China Southern Airlines apologises after passenger verbally abused and called “dog” by ground staff in Singapore

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28th May 2023 – (Singapore) China Southern Airlines’ Singapore Office issued an apology on Saturday after a passenger complained of being verbally abused and called a “dog” by a member of ground staff in Singapore. The airlines have suspended the employee, who worked for a local ground agent service provider, and vowed to improve internal management and service quality.

The incident occurred while the passenger, surnamed Yuan, was checking in for flight CZ546 from Singapore to Chongqing on Tuesday. According to a video clip filmed by Yuan, a male service representative told him in Chinese, “If you treat yourself like a dog, then I will treat you like a dog.” When Yuan angrily replied, “Say it again, who is a dog?” the representative complained that Yuan was disrupting his work and didn’t know how to behave like a man.

Yuan explained that he was seeking to ask a question in Chinese after being told at check-in that he needed to pay extra money to secure an exit row seat, but he hadn’t paid this additional fee previously and wanted to know why. Despite the counter service staff talking with each other in Chinese, the representative told Yuan that he didn’t understand Chinese and refused to answer his question. Another female member of staff told him they were very busy, a claim that Yuan disputes, saying that he was the only person at the counter. The male staff then admitted he could understand Chinese but didn’t want to answer Yuan.

Following the complaint on Saturday, China Southern Airlines launched an investigation and expressed their apologies to the passenger. In a notice issued by the Singapore Office, the airline confirmed that the counter service staff member, who was an employee of a local ground agent service provider commissioned by the company, used very inappropriate language while serving the passenger. The airline has requested the agent service provider to revoke his qualification to serve China Southern Airlines’ Singapore office.

The airline’s office also vowed to summarize lessons from the incident to enhance external agent service guarantee levels. The incident has sparked discussions on Chinese social media following a similar incident involving a Cathay Pacific flight crew‘s bad behavior against a mainland passenger the week before.

On Thursday, Cathay Pacific’s flight attendants’ union was criticized for downplaying the cabin crew’s discrimination against non-English speakers. The airline issued a second clarification on Thursday to draw a demarcation line with the union, which has repeatedly apologized over the discrimination incident.

Local officials from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government consider the incident “a serious matter,” urging the airline to prevent similar events from happening again.