Imagine how it would feel if you have an important meeting to attend and the airlines refuse you to check in simply because they don’t like your aboriginal name! This is something happened with the 26 year old journalism student, Nagao Kunaw. He belongs to the Atayal tribe from Nantou County and is known by his Mandarin name, Chen Ruei-jhe.
The incident unfolded this way. Nagao booked a domestic flight ticket to reach Taipei from Taitung. While doing the booking with Uni Air he wrote his indigenous name instead of the Mandarin one, though the name was spelled in English letters. It is to be noted in this regard that native people in Taiwan are needed to have a Mandarin first and surname, as per the Federal Government rule. However, that doesn’t make their indigenous names invalid.
When Nagao tried to do a check-in from the airline’s self-service kiosk, he was unable to do so. Then he approached the ground crew for help. Even they failed to find his booking record. Further, the ground staff accused him of not having a valid ticket. Then Nagao showed them the ticket which was booked under his Aboriginal name. He also showed them his national identification card which displays both the indigenous and Mandarin names.
To his dismay, the crew still asked for proper identification to validate his ‘English name’! The ground crew further told him that he shouldn’t have done the booking under his indigenous name, which is causing such problem. They were not buying his logic that Nagao Kunaw is his legal name and he has this Aboriginal name since he belongs to the Atayal tribe. When Nagao asked the airline staff why a national identification is not accepted as a valid document, he got no satisfactory response.
Ultimately Nagao was allowed to board the flight but with a piece of advice, not to use his indigenous name again for flight booking purpose! The entire incident humiliated him extremely and prompted him to shoot a grievance letter to the Uni Air with a heading ‘Can’t Aborigines use their Aboriginal names when they book flight tickets?’ He received a call from the Uni Air director next morning who apologized profusely for the unnecessary trouble he faced and praised him for his sincere attitude.
The entire incident generated enough social media buzz when Nagao narrated it in his Facebook account. Many voiced their support and appreciated him for the way he handled the situation. Such a public expression of protest prompted the Eva Air, the parent company of Uni Air to issue an apology where they accepted that airlines crew indeed bungled the job!
Besides lodging protest, Nagao also offered some useful suggestions for Uni Air to follow like educating its employees about the growing indigenous population and upgrading the self-check-in service so that aboriginals don’t face the similar situation in future.
Mr. Nagao, we support your effort and do hope such ethnic issues don’t raise their head in future!