SHENYANG, China - The Chinese budget airline Spring Airlines is being sued by two passengers with HIV who say the airline discriminated against them when it refused to let them board a flight at Shenyang airport in China.
According to the Fazhi Evening Paper the three men, two of whom had HIV, were preparing to board a flight to Shijiazhuang, south of Beijing, on July 28th when they were stopped by officials who had been notified of their HIV status by the airline.
"After we got our boarding passes, we informed a Spring Airlines official that some of us had HIV," one of the passengers told the paper. "The official immediately rang up the Shanghai head office for instructions, and then told us the company has rules forbidding the transportation of passengers with HIV."
The passenger said Spring Airlines officials refused to reason with them and terminated their tickets, forcing them to book a train to their destination instead. The three plaintiffs are now asking for USD $7,967 in compensation and an official apology. A Shenyang court accepted their case just before the weekend.
Widespread discrimination against people with HIV and Aids is still prevalent in China, according to human rights groups. Underscoring this statement, Spring Airlines President Wang Zhenghua has said that the airline did not discriminate against the passengers and blamed them for making their status known.
Zhenghua said that the passengers made staff anxious, adding that the airline would allow HIV-positive passengers to board their planes as long as they did not make themselves "overly noticeable" to avoid scaring other customers.
The airlines website says it reserves the right to deny boarding to passengers with "infectious diseases".
China only lifted a longstanding ban on foreigners with HIV entering the country in 2010.