A Thai AirAsia air hostess, known only as Awatasara, had to prostrate herself to appease a woman who thought she had insulted her autistic daughter on an August 26 flight.
It started when a person started a thread on the popular Pantip syndrome asking if it was true an airline employee was forced to kowtow themselves. Soon relatives and friends of the air attendant flooded the thread with comments alleging a passenger named Jumpoon Chavasiri felt she had slighted her autistic daughter when she asked whether the girl needed special attention. They also said Awatasara did not serve the woman during the flight.
Once the flight landed, Jumpoon filed a complaint to the airline’s office in Bangkok and later posted a message to Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijleveld stating: “Mr. Tassapon, no matter where you extend AirAsia operations to, you won’t have any success as long as you still have a staff member with a rotten heart named Awatsara from flight FD3006.”
But what occurred next was even more shocking. A person claiming to be Awatasara’s colleague said the airline managers summoned the attendant to a meeting with Jumpoon and her daughter where she was forced to kneel down in tears and kowtow three times in apology.
Kowtow, or “grab” as the Thai say, is the utmost display of humility in some Asian cultures and is only done to some religious figures or highly respect individuals like parents.
The news enraged Thai social media users who vented their frustration on Twitter.
“Whether the air [hostess] made a small or big offense, she was not supposed to be forced to graab. If you’re upset at her, you should file a formal complaint. This is 2016 already, not an era when slaves were kept. Have you watched too much period drama?” tweeted Teddy_B08.
“Let me say right here that I would tell my kids, relatives and anyone I know not to apply for a job here. Forcing its employee to graab? If she did something wrong, just punish her. If she did something wrong big time, just fire her,” Didixxii tweeted.
However, in an interview Wednesday, CEO Tassapon said the netizens were mistaken. Awatsara only performed the grab once, not three times and of her own accord.
“Our crew member graab in apology to the passenger once, and they also took a photo together, because everything ended well. They understood each other,” Tassapon said Wednesday. “I want this matter to be over. I don’t want people to keep escalating this, because everything is already over.”
In a later statement Tassapon said the company would tweak its policies so that all passenger complaints in the future will be handled by the Customer Relations Department in order to avoid any such incidents in the future.
“We affirm that we highly value the feelings of our employees and are disheartened by what has happened to the staff member in question … and both Mr. Tony [Fernandes] and I will today be meeting with the staff member and the staff member’s family to extend our genuine apologies,” Tassapon said.
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes posted on Facebook Wednesday that an investigation on the incident will be carried out and he personally flew to the flight attendant’s hometown in Hat Yai to meet with her parents.
Banner credit: Instagram, Thai AirAsia