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China Daily Website

Fight forces flight to return

Updated: 2012-09-06 07:30
By Tan Zongyang ( China Daily)

2 Chinese men who brawled over Swiss Air seat taken into custody

A series of confrontations on aircraft involving Chinese passengers has led the public to question passengers' morality, while experts say better education and harsher punishments are needed to stop travelers from misbehaving.

The latest example was a midair brawl between two Chinese passengers on a Swiss International Airlines flight on Sunday, which forced the plane, bound for Beijing, to return to Zurich six hours after takeoff.

According to media reports, a 57-year-old Chinese man felt disturbed during his meal when the passenger in front of him - another Chinese citizen, aged 27 - reclined his chair.

The older man, who was reportedly drunk, hit the younger passenger when he did not respond to his protests. A fight then broke out between the two, which caused one of the passengers to bleed.

For safety concerns, the flight, carrying about 200 passengers, turned around and landed at Zurich, where police took the men into custody.

It was not the only case recently in which passengers lost control of civil norms on aircraft.

Last week, Fang Daguo, an official from Yuexiu district of Guangzhou in Guangdong province, allegedly grabbed the arm of a China Southern Airlines flight attendant and verbally abused her when she was not able to put his luggage in the overhead compartment.

Fang had reportedly drunk alcohol before boarding the plane. Fang, heavily criticized by netizens, is being investigated by authorities.

In July, five female passengers on a Lucky Air flight got into a midair brawl resulting from disputes over reclining seats. The five were taken away by police when the plane landed in Wuhan, Hubei province.

"Passengers tend to become very emotional over small disputes on board, such as reclining chairs or changing seats," said a cabin crew veteran surnamed Liu who has 10 years of experience working for a domestic airline.

Liu said if a midair brawl occurs, the flight attendants will first try to mediate between the quarrelling parties. The security guards - usually one or two plainclothesmen on a flight - will restrain the aggressors if the situation gets worse and endangers aviation safety.

If it is a terrible fight, the cabin crew will contact the police on the ground, who will get on board to take away offenders after landing, she said.

One reason for the problem, according to Liu, is that the punishments are sometimes too low for passengers who break rules.

"For example, a passenger who smoked in the toilet when the plane was flying just got a verbal warning from the police," Liu said

Tian Baohua, who sits on an advisory group to the Ministry of Transport, said disputes are becoming more common, partly due to a growing number of passengers as more Chinese are able to afford flights.

Tian said authorities should give more publicity to civil aviation regulations to prevent uncivilized behavior.

Zhang Qihuai, a lawyer specializing in civil aviation disputes, said customers put too much stress on their rights but lack the awareness of obligations to ensure a safe flight.

"As a passenger, one should follow basic regulations - such as not running, fighting or destroying facilities on the airplane," he said. "It is not only for the safety of other passengers but also for your own good."

Zhang also agreed that law enforcement should be stricter in giving warnings to possible offenders.

Liu, the cabin crew veteran, felt that in recent years, passengers have been more restrained in their irrational behavior than before.

"But we still have to be ready for the highest tension under some circumstances, such as when the flight is delayed," she said.