Hong Kong Flight Attendants working for Emirates Airlines are not amused over a new directive mandating them to wear a China Flag pin next to their Hong Kong flag as part of their uniform.
Crew wears these pins to signalize their heritage but also their language capabilities, signaling passengers that they are able to assist them in their native language.
It’s no secret that there is open resentment of Hong Kong’ers to be mistaken for mainland Chinese citizens and this is just one incident that shows how far it actually goes.
The Hong Kong Free Press (access here) reported on how this dispute developed.
Emirates airline crew members from Hong Kong have been required to wear both China and Hong Kong flag pins since last March. Staff may be punished if they do not follow the uniform policy, HKFP has learned.
In an email sent to them in January 2015, cabin crew members were told they must wear a nationality flag pin on their waistcoats. The nationality flags they received were based on the nationality stated in their passports.
“The aim was to celebrate the international team that we have on board each flight, as well as to help both our customers and cabin crew teams to make an instant connection – whether it is finding comfort and assistance, or common ground to start a conversation,” an Emirates spokesperson told HKFP. “We’ve received very positive feedback on this initiative to date.”
So far so good. This is actually common practice at many airlines for a long time already since most airlines have ethnic speakers on board their flights overseas. But the Emirates story doesn’t stop there.
However, Hong Kong crew members objected after their nationalities were switched from Hong Kong to China, following complaints from mainland Chinese crew members. Some Hong Kong staff were concerned that, since their new China flag pins were part of their standard uniform, they may “fail” company image and uniform checks if they did not wear them. Three “fails” could affect their promotion hopes, sources at the airline told HKFP.
Emirates said the company has more than 500 cabin crew who can communicate in Chinese, including Cantonese and Mandarin speakers. They confirmed they had received feedback from crew after the initiative was first introduced.
I can’t see anything wrong with Emirates changing their policy from primarily the nationality but rather the language to be the determining factor to assign the flag. To be honest, this sounds more like HK crew felt somewhat insulted to be thrown into one box with the Chinese crew.
“This was evaluated and addressed and a compromise reached,” the spokesperson said. The compromise made in February 2015 was that Hong Kong crew must wear both China and Hong Kong flag pins starting from March 14 last year.”There have been no complaints or feedback since, particularly relating to the use of the flag pins from either our Hong Kong or Chinese crew,” the spokesperson added. “We will of course continue to review this matter.”
Following a discussion on Facebook, one lady who is a flight attendant for Emirates said that those staff who hold a British National Overseas passport carry the British flag pin. One of the criteria to obtain such a passport is having been born in HK before the handover in 1997 so the chance of staff being eligible for such passport are actually quite good.
Nevertheless I think the real issue here is to give too much weigh to a simple regulation that should be a non-issue. After all, HK crew is still permitted to wear the HK Flag at the same time even though the airline has already indicated that if troubles continue they will eliminate the HK pin altogether and retain the Chinese Flag for all parties involved.
Sometimes people have to realize they are on the job and not in their leisure time. I said it before, I think Flight Attendants are living in another world detached from reality. What is so hard about it to realize that your employer makes the rules as far as the uniform goes and such rules can be amended at any time?
People should decide if they want a paycheck or rather be in a position where they can choose freely about every aspect of their work environment in which case self employment would be the best option.