Air China suspends flight attendant over celebrity data breach


An Air China flight attendant accused of publishing personal information on social media about the celebrities he served in the air has been suspended, the company said on Friday.

The airline launched an investigation after aviation industry blogger Chao Cewei blew the whistle on a post made on Weibo - China's Twitter-like platform - in July by the employee, who used the online name Ruo Chen.

In his post on Friday, Chao said that Ruo had published information on about 20 celebrities on Weibo, including details of their flight records, membership card status, nationality and date of birth.

"On the passenger's flight record cards are red characters saying that 'Passengers' personal information is forbidden to be circulated outside [the company]'. But he still released it and did so repeatedly," Chao said.

One of Ruo's posts showed him dressed in his flight attendant uniform and standing on a plane beside actor Jin Dong, he said.

The flight attendant is accused of publishing information about 20 celebrities.

Among the other celebrities mentioned in Ruo's posts were actors Jing Boran, Bao Beier and Deng Lun, actresses Ni Ni and Jiang Yingrong, singers Zhang Jie, Zhou Bichang, Han Hong and Zeng Yike, supermodel Du Juan, athlete Su Bingtian and television host Ju Ping, Chao said.

In a statement published on Weibo on Friday, Air China did not name the employee but said his "conduct has seriously violated Air China's data management rule".

"We've decided to suspend him from flight duties and [he] will face severe punishment," it said.

"We make our sincere apologies to the affected passengers."

The 20 celebrities are not the first to have their privacy breached in China this year.

In October, 11 medical staff at a hospital in Jiangsu province were suspended after posing for photographs on a bed recently vacated by Mando-pop star JJ Lin.

The 38-year-old Singaporean singer was taken to the Zhenjiang First People's Hospital after feeling unwell after performing a concert in the city.

One nurse was also accused of publishing images online of the needles and IV bags Lin had used, prompting other social media users to joke that they were up for sale.

The incident sparked the usual heated discussions online.

"They need to be professional. It's a basic thing to protect patients' privacy," one internet user said at the time.

Air China also found itself in trouble in July, when a former employee caused uproar on a flight by accusing three of her fellow passengers of attacking her, leading to them being held and questioned for seven hours.

The company said later that the woman had worked as a flight attendant but had been on sick leave since pouring hot water on a passenger more than 10 years earlier. She was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


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