BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese state-run media branded four unruly air passengers "barbarians" on Monday after they scalded an air hostess and threatened to blow up a plane in a dispute over seating.
The national tourism watchdog vowed to "punish" the group after a low-cost flight from Thailand to the eastern city of Nanjing was forced to return to Bangkok when a female Chinese passenger threw hot water and noodles at a cabin attendant.
Online video images also showed another male passenger threatening to blow up the aircraft following the row with crew, reportedly because they could not be seated together.
The China Daily, which is published by the government, lambasted the group in an editorial and said the incident would "tarnish" the image of the Chinese people.
"They believed that behaving like barbarians would get them what they wanted, forgetting that civility demands that a fellow human being be treated as an equal," it said.
"The incident should serve as a lesson not just for the four culprits, but also for all Chinese to behave properly to get respect."
Thai AirAsia Flight FD9101 departed Bangkok's northern airport Don Mueang for Nanjing at 5:55pm (6:55pm Singapore time) on Thursday with 174 passengers and six crew on board, but was forced to turn back after the rowdy behaviour.
China's National Tourism Administration said over the weekend that the passengers - who were reportedly given token fines by Thai authorities - will be "severely punished" for their actions and put on a database of unruly tourists.
"The administration's move should be encouraged," Su Haopeng, vice dean of the Law School at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told the Global Times.
"As it is the first time they have clearly stipulated that public behaviour should be not only punished by law, but also regulated by a record system."
The passengers paid 50,000 Thai baht (S$1,997) in compensation to the air hostess, the paper said citing Thai reports, while the female passenger who threw the hot water was fined an additional 200 baht.
As well as the editorial, the China Daily carried a separate bylined commentary saying that it was "not the first time that a handful of 'ugly' tourists have given Chinese travellers a bad name".
It called on tourism authorities to take "strict measures" aimed at "properly handling" the increasing number of Chinese travellers.
Chinese tourists made 98 million overseas trips in 2013 and that figure is expected to surpass 116 million this year, it said.
"Chinese tourists should remember that their unruly behaviour would only soil their country's image," it added.