Air France 'was racist in taking mayor off flight'
A top Chinese official blasts airline's alleged high-handed treatment of the man, who did not understand when told to return to his seat
HONGKONG - A provincial governor in China accused Air France of racism for ordering one of his mayors off a flight from Paris to Beijing last month.
Mr Bo Xilai, governor of Liaoning province in north-east China, blasted the airline for kicking out the mayor of a city in his province from Flight AF128 on April 29.
The unnamed man, who had left his seat to search for his hand luggage and did not return when told to, was escorted off the plane after the captain summoned the police.
'If he had been an American, would that Air France captain dare to do the same thing? This is really outrageous,' said Mr Bo, who was in Hongkong on Monday to promote trade and investment.
'If our mayor did not understand English or French, then, his quality may be poor, but for the Air France captain, his quality is even worse; this is too much for Chinese people,' he said, according to the Chinese language Sing Tao Daily.
Reports said Air France had confirmed the incident although its spokesman in Hongkong denied receiving any complaint.
'As far as the Hongkong office is concerned, we have not received any complaint,' he said.
Mr Bo said the furore began when passengers in the first class cabin complained that the mayor, who was on a trade mission, had too much luggage in the overhead lockers.
He said other members of the delegation in the economy class had entrusted their luggage to him.
'Even if a passenger has too much luggage, the airline has the responsibility to take care of it.
'Since you have already let the passenger board the plane, you should not order him off the flight just because he has too much luggage,' he added.
He said the mayor began searching for one of his bags after a flight attendant removed it to make room for the luggage of other passengers.
'He was worried that there might have been public money inside, when the luggage was taken away,' he said.
However, an eye-witness report published in The European Times, a Paris-based Chinese newspaper, said the mayor responded with foul language when the air stewardess asked him to allow others to use the hand-luggage compartments.
He was then told by the captain that he would have to leave because his behaviour was unacceptable, said the newspaper.
Mr Bo, however, said that the mayor, who seldom travels abroad, did not understand what was being asked of him when told to return to his seat.
The mayor flew home the next day, said Mr Bo.
When asked why the man had not come out to clarify the incident, the Liaoning governor said:
'This mayor is over 50 years old; he has suffered injustice and was afraid that the media would further sensationalise the incident; that's why he did not dare to come to Hongkong.' --AFP