A Chinese airline denied boarding to a passenger with depression…and I do not think the move can be justifed.
Competing Narratives: Why Did A Chinese Airline Deny Boarding To Passenger With Depression?
A woman named Bi was ticketed to travel from Weihai to Nanjing on Spring Airlines. But the budget carrier decided she was too “emotionally unstable” to fly.
An airline spokesperson told the Global Times:
“We made the regretful decision based on public safety concerns, as the medical condition of the passenger was not clear, they could not be calmed down emotionally and there was no medical advice on their situation.”
Spring Airlines claims the passenger was not thrown off for depression, but for her manifestation of that depression. Her hands were “shaking vigorously” during her security screening and when questioned about it, she became “emotional” (whatever that means) and her boyfriend became angry and started yelling the staff members that were questioning them.
But Bi and her boyfriend Yu insist it was not the symptoms, but simply because Bi had depression. Yu noted on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, that the shaking of her hands was a side-effect of the lithium carbonate tablets she uses to manage her depression.
Yu and Bi also objected to the public nature of their questioning, noting that its as done within full view and earshot of other passengers, and therefore not only unreasonable invasive, but violative of reasonable expectations of privacy.
The couple ended up taking a train to Nanjing.
I wanted to write about this story because 1.) I hope that more airlines would be compassionate and 2.) there should be no stigma surrounding depression. Depression is real and something that many struggle with. Those brave enough to recognize it and treat it should be lauded. I do understand Spring Airlines’ concern that a woman whose hands were shaking warranted a closer look, but a staff doctor could have verified that this was just a side-effect of her medication and the the very sort of questioning and interrogation only exacerbated her condition.
I wish Bi all the best in her treatment. The lithium carbonate tablets indicate she is likely bipolar and will be battling this the rest of her life. It’s a reminder that showing compassion and not acting out of fear of what we don’t know or understand transcends all cultures, even authoritarian ones where expectations of privacy are not nearly as ingrained as in western culture.
Did Spring Airlines justly deny boarding to Bi?