MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – A businessman and consul on Monday defended himself after an international airline said he was offloaded from the plane because of unruly behavior.
Cathay Pacific said it offloaded businessman Francis Chua because the latter refused to fasten his seatbelt and made a scene as the Hong Kong-bound aircraft taxied for takeoff last Sunday.
The airline said Chua, an honorary consul of Peru, introduced himself as a special Philippine envoy to China for trade and investment.
Chua said he only wanted to remove the shoulder strap because he felt suffocated. He said he asked one of the crew members to allow him to only wear the seatbelt.
"I could not use the shoulder strap because I felt suffocated. In my previous flight from Hong Kong last 09 April 2012 via CX 919 which was delayed for 4 hours, I asked the same from a stewardess and she politely agreed," Chua said in a statement.
He added: "The first stewardess replied 'OK.' Another stewardess came and told me that I should use the shoulder strap. I told her the same thing but she insisted and even informed her supervisor."
Chua said the cabin crew supervisor raised her voice at him when he insisted that he be allowed to remove the second strap.
“[Pero pagdating ng] supervisor, masungit. Ang sabi niya ‘hindi ka pwede [hindi magsuot ng seat belt], papababain kita,’ namamanta na. Ang sabi ko baka mahimatay ako. Nakausap ko na yung isang [cabin crew].”
The crew then alerted the pilot, Captain Brian Hall, and flight officer Warren Hayman, who decided to turn the plane around.
The airline said as the Boeing 747 returned to the airport terminal, Chua left his seat and reportedly climbed up the spiral staircase to the upper deck and tried to enter the cockpit, in an apparent attempt to talk to the pilot.
Chua, however, said he did not want to talk to the pilot.
He said he only wanted to talk to a friend who was located on the plane’s upper deck to help him ease the tension.
“So tinanggal ko yung strap ko. Sabi ko sa kanya aakyat ako sa kaibigan ko. I need somebody to diffuse the tension,” he said.
“Hindi pa ako nakatungtong sa hagdan eh… Pagka-stand ko pa lang, [sinabi na ng crew agad na] ‘hindi ka pwedeng pumunta, you could not go anywhere. Sit right there.”
Chua then called the friend, but the latter was also prevented from going down the plane’s lower deck to meet him.
Chua was brought to the CAAP office after being offloaded, but until late yesterday afternoon, no formal complaint against him had been filed. Sources said several individuals were interceding on his behalf.
Cathay Pacific said it decided to offload Chua because "the safety and security of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance to us. Wearing a seatbelt is requirement stipulated by the Civil Aviation Department of Hong Kong for all airlines to ensure passenger safety."
The airline said there were 378 passengers and 19 crew on board of the Boeing 747-400 aircraft. The flight departed at 2:49 p.m. local time after a delay of about an hour.
Chua said he was on his way to Hong Kong to meet with friend Nonoy Colayco and several other businessmen to strike a $25 million investment deal for a shipping line.
His fellow businessmen from the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) also condemned the supposed disrespectful incident.
Born in Jinjiang, Fujian, China, Chua is an honorary president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. and president emeritus of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Foundation.
He is president of Philippine Satellite Corp. and vice chairman of Mabuhay Satellite Corp. – with The Philippine Star