Two passengers with HIV are suing a Chinese airline for refusing to let them on board.
The pair and a friend were attempting to travel from Shenyang in the northeast to Shijiazhuang, south of Beijing, but were refused entry to a Spring Airlines plane after they informed staff of their illness, AFP reported.
The two, along with their HIV-negative travelling companion, were told that their tickets had been cancelled.
The three of them are accusing the airline of discrimination and a court in Shenyang accepted their case on Friday, BBC reported.
The are seeking an open apology and compensation of 48,999 yuan (NZ$9397).
A Shenyang court accepted the case, making it the first lawsuit against an airline for discriminating against an HIV-positive person in China, the Global Times reported.
"The court's acceptance of this case signalled that HIV carriers can protect their rights through legal channels," plaintiff Cheng Shuaishuai said.
The president of Spring Airlines, Wang Zhenghua, told Global Times the company did not discriminate against HIV carriers and said that this incident occurred because the staff in the airport felt nervous.
But he went on to blame the passengers for bringing their illness to the attention of staff, as the airline did not deny HIV-positive travellers transport, as long as they did not make themselves "overly noticeable" to avoid scaring other customers.
Under Chinese law air carriers can deny transport to infectious patients, people with mental illness or passengers whose health condition may endanger others or themselves. Liu Wei, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said that did not mean Spring Airlines had the right to reject the trio, as there was no evidence their presence on board would infect anyone else.
He said he expected to win the lawsuit as the company's refusal was an obvious violation of China's AIDS prevention and control regulations, which state that no organisations or individuals can discriminate against HIV carriers.
- © Fairfax NZ News