Latest United Airlines Stunt Sends Chinese Social Media Into Frenzy

Chinese social media exploded with furor after a video surfaced, showing a passenger of Asian descent being violently removed from a United Airlines flight with his nose bleeding.

The latest United Airlines stunt caused quite a stir among Chinese users on Weibo, the Chinese social media alternative to Twitter.

American and Chinese social media exploded with outrage on Monday, the day after the forced removal of the Asian passenger from a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Ky., with many Chinese users accusing United Airlines of racism, according to the New York Times.

Chinese state-run news outlets identified the passenger in question as Dr. David Dao, a man of Chinese descent.

But what caused such outrage on Weibo was when another passenger on the United Airlines flight on Sunday told Chinese media that he and Dr. Dao were singled out because they were Chinese.

Photographs of Dr. Dao’s bloodied face with the caption, “Savage!” were spread all over Weibo, with Chinese social media users expressing their outrage over the seemingly racist incident on the United Airlines flight.

Chinese users on Weibo were furious over the fact that the Chinese passenger was dragged from his seat by United Airlines security officers after refusing to be voluntarily bumped from the overbooked flight to let some other passenger replace his seat.

By Wednesday morning, April 12, the Weibo hashtag “United forcibly removes passenger from plane” became the most trending topic on the Chinese social media platform.

More than 550 million Weibo users, predominantly of Chinese descent, viewed the hashtag with the deplorable United Airlines stunt, generating more than 240,000 comments on the Chinese social media platform.

Many users on Weibo accused United Airlines of racism, while others on the Chinese social media platform called for a boycott.

People’s Daily, one of the most popular newspapers in China, publicly criticized United Airlines for initially not condemning and not apologizing for the violent removal of the Chinese passenger.

United Airlines later issued a statement, explaining that Dr. Dao and three other passengers on the flight were selected to be removed from the overbooked flight. Security officers had to force Dr. Dao into leaving the plane after he refused to accept a voucher to leave voluntarily, the airlines said.

United Airlines, which caused quite a stir among users on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, quickly added that the other three passengers agreed to leave without incident.

United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz on Tuesday took to Twitter to apologize and wrote, “we will work to make it right.”

In a letter exclusively obtained by CNBC on Monday evening, Munoz assured that United Airlines security officers “followed established procedures” when removing the Chinese passengers from the flight, and described Dr. Dao as “disruptive and belligerent.”

Any boycott against United Airlines on Chinese social media would create huge financial problems for the airline, which is currently the largest American carrier operating in China.

Weibo users boycotting United Airlines and shredding Mileage Plus cards – as seen in posts from multiple Chinese social media users – could become a big headache for United, as the airlines accounts for 20 percent of all flights between the U.S. and China, according to Reuters.

The public outrage over the seemingly racist incident could deprive United Airlines from operating nearly 100 flights a week between the two countries.

China, which is already the world’s largest consumer market, is inching closer to surpassing the U.S. as the largest market by plane passenger volume. In fact, according to predictions by the International Air Transport Association, China could topple the U.S. as soon as in 2024.

[Featured Image by Seth Wenig/AP Images]