Virgin Atlantic is investigating a Chinese woman’s claim that she was racially abused on a London-Shanghai flight by a fellow traveller who allegedly called her a “Chinese pig”.
The passenger, identified only as Yu, posted her experience on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform soon after the incident occurred earlier this month, and more than 5 million users had read and commented on it within a few days.
Virgin CEO Richard Branson responded to the volley of online criticism and outrage on Friday morning by tweeting: “Really sorry to hear about an alleged incident on flight VS250. We do not tolerate abuse and @virginatlantic are investigating.”
Yu told Chinese media she was allegedly insulted by a “male Caucasian passenger and her complaints were subsequently ignored by flight attendants”.
“It was the first time I’ve experienced racism for being Chinese,” she told China.org, a government portal, adding she was alone at the time and returning to Shanghai after a trip to Britain.
“I did nothing to that white man. But he came directly towards me from his seat and said, ‘You f*cking Chinese pig! Get the f*ck out of here!”’
According to what Yu told the Chinese portal, a male flight attendant also threatened her instead of helping her and restraining the male passenger.
“The attendant whispered to the man who’d abused me, then walked up to me and scolded me, asking me not to fight with the man and to respect other passengers, otherwise he would remove me from the plane.”
Throughout the 11-hour flight, Yu was upset and frightened. “No flight attendants came forward to apologise to me or explain to me why an aggressive and self-declared ‘mentally unstable’ man can do whatever he wants,” she said.
Thousands of Chinese netizens reacted angrily to the incident. Many said Chinese tourists should stop flying on Virgin as there are other options.