A Chinese woman told China.org.cn about her horrifying experience as the victim of an alleged "racist" attack on a Virgin Atlantic flight. The British airline said they are investigating the incident.
The woman, who only revealed her surname as "Yu" out of concern for possible retaliation by the airline, said that on March 1, while on board Virgin flight VS250, she was insulted by a Caucasian male passenger and that her complaints were subsequently ignored by flight attendants. She posted her claim on the Internet, and the post went viral on Chinese social media.
"It was the first time I've experienced racism for being Chinese," she said, mentioning that she was alone at the time and returning to Shanghai after a trip to the U.K.. "I did nothing to that white man. But he came directly towards me from his seat and said, 'You f*cking Chinese pig! Get the f*ck out of here!'" Yu said the man looked like he was in his 50's.
Ms. Yu couldn't believe her ears, but the man repeated the words and acted as if he might physically assault her. Due to the repetitive verbal abuse, other passengers got involved. "One British man and his Chinese wife tried to stop him, but he threatened them also," Yu said.
To her surprise, a male flight attendant also threatened her. "The attendant whispered to the man who'd abused me then walked up to me and scolded me, asking me not to fight with the man and to respect other passengers, otherwise he would remove me from the plane." Yu said that when she later asked for the attendant's name, she was told it was Nathan Smith. However, she believes it may be a false name.
Yu tried to explain the situation, but the male attendant wouldn't listen to her. She said the attendant later came back and told her that the abusive passenger had claimed to be "mentally unstable," and that he would put the man in another seat further away from her. However, half an hour passed, and the man was still there in his original seat. "A Chinese attendant then advised me not to mention the seat change again, because Smith, their superior attendant, has ordered them to remove me from the plane if I mentioned the incident again."
Throughout the entire 11-hour flight from London to Shanghai, Yu was upset and frightened. "No flight attendants came forward to apologize to me or explain to me why an aggressive and self-declared 'mentally unstable' man can do whatever he wants," she said.
Louise Holding, a public specialist from the press office of Virgin Atlantic, issued a statement to China.org.cn after the inquiry, saying, "We are aware of the concern around the alleged incident on flight VS250, and would like to reassure customers that we do not tolerate abuse on board our services. We are a multinational company with zero tolerance of racism, and the safety and well-being of customers is always our priority. We will continue to talk directly to the customer concerned to ensure this is resolved."
In an email sent by Sarah Middleton, customer relations advisor of Virgin Atlantic Airways, to Yu, the Virgin Atlantic representative explained that "while the cabin crew does their best to be vigilant, unfortunately they cannot predict every unexpected behaviour that a customer may exhibit."
The email added, "I really am so sorry that you felt the crew placed blame on you as I am sure that this would never have been their intention. They are trained to act to appease any situation that may be getting out of hand and the onboard manager could clearly see that you were extremely distressed."
For Yu, the experience was terrible enough for her to stop using the airline. "I want a public apology and want more people to pay attention to racism. I swear I will never board any Virgin flight in my life."
By Friday, over 5 million users had read about the issue on the Chinese microblog site Weibo.com.