Monday, April 1, 2013

Passengers cheer as air hostess is attacked on flight… is air rage on the rise in China?


A recent incident of air rage was captured at a China airport
Airport rage in China
Remember that video I posted last month about the shocking airport rage incident in China, which was captured on video and went viral on YouTube? Well, I’ve been reading a few media reports that suggest that the controversial event was representative of a wider ‘air rage’ epidemic in China.

Now, I’m normally skeptical when I read these things, but the fact is that A LOT of similar incidents have been reported in China over the past few months, some of which I’m going to highlight in this blog post. And no, even though I’m posting this on April 1, it’s not an April Fools joke!

So where do I start? A couple of weeks ago, passengers on-board Hong Kong Airlines flight HX162 were upset when their aircraft had been grounded at Hainan’s Sanya Airport for six hours. In fact, four hours into the delay, an elderly male was unable to hold back his frustration and stormed into the business class cabin, where he started to physically and verbally attack a stewardess.

And the reaction from his fellow passengers? Well, according to a report in South China Morning Post, the vast majority of other travelers started to cheer and applaud the old man. A couple of Western businessmen were eventually able to pull the attacker away and he returned to his seat.


It’s interesting that he wasn’t removed from the aircraft or arrested. The airline revealed last summer that it deals with three incidents of disruptive passengers a week on average, due to which Hong Kong Airlines cabin crew receive compulsory training in Wing Chun, a martial art. Sounds like a wise move.

A month earlier, China Southern was forced to delay a Melbourne-bound flight, which resulted in two Chinese passengers beating an employee to the ground. A photo of the incident (featured on this page) was covered in a Bloomberg report and went viral online. Again, it’s not clear if action was taken against the culprits.

When last year, when around 20 angry passengers dashed toward the runway at Shanghai's main international airport to protest against a 16-hour flight delay, they were given 1,000 yuan each in compensation from the carrier, Shenzhen Airlines. None of the protesters were reprimanded according to Reuters, even though they came within 200 metres of an oncoming plane from the United Arab Emirates.

The question has to be asked, why aren’t the airlines taking action in such cases? Wang Zhenghua, founder and chairman of Shanghai-based budget carrier Spring Airlines, provided some answers during an interview with Reuters last year, saying: "When flights get delayed, passengers make a lot of trouble. Sometimes they even beat our staff.”

He added: “Airlines are actually the weaker party. With the government calling for a 'harmonious society', the only thing we can do is to give them compensation to calm them down."


What are your views? Do you think such incidents are common worldwide and China should not be singled out? Or should the country adopt a stricter attitude when dealing with air rage? As always, please feel free to share your comments here, and you can also get in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ - I look forward to connecting with you!

39 comments :

  1. Juditha-Jade PARKINSONApril 1, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Mr Haq, I've read 3x your blog and yes, I haven't forgotten either your blog about that Chinese official who went on rage in the airport (and I still wish he was a Belgian official because he would surely be unemployed the next day).

    I certainly don't agree with the passenger's violent reaction towards the crew member and the passengers cheering on him. But reading your blog made me realize that it seems that it has become a habit of the Chinese Airline company to be late. What's the use then of having schedules when it is not to be respected?

    It would be nice if you could also write a blog on why the attitude of the Chinese airline passengers have become aggressive towards their airline company. It would be nice to hear and read the 2 sides of the story especially that the story still concerns China where it is easy to be put in a firing squad because one is no longer at the good graces of the one on top.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Juditha-Jade PARKINSON. I think you're right, there are always two sides to the story and it would be really interesting to find out why this behaviour is happening. I'm not sure if violence is ever the right answer, but if there's a pattern of behaviour here, there must be something fuelling it.

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  2. I think that China needs to get strict(CAA & AIRLINES).

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  3. I am appalled that the man was not arrested and that the other passengers cheered. This story is a total disgrace. Do they not have the equivilant of the FAA there and where was the PIC during this???

    Susan C. Friedenberg - President & CEO
    Corporate Flight Attendant Training & Global Consulting
    www.corporateflightattendanttraining.com

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    1. I totally agree with you, this is not the first time the Chinese passengers have tried to humiliate Airline crews in China. During one of my trainings,we read a true story in which the air crew was serving drinks they hit turbulence and one of the first class passengers got a little spill. The passenger made a scandal and made the flight attendant at the command of her superior to bend down on her knees while the passengers poured a whole can of pop on the flight attendant's head!While the rest of the passengers in first class laughed and humiliated the flight attendant! I dare a Chinese passenger to try to do that in North America!

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  4. Very shocking!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. Hmmm Part of the reason is I believe is the accessibility of air travel worldwide especially with the rise of budget airlines where air travel is no longer the carte blanche mode de transport of a discerning few but is now transport a la catre.
    Crew and pilots are expected to continue their work with applomb whilst the burgeoning Bourgeoisie class especially in places like China use budget carriers and yet still expect the same service of mainline carriers such as on demand, no delays, top notch service...And before I am accused of such snobbery, I am part of this increasing class of budget airline users. I just adjust my expectations accordingly. Four trips within 2 months between Moscow and DXB on a mainline carrier last year and I observed that passengers seem more forgiving when there were delays where it was a mainline carrier...the compensation of hotel stay and meal vouchers just seemed so bereft of any sincere regret however and that is perhaps what budget airlines need to be big on- under promise, over deliever services and be sincere about any problems or the poor frontline staff become the brunt of any frustrations needed to be expressed (and don't let me start on self check ins and automated telephone systems...)
    And on a side note, thank you Robeel Haq for your work at Aviation Business- I quoted you many a times when I had an Aviation Security paper due the following day and I just needed an industry expert opinion to reinforce my point. Excellent pass to date and I thank you for your contribution to that :-)

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    1. Thanks so much for posting your opinion - I think your points are very valid!

      And great to hear my articles were useful for your paper... its really heartening that so many of the readers are following me on this blog now, that's part of the reason I started it, to keep that connection going.

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  6. Automatic compensation for passengers (in Europe that is), after one hour has got the caries to clean up their act in regards to delays.

    Being a passenger waiting for his or her departure for six and even sixteen hours and more, and no rights for mandatory compensation... well i can understand people for losing their cool, but i do not agree that the employees have to be the recipient of that anger, there just as much a victim as the passengers.

    Legislature forcing companies to compensate passengers is the only way to make companies more responsible, and protect the flight crews.

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  7. This is really sad, my fear is what potentially could happen if this crowd mentality gets out of control, death could result. The Chinese Airlines really do need to take action and stop this behavior before serious injuries happen.

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  8. Dalpat AmariwalaApril 1, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    It is sad of Cabin Crew and Airport staff found in such a condition and I feel management should be held responsible for such issue.

    I have personal experience flying in China 2 years ago. I was taking 2200hrs flights and none of them took-off before midnight. Passengers are boarded for on-time departure and kept on hold in Aircraft without any info. Once, I was really irritated and asked hostess as what is wrong? Instead conveying any reason, she asked me whether I would like to get out and leave the flight...

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  9. Nazrul Hasan ChishtiApril 1, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    Anger of a passenger is always condemnable but the approach of the Aviation Professionals specially the crews are needed to looked upon and a proper change is required in that.

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  10. Yes, China needs to get strict. We hear many more of these sordid stories from crew members.

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  11. All aspects of aviation are supposed to be standard across the industry...this would not be accepted (and criminal prosecution would most probably result) in most (if not all!!) ICAO member states so why is China different? No one should have to fear for their personal safety at work...totally unacceptable behavior.

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  12. Francis Y.F. LeeApril 2, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    Years ago when I worked for Hong Kong International Airport, I saw and heard many similar stories taken place by the Taiwanese (especially the old retired soldiers) air passengers. Now it is the turn for the mainland Chinese passengers.

    In 2010, when I visited the Shanghai Expo, people thought cutting the waiting line was appropriate.

    There are many for Chinese in general to learn about the western social manner. It is part of the evolution for Chinese to be modernized. I hope it will not be a long way to go.

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  13. European Airlines pay compensation for encountered delays above a certain time period. Think Chinese or most Asian Airlines do not practice such issues. Maybe they should start of by doing accordingly. A Passenger too has a right of a punctual Transportation to a Destination for what he pays....

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  14. Air Rage is a new trend (part of Disruptive behavior on board) seen on many Airlines.There are four stages of such behavior.The Airline crew are to be trained to start the process at Stage one when the passenger starts disregarding safety and crew instructions.The International Civil Aviation organization has issued clear guidelines on handling such passengers.It is for each airline to create a policy on such behavior,followed by rules in air,training to crew including handling such attacks and ultimately decide along with state on the type of punishment to be imposed on all individuals who involve in such behaviour.All the above should be given wide publicity with consequences of such disruptive behaviour

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  15. This is really sad and bad.

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  16. They have different beliefs.

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  17. Christopher BabayodeApril 2, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    I guess you could say there is a trend developing here. During the height of the last western economy boom, before the 2008 crash similar events came to a climax . Nowadays that type of behavior is not tolerated. Most airlines have policy in place to deal with it. Most of the time, as far as I know it will result in an arrest, a caution or possibly a ban. One airline I know has a scale and points system on which they measure the offence against and take action on that basis.

    The action is regrettable and intolerable but I do understand customers frustration sometimes especially if they are kept in the dark about what is going on - which is sometimes the case as crew and pilots plan for contingencies. 

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  18. If the Chinese nation wishes to be a global leader then it must stand in front of the rest of the world and tell us that this sort of behavior will be a thing of the past. How can [they] expect global business to invest in their nation if this is what our business leaders can expect on Chinese flights? "Get-a-grip-China!"

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  19. Seems to many like they are still in the woods as concerns flight safety, manners and temperament, they have to get very strict and get their act together, otherwise it will continue to get nastier.

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  20. This is upsetting but there are four fronts that need attention:

    1. airline
    2. customer
    3. airport
    4. media

    There is always more that the airline can do and if the airline did its customer relations protocols - customers would not get furious and explode since the video shows the airline using an avoidance approach.

    Mind-setting the customer and also profiling the customer is important eg. Business & First Class - these customer's expectation is so much higher thus the communications and treatment must be better. Reinforcing the customer that causing a tantrum will result with cash payments will create long term disasters for customer relations and throws away any international accepted airline protocols for handling passengers.

    The airport management and security should not allow this rampage to continue for short and long periods of time as it is contagious and can get out of hand quickly. The airport management should deploy security asap as it impacts on the image, facilities, environment and reputation of the airport. The airline must engage the airport management better - sometimes this is difficult for a small airline without any "pull" on the airport thus the airport must "own-up" to the problems in the airport.

    Media - with technology as advance as it is - companies, entities and people are reluctant to put themselves "out there" and get captured on video for the world to see (sometimes you don't have a choice and worrying about it is pointless - but people worry about this). Captured footage don't lie and it puts responders (staff, by-standers, spectators, security, etc.) off - especally if they are going to be on Youtube.

    Overall, what I didn't mention is the economic environment that everyone is breathing in - the customer wanting more since they seem to pay more and get less, the airport and airline staff working with a cut-back or no budget and the media that can make or break a person or company - everyone pushed to the edge. We need to put on that smile, be genuine and do what is right and some things - most things will fall into place and people won't throw chairs and stands at you.

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  21. It is undignified. China aviation regulatory body should be investigated.

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  22. Joseph CamilleriApril 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Air Rage or unruly passenger behaviour is not tolerated as it is a safety issue. Both ICAO and IATA have documents that mitigate such behaviour. Shame on those airlines and countries that tolerate such behaviour.

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  23. Francisco Javier SaleroApril 5, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    These are the results of fiery competition and struggle for revenue. On one hand the airlines fear that if they follow up against such passengers they'll lose customers, crew members and staff don't feel supported by their company for the above mentioned reasons and authorities don't want to be involved and get more work handling said cases that most of the times get nowhere.

    What I miss here from airline executives is their commitment towards good aircraft maintenance to prevent such delays, back up plans in case of this kind of contingencies and to create and sustain a good infrastructure in regards to safety, customer service policies and compliance in all aspects.

    Until, unfortunately something goes really wrong, the saying goes: "after the boy has drown is when the the well is covered" sad but true.

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  24. Absolutely yes! Have have witnessed passengers throwing burning cigarettes to check-in staff because they did not get the seat they preferred. Even spitting at them was/is no exceptions! Horrible!

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  25. Do airlines keep records of some sort concerning passengers past behavior while on a airplane? So if you have a history of not being a good flyer, drink to much on flights, have become hostile, etc. and if they do are they able to refuse to let certain people board a plane?? You misbehave, you get to Go Greyhound in the future.

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  26. ICAO sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety but these are only recommended practices and each ICAO state member decides how to implement them.

    New standards are introduced or revised when air safety is at risk or there is a major incident or accident. Why must we be reactive rather than pro-active?

    This incident should set off an alarm in the international aviation community and pressure should be put on China to protect the safety of its crew members. No - passengers should NOT always come first!

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  27. There is a study done by the PHD Chinese student at McGill University in Montreal on this.

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  28. Action should of been taken as soon as the plane touched down, It should of been taken fast. With no action taken, it just gives people the green light to abuse the staff.

    We should ban for life people who behave like this on board the aircraft!

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  29. Airlines always compromise against passengers unreasonable request, also which makes it much more worse is local police and authorities are weak and not willing to take actions...

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  30. China is in the baby steps phase here. China never had a September 11. They don't have long onboard laws either. It will get better. Expect many more stories like these to come.

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  31. Henning HeinemannApril 14, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    Prevent the problems that infuriate your passengers, especially long delays sitting on a ramp locked in a tube waiting on a gate for hours. Set a 2 drink per hr max would also do some good. If service keeps on degrading as it has done over the past decade, do not expect the Chinese to calm down, expect the rest of everybody to get riled up.

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  32. This is really sad and shocking. The authorities must take proper action as soon as possible.

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  33. When Pax got frustrated, they tend to be very upset and out of control. The security guys must act quickly.

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  34. Dissatisfaction with the Government?

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  35. What bothers me about this story is that violence seems to be the norm and that everyone has an opinion yet forgets that staff/human beings are being assaulted.

    Delay or no delay, verbal/physical abuse should be dealt with in the strongest manner and i work for an airline and people forget that aircraft go tecnical, as much as your car/house appliations break. We all want to get to our destinations but to have someone physically attack you, they should be arrested, end of story.

    If you behave like an animal, then they should be treated like an animal, lock them up....

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  36. It reflects country's character, ethos & social set up. Men should understand they are brought to this world by women only.

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