to suggest that any indecent acts happened in-flight. However, the episode has embarrassed the company.
Cathay Pacific prides itself on service and has a five-star Skytrax rating, awarded to airlines achieving the highest service quality. The airline caters heavily to business travelers flying into and out of the Asian financial hub.
The high profile ad campaign began last year with photos and biographies of nearly 100 Cathay Pacific staff members. The second installment was due to roll out at the start of September bearing the slogan "Meet the team that goes the extra mile."
Now it appears the campaign will be delayed:
"We are thinking of holding the campaign back for a little while because the timing doesn't suit us at the moment," a spokesman said in a statement.
"The scope for the slogan and the campaign to be misinterpreted, or ridiculed and lampooned, in light of the cockpit incident, is obvious. The timing of this scandal really could not have been worse in marketing terms," a Cathay management source was quoted as telling the Sunday Morning Post.
The airline is in the process of handing over details of its internal investigation to Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department.