BEIJING – Passengers on flights around China recently have not always been flying the friendly skies.
Late last month, on Aug. 29, Fang Daguo, a senior Guangzhou government official from the southern province of Guangdong made news in China when he had a drunken altercation with a flight attendant on a plane going between Guangzhou and Hefei.
The attack only came to light after the flight attendant posted photos of her bruises and rips in her uniform on China’s Twitter-like service, Weibo.
Just a few days later, on Sept. 2, a Swiss Air flight to Beijing was forced to return to Zurich after two Chinese men got into a scuffle. According to one account, a 57-year-old male passenger became infuriated when the 29-year-old man in the seat ahead of him reclined his chair and refused to put his seat upright for the meal. Infuriated and reportedly extremely intoxicated, the elder passenger slapped the younger man in the back of the head, sparking a brawl to ensue.
Security eventually stepped in and the older passenger was restrained with cable ties at the front of the plane, where he was said to have yelled for an hour.
The captain eventually turned the plane around and returned to Zurich.
Caught on tape
Then this week, news broke of another brawl that erupted on a Sept. 7 Sichuan Airlines flight from Saipan to Shanghai. The plane, carrying Chinese tourists back home from Saipan (the largest island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, an unincorporated territory of the United States) was quiet, until a scuffle broke out between two passengers allegedly over an empty seat both wanted.
A passenger sitting several rows in front of the two angry passengers shot the video above. It shows the two male passengers just as their argument came to blows. Soon after, friends of both of the passengers joined in the melee, as others can be heard calling on the men to stop fighting.
Later into the minute long video, flight attendants and security are seen breaking up the fight and restoring order on the plane.
A spokesman for the airline told local reporters that the captain considered turning the plane around and returning to Saipan, but decided to continue on to Shanghai once the two men had been separated and were on opposite ends of the plane.
The video of the brawl was posted by the passenger on Sept. 9 and quickly gathered steam online – it’s had nearly 2 million views already.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen scuffles and tensions get out of control in China’s rapidly expanding airline industry. Wronged passengers in China often find sympathy among the public, who like in the U.S., often have a low opinion of airlines.
But this time there is widespread approval and empathy among China’s netizens for the airlines’ handling of this rash of bad behavior on flights.
“How shameful! What will people think of the Chinese?” wrote one Weibo user.
“Some people have terrible character,” chimed in another, “they should be punished.”
Playing to the current political tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute, one user wrote: “Let’s send them to the Diaoyu Islands to expend some of their energy.”
Perhaps. Or maybe next time just sit in the seat you were assigned.
NBC News’ Johanna Armstrong and Yanzhou Liu contributed to this report.