Airline Denies Boarding To Passengers With HIV

Filed Under: Media, Other Airlines

Two men are suing Spring Airlines for ~$8,000 after they were denied boarding off a July 28 flight from Shenyang to Shijiazhuang.

Why were they denied boarding? Because they informed the check-in agent that they had HIV. The company has a policy against carrying passengers with “infectious diseases,” but claims they don’t have a policy of denying passengers with HIV unless they make it “overly noticeable.”

I don’t even know where to begin with this one…

Via BBC News:

The airline’s president Wang Zhenghua said on Tuesday that the company did not discriminate against HIV carriers, and blamed the incident on staff anxiety, according to the AFP news agency.

But he also blamed the passengers, and said the firm would allow HIV-positive travellers to board their planes as long as they did not make themselves “overly noticeable” to avoid scaring other customers.

Spring Airlines’ website states that it has the right to refuse passage to those with “infectious diseases”. An airline spokesman told Caixin that since the incident, the airline has not turned away any HIV-positive passengers.

According to a report in the Fazhi Evening Paper the three men were preparing to board a flight to Shijiazhuang, which is south of Beijing, on 28 July when they were stopped by officials.

One passenger told the paper: “After we got our boarding passes, we informed a Spring Airlines official that some of us had HIV.”

“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.”

Of course this all comes out of ignorance to begin with and is horrible. That goes without saying.

But I’m also puzzled why they informed the Spring Airlines check-in agent they had HIV. What am I missing? Of course that doesn’t justify the actions on the part of Spring Airlines, but I can’t figure out whether they were chasing a lawsuit because they anticipated the response, or is there something cultural I’m missing?


  1. Not sure how it came up in this case, but in some sense it doesn’t matter. Only stigmatized personal information ever requires a justification. It’s similar with sexual orientation: no one remarks if you hold hands with your opposite-sex spouse in public, but if your spouse is same-sex, it often gets called “making a statement.” Here, no one would have batted an eye if they had said they had leukemia, because that disease has no stigma attached (even though the information may be equally relevant or irrelevant.) Regardless, I can see how it might have come up- perhaps they needed to bring some medical equipment on board, or were explaining a need for a wheelchair, or were transiting from a yellow fever risk country and needed to explain why they hadn’t had a vaccine. (None of those are perfect explanations, but there are certainly travel-related reasons it could come up.)

  2. They were probably asked if they were sick or had any infections, and not wanting to be completely dishonest or not knowing the scope of the question, they told them they had HIV. I do hope they win in the law suit though…

  3. FWIW, other airlines have this policy too, including some very well known international carriers (not naming names but a little digging will easily reveal who). “Don’t ask, don’t tell” seems to be the moral of the story here.

    If your medical condition is legitimately a risk to others, please disclose it but expect to bear the consequences of the disclosure. If it isn’t a risk to others, keep your mouth shut and life goes on.

  4. The other possibility is “Because it’s China”.

    My brother’s lived there for years and every time I go to visit there are WTF moments like this. The place and the people just defy logic sometimes. I’ve been to over 60 countries, and I think I’ve had more head-scratching moments in China than the rest combined.

  5. @Jack Buck

    Trust me, no agent would bother to ask that question…Unless they’re barely standing on their feet…

    I find it weird that they claimed to be HIV positive, as I can’t really think of any reason why they need to disclose it, and are guessing they were making a scene for the sake of their personal interest. I could totally be wrong though. But anyways there must be more to the story, and let’s just leave it there for a few days and see what comes up..

  6. I think the first lesson learn when traveling the world is… you can’t change the world or how people think all at once, especially when the culture is brought up from different roots, races, religious. In different countries, something is better, something is worse (in this case), and you just have to go along and learn as a traveler. In this case, the person should not disclose his status if it is not necessary. But if it already happen, it is not a bad idea to do what they do, hopefully something will change in the right direction in China regarding this topic.

  7. Did this story strike home for lucky ? I always wondered who that “second guest” is whenever he writes “we” in his trip reports.

  8. This makes me so angry, mostly because it is done out of ignorance. I’m still puzzled as to why they would disclose that. Perhaps both parties are at fault, both the travelers as well as the airlines.

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