BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Twenty-three passengers on a flight from Chengdu to Beijing on Saturday received 1,800 yuan (S$365.72) each as compensation for people smoking during the flight, Beijing News reported.
Flight KN5216 of China United Airlines, carrying 180 passengers, departed from Chengdu at 10 pm, after which a passenger reported someone smoking in the toilet.
The passenger, identified only by the surname Yan, said the smoker's matches were confiscated by a steward who wondered why the smoke detector had not sounded an alert.
The plane was then diverted to Taiyuan, in the northern Shanxi province, due to bad weather in Beijing.
During the stopover, five other passengers were found smoking on the ramp.
A passenger surnamed Huo said there were aircraft refuellers operating near the plane at the time, so smoking there was very dangerous.
The offenders were asked by a steward to stop smoking after Huo reported their actions.
According to Huo, the police in Taiyuan suggested that all passengers should undergo another security check but the crew refused and said there was no need.
After landing at Beijing Nanyuan Airport on Sunday morning, some passengers were angry about the flight crew's handling of the incident, and demanded that the captain of the plane apologise.
After nine hours of waiting at the airport, 23 passengers were given compensation and round-trip tickets from the airline, which promised a further investigation.
The company said it would order the captain to make an apology and return the cost of the tickets for the 23 passengers, if what they said was true.
According to Huo, who recorded a conversation between the passengers and crew members at Beijing airport, the captain said he knew about the smoking but, as the plane had landed safely, "there was nothing more to discuss".
Aviation expert Zhang Qihuai said smoking on planes or on the ramps is dangerous and forbidden. The smoke detector also failed to alert crew members to the smoke, which posed further risk.
More than 20,000 Sina micro-bloggers had viewed or commented on the matter by 11 am on Monday.
State broadcaster China Central Television's official micro blog about the incident received about 1,000 comments in two hours.
A micro-blogger going by the name of Jingwumen said the smokers should be forbidden from flying ever again, adding that their actions were just like driving drunk.
Others blamed the security checks at Chengdu airport for not finding and confiscating the matches.
A worker at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport said matches are hard to detect during a security check and other passengers had taken matches onboard planes before.