BANGKOK — The management of a low-cost carrier apologized on Saturday after an April Fool’s Day post announcing a fake new route between the northern city of Nan and Munich drew widespread criticism on social media.
In a statement, Thai VietJet said the airline did not condone the post and suspended two of its staff who were responsible for the prank. The tweet, which went online for a few hours before being deleted on Friday, raised anger among ultra-royalists who called for a boycott and sincere apology from the airline.
“As the executive of the airline, I would like to admit my fault for not taking enough care of my staff,” said the statement, which quoted Thai VietJet CEO Woranate Laprabang. “The airline would like to clarify that the executives did not approve or support the publication of such online content and ordered an immediate removal upon learning about the incident.”
The tweet in question showed an image of the two cities with the text “New route: Nan to Munich, starting at 1,010 baht per trip.” The image also featured a woman wearing a pink dress, who appeared to be sitting forlornly.
Despite having #aprilfoolsday disclaimer at the bottom of the post, the apparent joke went awry and provoked a furious reaction from some netizens, who quickly interpreted the post as a mockery to His Majesty the King. King Rama X is reported to spend much of his time in Germany.
“The intent of this tweet is crystal clear – a mockery to the Head of State,” Facebook user Sompob Pordi wrote in an online open letter to Thai VietJet CEO. “Thai people, I included, found this tweet associated with your company disgusting. We shall avoid doing business with your company at all costs, unless the airline issued a formal apology to the public and the persons who committed such a lowly act is no longer with your organization.”
Seri Wongmontha, a television host and prominent ultra-royalist figure, also called for legal action against the company. Seri, as well as other comments on the internet seen by Khaosod English, did not go into details of how they found Thai VietJet’s prank offensive.
“Should we, the Thai people, continue to support this foreign carrier who operates in Thailand, but ridicules the institution being loved and revered by the Thai people?” Seri wrote in an online post. “If there is any law to act against this airline, I would support it. Don’t let them make profits from the Thai people.”
While ultra-royalists slammed Thai VietJet’s tweet, some netizens naively asked what is wrong about the fake route announcement.
“What’s the problem with Germany? How does flying to Munich is offensive?” user Verapon Ingkalohakul suggested in a comment thread.
“Why do they have a guilty conscience?” user Nicholai Pramolovskaya added.
On Sunday, transparency activist Srisuwan Janya said he will file a lese majeste and cybercrime complaint against the airline, while online royalist group “Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims” said Saturday that the Thai VietJet CEO told them he will seek for a royal pardon over the matter.
Khaosod English could not independently verify the group’s claim.
The civil aviation regulator also said Sunday it will summon the airline for questioning, though it did not specify topic of the discussion.