Chinese airline suspends attendant pictured playing with smartphone during flight

Sympathetic commentators slammed punishment by Shandong Airlines as "too harsh"

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 10:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 9:42pm

A Chinese flight attendant who was photographed playing with her smartphone on a domestic flight was suspended from her job after a passenger posted the photos on social media, according to her employer Shandong Airlines.

The incident triggered heated discussion on China’s blogsphere, with many sympathetic commentators slamming the punishment as “too harsh.”

A passenger who called herself “Koujiaonvhan” on Weibo, China's twitter-like service, said she was flying on a Shandong Airlines flight from Urumqi to Yinchuan on Sunday night.

She said she was shocked to see a flight attendant sitting in the business section browsing her smartphone immediately after a announcement reminded passengers not to switch on their electronic devices. Another flight attendant soon joined her and held out a newspaper to protect themselves from being seen by passengers, she wrote.

“They played with the phone for 30 minutes,” she wrote.

The passenger then took several photos of the two attendants using the phone and posted them online, possibly with her own phone.

Shandong Airline quickly responded to the post that went viral on Weibo. It said in a statement released on Monday that the flight attendant had admitted to using the phone, which violated Chinese aviation regulations. She has been suspended from her post, it said.

While the passenger said she was pleased with how Shandong Airlines handled her complaint against the people who “played a joke with the lives of passengers”, other online users accused her of violating the same rules when photographing these flight attendants.

“You risked other people’s lives too when you turned on the phone to take pictures,” many wrote.

Others said she should have stopped the flight attendants when she caught them using their phone.

The growing popularity of smartphones in China has been creating problems as well as newspaper headlines.

Beijing authorities said last week in a controversial statement that distracted Beijing drivers playing with their smartphones were the primary cause of road accidents and traffic jams during the “golden week” holiday.