Chinese Airline Rewards Crew for Resisting Hijackers

Normally, companies instruct their employees not to resist. But Hainan Airlines did the opposite:

Two safety officers and the chief purser got cash and property worth 4m yuan ($628,500; £406,200) each. The rest got assets worth 2.5m yuan each.

That’s a lot of money, especially in China. I’m sure it will influence future decisions by crew, and even passengers, about resisting terrorist attacks.

Posted on July 18, 2012 at 9:27 AM27 Comments


ted July 18, 2012 9:36 AM

“I’m sure it will influence future decisions by crew… about resisting terrorist attacks.”

Hey grandpa with terminal disease. How about you try and hijack this bird and I’ll stop you for the money.

Or the flight crew picks out some unsuspecting passenger and beats him to death, drops a gun on the scene and then claims he tried to hijack the plane.

Bill July 18, 2012 9:58 AM

Reminds me of a Dilbert comic from November 1995: Boss says “Our goal is to write bug-free software. I’ll pay $10 for every bug you find and fix.”

Staff Cheers and says “We’ll be rich!”
Boss says “I hope this drives the right behavior.”
One staff member says “I’m going to write me a new minivan this afternoon”.

RJD July 18, 2012 10:59 AM

Ugh. Hainan Airlines is the worst airline I ever flew on. Maybe the guy had tried the “food” and been driven insane contamination and toxins.

boog July 18, 2012 11:42 AM

“I’m sure it will influence future decisions… about resisting terrorist attacks.”

It’s a pity that survival apparently isn’t enough of an influence on the decision to resist terrorist attacks.

Save my life and the lives of everyone else on the plane? Not worth it.
Wait, you say there are cash prizes? Let’s kick some ass!

WaltzingMatilda July 18, 2012 11:46 AM

China probably doesn’t have a no-fly list. They probably have a do-no-let-live list (ie, no repeat offenders) for such activities.

Chris B. July 18, 2012 11:46 AM

I feel like I just stepped into a time warp. Didn’t companies stop telling their employees not to resist hijacking somewhere around September 12, 2001? Which airlines still encourage cooperation with hijackers, so I know which ones to avoid?

Lenka July 18, 2012 11:59 AM

The question is were these really “hijackers” or just people who happened to be flying while Uyghur (a Turkic, Muslim minority group), or whether this incident even happened at all? It is hard to rely on the veracity of the Xinhua News Agency, especially in matters that concern Xinjiang. In the past, previous “terrorist incidents” that Xinhua and other Chinese media have claimed occurred were later found to be complete fabrications. As for the monetary incentive, if anything, this just increases the incentive for Han to discriminate against the Uyghurs on airplanes.

Wael July 18, 2012 12:10 PM

@ Lenka

It is hard to rely on the veracity of the Xinhua News Agency

What happens behind the Bamboo curtain, stays behind the Bamboo curtain;)

Dave C. July 18, 2012 12:28 PM

One word can make a big difference. Suppose every passenger going through the security check point says “The person in front of me has a bomb in their luggage”. How would TSA react? What if they said instead “The person in front of me has a potato in their luggage”.

Paddy July 18, 2012 12:47 PM

@ Lenka @Wael
It is hard to rely on the veracity of the Xinhua News Agency

Embedded US Journalists are any more trust worthy?

Wael July 18, 2012 1:20 PM

@ Paddy

“Embedded US Journalists are any more trust worthy?”

Highly subjective. Depends on your Modus Operandi. Some people tend to believe what fits their preconceived convictions.

Trust no one…
The truth is out there. (X-files)

RSaunders July 18, 2012 1:20 PM

True or not, look at the powerful use of asymmetric cost in favor of the defender. If this were a “communist conspiracy plot to defraud terrorists”, I’d be OK with it.

Hold a big ceremony, praise heroic workers, hand out prizes, clapping, balloons, good time had by all. Total cost, something like $10M.

Message to potential terrorist plotters, priceless. They will look for another venue to promote their message.

Compare to US TSA, spending $60,000M to mostly make non-terrorists mad at them. Increased attention makes airlines a more attractive target.

The TSA would be better off passing out swiss-army knives (they must have a zillion) wrapped in a news article about this “solution”, and going back to the 9/10 security approach.

Arno Schmidt July 18, 2012 3:39 PM

We all know how many lives would have been saved it the passengers in all 4 jets on 911 would have resisted….

LordYarlble July 18, 2012 6:08 PM

That actually made me laugh.
I’m thinking in America, perhaps we could do something similar, but for intelligent conversations. We could train people to beat and detain anyone/s speaking incoherent complexity. The motto could be, “If it doesn’t make sense and if you aint heard about it on the tely, smash it, detain it, and get cash”.

But you really should check all the DHS motivational videos; they effectively do this, advising people to spy on people texting, and to report people taking notes, etc. The DHS is especially wary of backpacks too — the moment they touch the ground, they are presumed to contain explosives. And if you drive a van, don’t park it and relax – you would be very suspicious if you did so.

Dirk Praet July 18, 2012 7:29 PM

From a related story on the same page: “the men, from the Uighur minority group, died in hospital of injuries sustained trying to break into the plane’s cockpit.”

The entire article has propaganda written all over it and sounds about as credible as the Pope having a secret affair with Lady Gaga. China has a seriously bad reputation when it comes to the treatment of minorities such as Uighurs and Tibetans who for all practical purposes are being subjected to cultural genocide and worse. Any type of resistance against Han ways and domination – peaceful or otherwise – is crushed without mercy and that policy is exactly what this article is reflecting.

On the concept of richly rewarding a flight crew for resisting unauthorised parties to enter the flight cabin: post 9/11, shouldn’t that be just part of their job ? That’s pretty much like paying a soldier extra for being fired upon by the enemy during combat activities.

Ping-Che Chen July 19, 2012 12:33 AM

IIRC many years ago the Chinese government encourages crews to resist hijackers. But after one tragic incident (where the hijacked airplane crashed on landing, and many people died), they changed the policy to cooperate with the hijackers all the time. Then someone somehow successfully hijack an airplane to Taiwan using a soap or something, claiming it’s a bomb. This inspired many “copycat hijacking” for those who believed going to Taiwan is a good idea (they probably believed that they would receive a lot money from Taiwan as a defector). After a while, the Chinese government abandoned this “cooperate with hijackers” policy.

Autolykos July 19, 2012 4:32 AM

That’s pretty much like paying a soldier extra for being fired upon by the enemy during combat activities.
And the US even gives them medals for getting shot…

But seriously, I think RSaunders nailed it. It doesn’t even matter whether the story is true. China just demonstrated how to deal with terrorism in an efficient way. They realized that “asymmetric warfare” means having advantages in other areas and found a way to capitalize on it. We, on the other hand, try fighting on the terrorists’ terms and lose.

Kevin July 19, 2012 9:36 AM

While the Chinese government has certainly ‘sent a message’ in their asymmetric war, I don’t think it’s quite the message that most of the posters here are seeing.

The message is not “You will be rewarded if you beat up terrorists.”

The message is “You will be rewarded if you beat up Uighurs, an ethnic minority we’d very much like to suppress.”

The Chinese government doesn’t have a particularly strong motivation to ‘send a message’ to terrorists within its borders. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Chinese law and order — terrorists included — will already know that China isn’t shy about applying the death penalty, nor about sidestepping the niceties of due process when it is politically expedient to do so. Being perceived as ‘soft on crime’ has never been a Chinese problem–at least, not for crimes the government feels like prosecuting.

Consider this other BBC report that preceded the announcement of rewards by about a week. That report suggested (based on information from different sources that admittedly would have their own biases) that the event wasn’t a hijacking attempt at all, but simply a dispute over a seat that grew out of control. (Lest you consider such a story far-fatched, note that the U.S. has an ample share of similar cases: individuals belonging to ethnic or religious minorities being detained or removed from flights because they were praying before takeoff or conversing ‘suspiciously’ in a non-English language. If a Muslim-looking fellow were standing up on a U.S. flight, arguing in broken English with a white person, is it utterly inconceivable that someone on board might think ‘terrorist’?)

An argument aboard the aircraft involving groups that are mutually suspicious of one another spirals out of control; a fight erupts; two men ultimately die. In the aftermath, the government had two choices: acknowledge that two people were beaten to death for no particularly good reason, or play the terrorism card.

Similarly, the aircrew involved had two options: admit that they lost control of their passengers and endangered the safety of the flight because they couldn’t resolve a minor dispute, or endorse the Party line, be declared state heroes, and receive lavish gifts for defeating these ‘terrorists’.

The state-controlled media version might be true, though I doubt we’ll ever know for certain. True or not, though, the Chinese government sent exactly the message that they wanted to send.

Anonymouse July 19, 2012 6:44 PM

@ boog

That’s because you gain the benefit from ANYONE resisting hijackers, so you wait for someone else to risk getting stabbed first. It’s a free rider problem.

When the resisters get paid, then it’s a reason for YOU to be the one who takes that risk.

B. D. Johnson July 20, 2012 3:05 PM

That’s pretty much like paying a soldier extra for being fired upon by the enemy during combat activities.

We do. At least in the US Military. It’s called “Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay” (usually just called “combat pay”). Then you have family separation allowance (if you have dependents), hardship pay, and the fact that if you’re in a combat area you don’t pay federal income tax. Tack that onto the 10% you get from Savings Deposit Program (up to $1000/year).

sam July 21, 2012 5:34 AM

Its seems some of you would have been happier if the plane would have gone down in fire. Damned if you do and damned if you dont with some folks… cowards

Any hoot…its a great news to send to future terrorists of any ilk…try to kill us? we for sure will kill you!…good going Chinese

Dirk Praet July 21, 2012 6:50 AM

@ B.D. Johnson

We do

Darn, I didn’t know that. Thanks for sharing that information.

sam July 22, 2012 7:30 PM

I dont give a rats rear end who gets paid, as long as I land alive.. If it means from now on getting bonuses for taking down bad guys ? count me in for the prizes..this is a bonus to relieve some stress on a wouldbe murderer… 3 potential murderers down, win a giant big screen TV..I’m in for sure…

Jack July 26, 2012 3:59 PM

well it is the same way with terrorists and bullies. Before they attack they try to determine how likely it is that they are successful.

For that reason bullies often check out loners and others that seem more vulnerable. Terrorists look for other types of vulnerabilities. Both are trying to gauge the level of certainty for the success.

Throwing in the possibility that the aircraft crew will attack the terrorist will increase the uncertainty in cases where the terrorist somehow makes their intentions known (it will not help in cases where terrorists e.g. send a just a luggage with a bomb in it).

Anyways, media is partially state controlled in USA as well. It is not fully controlled but it does not need to be in order for the US government to send the messages they want to send…

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