Three years after four Chinese tourists humiliated the nation by throwing a boiling hot container of instant noodles at a Thai flight attendant, public outcry has been triggered by a student from Central China's Hubei Province who brutally slapped an airport worker after being told she had missed her flight.
The woman, reportedly a PhD candidate at a well-known university in Wuhan, capital of Hubei, was filmed slapping a female check-in staff member at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on June 1. The clip, which went viral online, showed the woman suddenly striking the worker, who was speaking on the phone, around the face for three seconds.
Police said that Zhang (pseudonym) was planning to fly to Paris. She arrived at the airport at 9: 49 a.m. and her Air France flight was scheduled to take off on 10: 35 a.m., according to the Wuhan Evening News.
When the worker, surnamed Duan, told her that check-in for the flight had stopped at 9: 35 a.m. and suggested she reschedule or cancel the ticket, Zhang yelled "I was only five minutes late." She then insisted on catching the flight, explaining she had a "very important" conference to attend. When she was rebuffed, she became furious and attacked Duan.
Zhang has been detained for ten days following the assault. Police said Zhang accepted she was in the wrong and has been willing to receive punishment, although she has asked if her detention could be reduced for fear her crime could affect her career if her school found out.
According to media reports, Air France has required nine airports in the Chinese mainland to place Zhang on a passenger blacklist which will stop her from flying out of any of the nine locations. Meanwhile, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport has also asked for her to be placed on China's aviation industry blacklist.
The incident has created a sensation on Chinese social media platforms with many slamming Zhang as "being uncivilized even though she was well educated."
"The passenger's reaction showed that she did not respect rules and is accustomed to using human relationships to solve problems," said one web user.
Zhang Qihuai, a civil aviation expert and law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Zhang has received a particularly harsh punishment. After being blacklisted by Air France, she will face difficulties in purchasing tickets, check-in and boarding. Other airlines can also share the list, which will further affect her reputation.
'Such an idiot'
Before public outrage died down over this incident, another rude passenger made a splash across the Chinese media.
The day after Zhang's video went viral, a man from Beijing was detained by police in Shiyan, Hubei for five days for verbally abusing a flight attendant.
According to news site thepaper.cn, during a June 2 flight from Beijing to Shiyan, a steward surnamed Du noticed that a passenger surnamed Wang was wearing earphones and tried to check if his electronic devices were turned off. However, police said that Wang rejected Du's inspection and then yelled "the earphones are used to keep out the noise, you are such an idiot."
"Civil aviation is like a mirror reflecting Chinese citizen's quality. Good quality requires good social morals while good social morals require legalization and effective law enforcement. Although there are some rules regulating passengers' behavior, violations such as those who do not turn off their cell phones during flights are often seen," Li Danyang, a research fellow at the School of Public Administration of the Guangzhou-based Jinan University, told the Global Times.
The China Air Transport Association issued a regulation in February, which obtains badly-behaved passenger's information from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and records their names for two years. The association will regularly send the blacklist to airlines and the companies can take relevant measures.
However, Zhang claimed that the blacklist has no legal basis as it was issued by an industry association instead of the Ministry of Transport. "Although many departments have been calling for the establishment of a civil aviation blacklist, it has not been legislated yet. Therefore, China lacks an official standard to regulate and punish passengers for behaving badly," said Zhang.
Li added that the incident showed Chinese netizens' anger about those people whose quality has not kept pace with the country's development. However, the government should bear some responsibility as these people have never received such education.