Controversial ‘Same-Sex’ Airline Ad Gets Green Light

Arrival hall at Hong Kong International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.


Intense pressure from Hong Kong’s first openly gay legislator and LGBT activists has forced the MTR and the Hong Kong Airport Authority to back down on their banning of a gay friendly airline ad with an image two men holding hands on the beach.


Controversy erupted in Hong Kong when the MTR, the city’s rapid transit system, and the Hong Kong Airport Authority (HKAA) banned Cathay Pacific Airways ads with an image of two men walking on a beach.

Was the ad “gay friendly”? Was it an affront to morality? Would it offend visitors from other countries?

In a dramatic about face, the Airport Authority (HKAA)  joined the MTR in announcing that the advertisement would not be banned from Hong Kong International Airport or at MTR stations after all.

The move came following intense pressure from Hong Kong’s first openly gay legislator and from local LGBT activists.

The HKAA has “informed its agency for handling advertisement applications that the HKAA deems the visual [of two men holding hands of the beach] does not infringe the HKAA’s established guidelines on advertisements displayed in the terminal,” the South China Morning Post reports.

SCMP is an influential English language daily newspaper in Hong Kong.

MTR Acts First

Two men holding hands on a beach in Hong Kong is the visual from an advertising campaign for Cathay Pacific Airways promoting diversity. Photo Credit: Handout.

The HKAA announcement came an estimated 12 hours after the MTR said that it was willing to allow the gay-friendly airline ad  to be posted at its stations.

Following intense criticism of the ban, the rapid transit operator informed the media that it had instructed the advertising agency handing the account that it had no problem with  the gay-friendly airline ad displayed at MTR stations.

The company handling the account is JCDecaux of France.

“We have been in contact with the relevant advertising agency and have just confirmed to the agency that the advertisement in question can be displayed at MTR stations,” a spokesperson for JCDecaux said in a statement.

Hong Kong’s First Openly Gay Legislator

Raymond Chan Chi-chuen is Hong Kong first openly gay lawmaker. He said that Fred Ma Si-hang, chairman of the MTR, had called him late Monday night informing him that the railway operator’s management was taking the issue “seriously”.

LGBT activists also encouraged people to take selfies holding hands at MTR stations and post them on social media..

In an apparent face-saving move, the MTR tried to shift blame to the agency handling the placement of advertisements at MTR stations.

Corporate Social Responsibility?

Whether or not the about face on the gay friendly airline ad is a reflection of the two companies’ commitment of corporate social responsibility or a simple face-saving move is anyone’s guess.

But I am sure that this will be a hot topic of discussion in the days and weeks to come.

The advertisement is part of Cathay Pacific Airways’ rebranding campaign called Move Beyond, which was created to reflect the company’s commitment to diversity.

The Hong Kong-based airline has yet to comment on the controversy.  There has also been no word if the airline will attempt to have the advertisement in some of the many other airports the air carrier serves.

Leave a Reply