Passengers wait at the check-in counter of Hong Kong Express Airways at the Hong Kong International Airport. File / AP
Midori Nishida, 25, was escorted to a public toilet at Hong Kong airport and told to urinate on a strip in November before being granted permission to board her Hong Kong Express flight to the US territory of Saipan.
She had declared in a questionnaire at check-in that she was not pregnant but airline staff nevertheless requested she undergo a "fit-to-fly" assessment designed for women with a body size or shape resembling a pregnant woman. The test result came up negative.
"It was very humiliating and frustrating," Nishida told the Wall Street Journal. She grew up on Saipan and her family have lived on the island for more than 20 years.
The airline apologised to Nishida and said the practice had been discontinued when contacted by AFP.
"We have immediately suspended the practice while we review it. We'd like to apologise for the distress caused," the airline said in a statement.
Hong Kong Express said it had taken "action on flights to Saipan from February 2019 to help ensure US immigration laws were not being undermined," in response to concerns raised by the island's authorities.
"We recognise the significant concerns this practice has caused," it said.
Saipan is a popular destination for women wanting to give birth on US soil to secure American citizenship for their child.
In 2018 nearly 600 babies were born to tourists in the Northern Mariana Islands, which sit just north of Guam, also a US territory — a figure greater than the number of babies born to locals.
According to data from local health authorities, 575 Chinese visitors gave birth there that year.
The influx followed the introduction in 2009 of a visa-waiver programme to attract Chinese holidaymakers, a scheme that made the islands the only US territory where Chinese citizens enjoy visa-free entry.
But in recent years Saipan has stepped up measures to curb birth tourism by requiring airlines to carry out screenings.
Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific announced on Wednesday that it will buy budget airline HK Express for US$628.15 million, as it moves to counter competition from the increasing number of low-cost carriers in the region.
Lufthansa reported an operating loss of 336 million euros ($380 million) for the first quarter of the year, hurt by rising fuel costs and overcapacity in Europe, sending its shares down 5 per cent in pre-market trade. Germany’s biggest airline said late on Monday
The Sharjah Airport on Thursday received Turkish Airlines’ inaugural flight from Istanbul. Starting in April, the airline will operate a daily flight to Sharjah from Istanbul’s new airport. The aircraft was welcomed with a traditional water salute, and a reception was held for the airline’s officials in the presence of Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Airport Authority,
Turkish Airlines added Strasbourg to the list of its destinations in France. Turkish Airlines, flying to more countries than any other airline in the world, has launched direct flights again to Strasbourg, starting from May 31st, 2019,
Fog blanketed some of the interior areas of the UAE on Thursday morning, and lasted for five and a half hours. It started at midnight and continued until 5.30am, due to a surface air depression with a high air extension in the upper atmosphere.
Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs V. Muraleedharan launched the PBSK mobile app in Dubai on Thursday. The app, developed by the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Sahayata Kendra (PBSK), will help distressed Indian expatriates in the UAE to reach the PBSK for help.
The UAE has been assessed to be the leader in the 22-country Arab Region on caring for the environment through sustainable finance practices, specifically on climate change finance, bolstered by regulations or legislation.