The national carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) Wednesday denied the accusations of Vietnamese taekwondo team's coach that its staff used violence against him on a flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City two days ago.
In its press release, the airline said due to bad weather the flight VN1169 did not arrive at HCMC's Tan Son Nhat airport at 11.45 p.m. as scheduled.
Instead, the flight was diverted to Da Nang airport and arrived at 1:30 a.m., where chief pilot Ivanov Krassimir ordered passengers to stay onboard due to the short stop.
Le Minh Khuong asked to get off, but a VNA representative from the airport refused his demand, saying that the plane would take off soon.
Forty minutes later when the plane was on the runway to take off, Khuong shouted, asking the ground staff to return his boarding pass and he refused to get back to his seat.
Although the flight's chief attendant Trinh Thi Hoa convinced him to return to his seat, and promised to help him contact the ground staff, the taekwondo coach continued yelling at flight attendants.
This prompted Hoa to inform the chief pilot, who decided to return to Da Nang airport for assistance, according to VNA.
Khuong refused to leave, so the airport's security had to escort him and handed the case over to the Central Airports Authority.
A passenger on that flight, Viking Travel Director General Eileen Tan, said she saw Khuong enter business class to talk to a flight attendant and returned to economy class with his suitcases.
When the plane was about to take off, he refused to return to his seat as requested. Khuong shouted and swung his arm at the attendant and four others, according to Tan.
Meanwhile, Khuong's lawyer, Tran Thu Nam, said in VnExpress that the information in VNA's press release isn't true.
"I confirmed that my patron never protested and shouted. Khuong only asked to get back his ticket counterfoil," Nam said.
He argued that in cases where passengers don't use weapons or threaten the flight's safety, all the airport's security guards need to do is to invite him to get off. Instead, "they used a taser, bent his arm and pressed his face against the floor," which is against regulations, according to the lawyer.
He also denied the airline's authorities' argument that they had to use strong measures, because they were informed that Khuong knew martial arts.
Before getting onboard, Khuong didn't say he is a taekwondo coach, Nam stressed.
"I think the flight attendant didn't behave properly. The use of taser is against regulations, affecting Khuong's health and dignity, especially considering my patron is preparing a trip to South Korea as an international referee," the lawyer said.
Nam said they are considering filing a lawsuit against VNA.
According to VnExpress, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam has asked VNA and Da Nang airport's security center to report the case.
To Tu Hung, deputy chief of the administration's security department, said in its report, the airport's security center didn't mention about using taser to escort Khuong.
"We will continue investigating the case and listening to various parties to identify who is right and wrong," he said, adding that anyone found to be wrong would be punished.
VNA said they would probably blacklist Khuong for safety while related agencies investigate the matter, the news website reported Thursday.
The airline has banned at least eight people from flying because they caused disorder on flights by joking about bombs, being belligerent after too much beer or threatening flight attendants.