If I say United Airlines, what springs to mind? It used to only be synonymous with hour-long delays, terrible food and Adam Sandler in-flight movies. Now the brand’s associated with bruised and bleeding customers, a shocking physical altercation, traumatised children, and social media outrage. It’s probably not what United’s PR team want to hear, but it’s true.
That’s because a 69-year-old man was recently assaulted by security staff on a United flight from Chicago to Louisville after he refused to leave his seat because of an overbooking problem. An airline spokesman apologised for the overbooked flight, and said police were only called after a passenger “refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily.” Why did he refuse? Because he’s a doctor, and he claimed he had patients to see in the morning. Seems like a pretty solid excuse, right?
Tyler Bridges, who was a passenger on the flight at the time of the now-infamous incident, told the Washington Post that the 69-year-old man believed he was being singled out because of his race: “He said, more or less, ‘I’m being selected because I’m Chinese.’”
Joe Wong, a Chinese-born comedian, spoke out about the apparent racism faced by the unfortunate passenger: “I’d love to give this passenger a ‘like’ – many Chinese feel that they’ve been discriminated but never say it out loud because they are afraid of losing face. So the Western mainstream media and the public don’t feel as if racism against Asians is a thing.”
Thanks to the man’s apparent nationality, the story began to spread like wildfire on Chinese social media. In fact, the incident was top on Chinese social media site Weibo on Tuesday, with the hashtag #美联航强制乘客下机#, which translates to: “United forces passenger off plane.”
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