Emirates has quickly walked back a controversial leaked email sent to employees on Tuesday ordering cabin crew staff to remove Taiwanese flag pins from their uniforms and instead wear ones with the Chinese flag.
The email with the heading “Immediate Removal of Taiwanese Flag” was sent yesterday by Nicola Parker, the airline’s Uniform Standards and Development Manager, who wrote that Emirates had been “instructed by the Chinese Government” to make the change “with immediate effect” to follow the “one China” policy.
“This must be followed by all Taiwanese crew without exception,” Parker stated before adding that an additional stock of Chinese flag pins had been ordered and would arrive shortly.
The email immediately sparked anger among the airline’s Taiwanese cabin crew, as well as from people across Taiwan after it was leaked online. According to the Taiwan Sentinel, unnamed Taiwanese flight crew members also alleged that their nationality had been changed to “Chinese” on all China-bound flights and that they were no longer able to use their ROC passport numbers for identification.
A few hours later, Parker sent a half-retraction of her first email, writing that “the original request for you to wear a Chinese flag was incorrect and inappropriate.” Instead, Parker suggested that cabin crew should simply wear no flags at all. “I do apologize for any upset that I may have caused,” she added.
On Wednesday, Emirates issued a statement regarding the incident, saying that the email had been “sent in error” and had been “retracted,” before conveniently explaining that they plan to do away with flag pins altogether:
Our intent is to recall the flag pins worn by all our cabin crew as part of our uniform update. This is based on ongoing feedback and review from our teams. All cabin crew are no longer required to wear a flag pin as part of their uniform.
Emirates apologizes for the communication error.
Last February, the airline stirred up a similar controversy in Hong Kong by demanding that its Hong Kong cabin crew wear China flag pins, instead of ones with the HK flag.
This latest order comes at a time when Emirates is looking to expand its business in China as the Dubai-based airline tries to weather the storm of changing policies from the Trump administration that threaten its position as the world’s fourth biggest carrier.
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