The national air carrier Vietnam Airline inspectors announced they will fine a national taekwondo coach for disrupting a Vietnam Airlines flight last month.
On Wednesday (May 18), inspectors from the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) said that Le Minh Khuong, the 50-year-old coach, had "violated Vietnamese rules on airline safety, jeopardized the interests of other passengers and caused damages to Vietnam Airlines."
Khuong has maintained that the carrier's staff used undue violence against him. At this week's hearing, he denied all wrongdoing and refused to sign in the findings of the CAAV's month-long investigation.
On April 18, Khuong boarded a flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
The pilots were forced to land their plane in Da Nang due to heavy rains. After the plane touched down at Da Nang Airport, Khuong says he asked the chief flight attendant for permission to exit the plane and take another flight, so he could attend to urgent business.
The chief flight attendant agreed and gave Khuong's boarding pass to the airport's ground services officers. After a while, the rain abated and Khuong was asked to return to his seat; the plane was about to take off.
Khuong says he followed instructions and asked the chief attendant to return his boarding pass.
When he was told it had been lost, Khuong says an argument ensued and the attendant summoned airport security officers to the plane to intervene.
Khuong said the officers shocked him with electric batons, twisted his arm behind his back and pressed his face against the floor.
Vietnam Airlines released a report after the incident, containing an entirely different version of the events. The report claimed that, upon landing in Da Nang, Khuong headed for the plane's door and insisted on getting out, in spite of the captain's instructions for the passengers to remain seated until the rain subsided.
The airline's report claimed that the stewardesses said the plane would take off in 40 minutes and asked Khuong to return to his seat.
The airline further alleged that Khuong picked a fight with the crew members while the plane remained on the runway.
He demanded that they give him his boarding pass back, remained out of his seat and yelled at the flight attendants, according to the release.
After the captain taxied back to the terminal, Khuong was removed from the plane by security officers and handed over to Da Nang Airport authorities.
Vietnam Airlines maintains that its crew members and security officers did not do anything wrong. The passenger was forced off the plane because he did not comply with safety rules, putting the flight at risk, according to the airline.
After the release was published by local newspapers, at least three Vietnamese witnesses, including a famous film director and a pop singer, told the media they were on the coach's side.
The passengers claimed that the state-owned carrier's staff was not well-trained enough to deal with such situation and when they failed to persuade Khuong to remain seated, they resorted to violence.
Khuong initially hired a lawyer to prepare for a lawsuit, but he has not taken any legal action against the airline yet.
At the moment, he says all he wants is an apology from the airline.
In related news, a French tourist was prevented from boarding a Vietnam Airlines flight and later fined VND15 million ($722) after making a fake bomb threat at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on May 14.
Mariano FranÃ§ois Xavier Jean Agostini, 27, caused the VN1316 flight bound for Da Nang to be delayed for more than two hours last Saturday.
According to airport authority, when passengers were boarding the plane, Agostini told a Vietnamese passenger in his group that he had bomb in his hand luggage.
A French female passenger overheard their conversation and reported it to the crew.
The flight was delayed while security officers searched the plane and re-scanned the luggage of 180 passengers.
Agostini later told the airport authority he was only joking about the bomb.
Nevertheless, the officers seized his passport and he was not allowed to board the plane.