[Update 6-8-17 8:35 p.m. PST] We’ve reached out to United via Twitter for a statement and this is what was sent to us.
“We are speaking with the passenger directly. Due to the customer’s privacy, we are unable to provide too much information at this time.”
United Airlines is facing yet another controversy after a top Chinese athlete exposed on social media a questionable treatment given to her by an airline staff member.
Chinese tennis player Zhang Shuai wrote a lengthy post on Facebook yesterday, complaining of a terrible customer service she experienced on United Airlines. She claimed that she felt harassed and discriminated against by one of the airline’s employees as she was about to board her scheduled flight UA735 from Tampa-St. Petersburg to Washington Dulles on Tuesday.
Zhang narrated how the staff member took her tennis bag away from her without approval while she was waiting to board her flight. She was simply told that it was too large and needed to be registered as checked baggage.
“While I was sitting in the waiting area of the gate, again without my permission, she walked over and took away my tennis bag and tagged it with a check-in tape! She even physically grabbed my passport and boarding passes from my hand.”
During the dispute, the employee also allegedly took her boarding card and passport, threatening her that she would be barred from boarding the plane should she insist on carrying the bag, reports ECNS. The strange episode reportedly got her boarding pass torn.
“When I attempted to take back my passport and boarding passes and asked her not to touch my personal belongings, she fiercely responded ‘Don’t touch me!’ This UA staff was so aggressive in the process that my boarding pass was torn apart into 2 pieces!”
The United employee reportedly insisted that her tennis bag did not meet the size requirements to be carried on the plane. To make her point, the staff member intentionally opened the bag to its maximum size and then took a picture as proof.
“I started with 2 carry-ons, one tennis bag and one backpack, both of which fit into the measurement scale for carry-on bags, but she refused to let me board with the tennis bag,” Zhang wrote. “She even manually stretched out and fully expanded my tennis bag with air and empty space so that it would appear to exceed the maximum length of a carry-on, and she took a photo of it as proof that it doesn’t meet the size requirement!”
Although frustrated with the turn of events, Zhang eventually gave in and finally agreed to check in the tennis bag. However, she was faced with further demands from the employee, who then insisted that her five rackets and two small suits counted as seven separate items of luggage.
“She counted my 2 bags and 5 tennis racquets one by one, telling me that I now have 7 carry-ons! I thought she must be KIDDING because she counted each tennis racquet as one carry-on! To satisfy her demands, I put all 5 racquets into the shoulder bag! I’ve been traveling almost every week for many years, and I’ve NEVER run into anything like what happened today!”
Zhang, who is a UA Premier Elite 1K member, expressed her frustration over the incident, saying that she felt “poorly treated” by the airline and “discriminated” against by the rude employee.
“I felt having been poorly treated by United Airlines, even as a Premier 1K club member, and by this UA staff in particular, to some extent discriminated by her! Even though it is not close to the same scale as the other UA incidence where a passenger was dragged and injured which have caught public attention from the globe, I for the first time truly felt the extremely terrible and disgusting customer service of United Airlines!”
Zhang also posted the incident on Twitter and United Airlines responded with a quick apology and an attempt to discus the issue in private:
I’m terribly sorry to learn of the issues you encountered during your travel. Could you please DM your contact info to can address this? ^SV
— United (@united) June 8, 2017