On 6 March (Saturday), a Chinese woman onboard a Thai Airways plane was held in a headlock and pinned down to her seat by cabin crew after she purposely coughed on a stewardess. It appears that she did it while passengers were waiting for seven hours to get a coronavirus check after landing at Shanghai airport from Bangkok.
The airline explained that the woman coughed deliberately as she was angry for being made to wait for hours at Shanghai Pudong International Airport for a check on Friday.
A video of the incident has since gone viral, in which one can see a male cabin crew capturing the woman in a headlock and pushing her down to her seat as she tries to break free from his grip. Other male flight staff also came to help their colleague to control the woman.
One of them can be heard saying calmly to the Chinese passenger, “Sit down, please.”
The airline stated that after the passenger coughed at the female cabin crew, some of her co-workers told the passenger to not continue her “inappropriate” behaviour. They went on to explain to the woman the real situation and requested that she cooperate and calm down, the airline noted.
Thai Airways added in the statement that no further action was taken after the woman was subdued.
Strict checking procedures upon landing at Shanghai
Thai Airways pointed out that all passengers landing in Shanghai or flying through the airport of countries with a high number of cases like Italy, South Korea, Japan and Iran are subjected to strict examination by medical staff on the aircraft.
If the flights are not checked, the airline staff are not allowed to open the aircraft doors for the passengers to leave.
For this particular flight, passengers had to wait in the plane for seven hours due to the stringent coronavirus screening procedures which resulted in a backlog at the airport.
According to the individual who uploaded the video, the Chinese woman coughed on the female cabin crew in order to get her to open the door, but that strategy failed.
“Senior male flight attendant was having none of it, warned her, then a scuffle ensued,” wrote the person who uploaded the video.
“He was going to put her in cuffs, but eventually chose not to.”
This stringent checking procedures imposed by two airports in Shanghai have caused massive complaints from individuals due to the long waiting hours. Passengers have to endure long waiting times as health workers have to check their temperatures, screen their health disclaimer cards and look at their travel histories.
In an article by South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Shanghai Custom official stated that passengers were only allowed to disembark in batches in order to prevent overcrowding, which led to a longer examination process.
She said that after the authorities placed more than 300 custom staff to help check border ports at the end of last week, the examination process now takes one to two hours.
“Many people blame us for low speed and low efficiency, but didn’t ask why,” she said. She added that people’s poor memory on where they’ve been in the last 14 days and their bad and unreadable handwriting also slows down the clearance process.
“As a citizen, shouldn’t they cooperate in this critical moment?” she said.
Mixed reaction from netizens
After the woman’s act was caught on camera and went viral, online users were quick to comment on the matter. Some of them slammed her for her unacceptable behaviour, SCMP reported.
Writing in Weibo—Twitter equivalent in China—one user wrote, “Shame on her! It’s so shameful for her to act like that in front of foreigners.”
Another netizen commented, “I think the flight attendants were fairly gentlemanly. She should have been taken away.”
However, another online user who said to be in the same flight as the Chinese woman pointed out that it was not right for “three men” to subdue the woman. “I don’t want to see my compatriot be bullied. The attendants only stopped their action after two Chinese passengers stood up to intervene,” she wrote.