Complaints by Taiwanese crew to the new directive appear to have forced the airline company to reverse part of its order.
A directive to all Taiwanese cabin crew on Emirates has caused a backlash among employees after it requested they refrain from wearing the Republic of China (ROC) pin on their service waistcoat and replace it with that of China.
The order, issued on Tuesday by the Uniform Standards And Development Manager at Emirates, states that the order followed instructions by the Chinese government and had immediate effect.
“This must be followed by all Taiwanese crew without exception,” said the internal electronic message, sent to employees by Nicola Parker. “Additional stock of Chinese flags [pins] have been ordered and expected to arrive in the coming weeks.”
Unnamed Taiwanese flight crew also allege that their nationality was to be changed to “Chinese” on all China-bound flights. Taiwanese crew were also reportedly no longer able to use their ROC passport number for identification.
The directive occurs as Dubai, UAE-based Emirates seeks to increase its business in Asia and in China more specifically following new policies in the U.S. that threaten to cut into Emirates’ business in the American market.
Following complaints by Taiwanese crew members, the Uniform Standards And Development Manager issued a correction stating that “the original request for you to wear a Chinese flag was incorrect and inappropriate.”
Despite the small victory, Taiwanese crew were nevertheless asked to refrain from wearing the Taiwanese (ROC) pin during flights until further notice.
A government-owned company, Emirates is the world’s fourth-largest airline by scheduled passenger-kilometres flown, with 251,19 million in 2015, behind American Airlines, United and Delta, and 7th by number of countries served (70).
Contacted for comment, an employee at Emirates who spoke on condition of anonymity told Taiwan Sentinel that at first he/she could not believe it. “My initial reaction was shock, indignation, and anger,” the employee said.
“My reasons for feeling insulted were One, since when does the company receive instructions regarding the ‘one China’ policy from the Chinese government and Two, how can an image and uniform manager tell me what country I identify with and decide that I should wear a Chinese flag?”
The employee said Hong Kong crew had already been instructed to wear both the Hong Kong and People’s Republic of China pin on their uniforms.
On an online group for Taiwanese crew, reactions to today’s directive were similar. “Everyone was talking about it, expressing their indignation and anger.”
“Some of them have taken action writing back to the sender [Parker] and saying that we should reply collectively to the head, whom the sender reports to,” the employee said.
“I don’t think the company was expecting this reaction.”
Asked what is expected to happen next, the employee said that crew worried that once this gets reported in the media, the company could change its “until further notice” to a more forceful action, “since anything that gives a bad name to the company, they usually can’t tolerate that.”
At this writing, Emirates had yet to respond to a request for comment. This story will be updated as necessary.