Recently, the public opinion has shown strong opposition against Vietjet Airlines due to the incident of bikini models receiving U23 Vietnam team members on a flight from Changzhou (China) to Vietnam after the 2018 AFC U-23 Asian Cup final.
The budget Vietjet Airline is well-known as the "sexy" airline, aiming at promoting the youthful and unique image in the past few years. It also encountered intense controversy in 2014 for hiring bikini models for a PR campaign, which helped the airline closely associated with symbols of elegance. However, it is undeniable that such difference has brought Vietjet notable success regarding its brand identity and business revenue.
Vietjet's PR campaign regarding U23 Vietnam team began on January 22nd, a day before the semi-final against Qatar. After U23 Vietnam had won Qatar to enter the final, Vietjet quickly pushed up the media campaign.
On January 26th, they announced that they would send a private jet to Changzhou to carry U23 Vietnam team back home, half a day earlier than planned. Accepting this proposal, the Vietnam Football Federation sent a letter to the General Department of Sports and Physical Training to cancel the Shanghai-Hanoi tickets previously booked at Vietnam Airlines.
Under Vietjet’s new schedule, the team members had to shorten their recovery time after the tight game with Uzbekistan the night before.
The scandal also started from this flight. As always, to celebrate a big event, Vietjet brings beautiful bikini models on board for catwalk performance to welcome football players.
Commenting on Vietjet’s scandal this time, many media experts said that the PR intention in this flight was wrong from the beginning.
First, the time is not right. With the miraculous victory to enter the final of the AFC U-23 Championship, the coaches and players of U23 Vietnam have become the heroes in the hearts of millions of Vietnamese around the world.
Given that, the incident of sexy models who showed off their bodies and intimately embraced the young members while they were physically and mentally exhausted is very offensive to the respect of all Vietnamese at the time.
The second reason for the netizens’ anger is that the players seemed to be embarrassed at the scene. It is understandable that harsh comments have come mostly from females.
Leaked photos and videos are just the beginning of the scandal. The anger among the public opinion was fueled by the Facebook status of model Lai Thanh Huong, who appeared in most photos. Only when Vietjet’s Facebook fanpage posted the apology of Vietjet General Director Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao on the evening of January 28th did the controversy reach its worst.
It is said that her half-hearted apology and the hasty defensive arguments have turned the situation into a crisis.
The apology letter said, "This repertoire was not included the company's program; it spontaneously occurred by the logistics team of the trip. Furthermore, a performer offhand took pictures with the players and posted them online, triggering frustration among the netizens.”
After the apology had been published, clips and photos depicting the stunt were even more widely spread. While the crisis was seemingly at its peak, Vietjet obscurely closed its Facebook fanpage, where just posted the official apology.
On the afternoon of January 30th, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) announced to fine Vietjet VND40 million (roughly US$1,760) and the chief stewardess VND4 million (about US$176) for “posing a safety risk to the flight” as said in its statement.