The Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd logo is displayed atop a building at Cathay Pacific City, the company’s headquarters, in Hong Kong in August, 2018. Photo:VCG

Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific Airways said Tuesday it has suspended a pilot operating Flight CX216 for misuse of company information and launched an internal proceeding to investigate the matter after reports suggested one of its crew members allegedly provided information for departing protesters and encouraged them to create further unrest at Hong Kong International Airport.  

 “A deputy pilot of the CX216 flight has been suspended for misusing company information and breaking the company’s code of conduct,” Cathay Pacific said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Tuesday.

A photo showing the information for Flight CX216 from Manchester in the UK to Hong Kong circulated online on Monday night. 

The person who posted the photo said Hong Kong airport had resumed receiving incoming flights. 

Chinese internet users speculated that the picture was shot by someone employed by the airline who was calling on departing protesters to return to the airport.

Earlier that day, Cathay Pacific sent a sternly worded internal letter to its employees, warning them not to participate in any illegal protests, which Chinese mainland experts said was a major change of attitude from its former tacit encouragement of its staff to join in the riots of Hong Kong.

“Pilots matter for the safety of a whole plane of passengers. If the pilot starts leaking inside messages [to radicals], [I] can’t imagine how frenzied the pilot will become in the future,” posted one internet user on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform.

Pilots and employees who participated in illegal protests should be fired and immediately banned from flying for life, another user posted.

Cathay Pacific on Tuesday pledged to secure passenger safety and strongly condemned the protesters’ behavior that caused Hong Kong airport to halt flights on Monday. 

But Chinese mainland industry observers noted that Cathay Pacific’s new pledge should be tested by time.

Flight CX899, which had been scheduled to depart from Newark Airport in the US on Sunday and arrive at Hong Kong airport on Monday, was diverted to Japan’s Kansai International Airport on Tuesday. 

A flight tracking platform showed the plane did not pass over the Chinese mainland as it flew.

Cathay Pacific later said that the flight diversion was not caused by the Chinese aviation authority’s air safety warning on Friday. Cathay Pacific drew an air traffic control reason for the diversion.