Passengers with HIV sue China's Spring Airlines

A worker directs an airplane from Spring Airlines at the Nanjing Airport on 8 February 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China The low-cost carrier Spring Airlines was set up in 2005

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Two passengers with HIV are suing a budget Chinese airline for refusing to let them board a plane.

Local media reports say the two men and a friend - who does not have HIV - were prevented from boarding a Spring Airlines plane at Shenyang airport.

The three of them are accusing the airline of discrimination. A court in Shenyang accepted their case on Friday.

Rights groups say that widespread stigmatisation of people with HIV and Aids still exists in China.

The airline's president Wang Zhenghua said on Tuesday that the company did not discriminate against HIV carriers, and blamed the incident on staff anxiety, according to the AFP news agency.

But he also blamed the passengers, and said the firm would allow HIV-positive travellers to board their planes as long as they did not make themselves "overly noticeable" to avoid scaring other customers.

Spring Airlines' website states that it has the right to refuse passage to those with "infectious diseases". An airline spokesman told Caixin that since the incident, the airline has not turned away any HIV-positive passengers.

According to a report in the Fazhi Evening Paper the three men were preparing to board a flight to Shijiazhuang, which is south of Beijing, on 28 July when they were stopped by officials.

One passenger told the paper: "After we got our boarding passes, we informed a Spring Airlines official that some of us had HIV."

"The official immediately rang up the Shanghai head office for instructions, and then told us the company has rules forbidding the transportation of passengers with HIV."

The passenger said they were unable to negotiate with airline officials, who terminated the three passengers' tickets. They eventually took a train to their destination.

The three plaintiffs are now demanding compensation of 48,999 yuan (£4,771, $7,967) and an apology from the airline, said The Global Times.

Last year a government proposal to ban HIV patients from using public bathhouses was met with strong criticism.

China only lifted a longstanding ban on foreigners with HIV entering the country in 2010.

That same year, a Chinese court ruled against a man who said he was denied a teaching job because he had HIV, in what was the country's first HIV job discrimination case.

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