Virgin Atlantic said it had investigated an altercation on board one of its flights to Shanghai from London on March 1, and added that it "deeply regretted" the unpleasant experience one of its passengers had.
Chinese social media said a Chinese female passenger, on the Virgin flight VS250 on March 1, 2016, alleged she was insulted by a Caucasian male passenger and subsequently allegedly ignored by a flight attendant. The story went viral on social media in China.
By late Friday Beijing time, over 24.6 million users had read about the issue on the Chinese social media site Weibo, which is similar to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook.
Today Carly O'Donnell, International communications manager for Virgin Atlantic, said their investigations showed there was an altercation between two customers on board the flight, and both passengers became "upset and distressed."
"Our cabin crew did their best to resolve the situation for all customers, including the female customer and her male companion."
"We would like to reiterate that Virgin Atlantic takes a zero tolerance approach to racism," she said in an emailed statement.
"We deeply regret the unpleasant experience our customer had on this flight."
O'Donnell said Virgin Atlantic was aware of the considerable interest in the matter on Chinese social media networks, and airline founder Richard Branson tweeted, in both Mandarin and English, that he was "Really sorry to hear about an alleged incident on flight V250. We do not tolerate abuse and Virgin Atlantic are investigating."