Travel agencies in China told to rein in tourists following air rage incident

A Thai AirAsia flight was forced to make a U-turn after a Chinese female passenger threw hot water at a flight attendant on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: STOMP
A Thai AirAsia flight was forced to make a U-turn after a Chinese female passenger threw hot water at a flight attendant on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: STOMP

BEIJING (China Daily/Asia News Network) - China's tourism authorities will urge travel agencies to monitor tour groups and will explore the use of "personal credit reports" to identify possible offenders in advance.

The move comes after four Chinese travellers poured hot water on a Thai flight attendant aboard an AirAsia flight last Thursday because they were unhappy with the seating arrangement. A video of the assault posted online triggered widespread outrage.

The China National Tourism Administration has released a statement asking all provincial tourism authorities and travel agencies to help "regulate" tourist behaviour.

"This incident disrupted the flight and other passengers' schedules by forcing it to return to Bangkok. ... They were all punished," the statement said.

"Despite this being an isolated case, it damaged the overall image of Chinese people," it said.

The administration said it would ask provincial tourism authorities to note the incident in the four tourists' "personal credit reports".

Wang Yanyong, director of the Tourism Development and Planning Research Centre of Beijing Jiaotong University, said travel agencies as well as tourists themselves need to cooperate to rein in such behaviour.

"Before the trip, tour guides need to remind tourists about their behaviour and the consequences of breaking local laws and rules," Wang said. "The urgent introduction of personal credit reporting is needed in the tourism industry. The reports needs to be shared with certain departments, such as visa application centres."

AirAsia flight FD9101 from Bangkok to Nanjing was forced to turn around about 90 minutes after taking off on Thursday because of the disturbance caused by the two Chinese passengers.

According to social media posts by witnesses, the man threatened to blow up the plane, while the woman sitting next to him yelled about jumping out of the plane over what they said was bad service.

According to the statement from the airline, after the plane returned to Bangkok's Don Mueang International Airport, the woman and three other passengers were removed and taken to the airport police station.

By 6 pm on Sunday, 92 percent of Chinese netizens responding to an online Sina poll on the incident said it was "humiliating".

China has the fastest growing outbound tourism market in the world. Some 100 million Chinese travelled overseas between January and November, nearly 90 percent of whom to Asian countries and regions.

Zhang Lingyun, deputy dean of the tourism college at Beijing Union University, said the personal credit report idea should be carefully analysed so as to set reasonable standards for what constitutes "inappropriate behaviour" and how to punish offenders without violating personal privacy or harming the industry.