The woman, surnamed Bi, was travelling with her boyfriend from Weihai to Nanjing when Spring Airlines turned her away from the flight.
The low-cost domestic carrier claimed she was “emotionally unstable”, reports The Paper.
“We made the regretful decision based on public safety concerns, as the medical condition of the passenger was not clear, they could not be calmed down emotionally and there was no medical advice on their situation,” an airline spokesperson told the Global Times.
They added that Bi’s hands were shaking furiously during the security check and said that she became emotional and her boyfriend got angry and started shouting when staff questioned her medical background.
They claimed the decision not to let her board the plane was motivated by concerns about her emotional and mental state, and not because she had depression.
The woman’s boyfriend, identified as Yu, accused the airline of “discriminating against patients with depression” on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, which is similar to Twitter.
He claimed that the only symptom his girlfriend exhibited was shaking hands, a side-effect of the lithium carbonate tablets she takes.
Yu accused gate agents of “interrogating” her in front of other passengers, and questioned whether it was “reasonable” to ask customers about private medical conditions in a public setting.
He said the pair had been travelling to Nanjing so that she could attend a hospital appointment with a specialist, which had been difficult to arrange.
They were forced to take the overnight train instead in order to make the appointment, with Yu claiming his girlfriend “cried all the way” there.
The airline said the couple had been refunded in full for the flights.
According to an investigation by The Paper, when a staff member rang Spring Airlines and posed as a customer, they were told by a customer service rep that the carrier doesn’t recommend that people with depression should fly.
The story follows an incident on an Air China flight in September, when a passenger died by suicide in the aircraft toilet.