China Eastern Airlines (CEA) made its second apology on Thursday for flight disruptions that affected more than 1,000 passengers in Yunnan Province earlier this month.
"We again apologize for the bad influence and inconvenience the incident has brought to society and passengers. We will properly deal with issues concerning passengers' benefits," the company said in an announcement posted on its website.
The Shanghai-headquartered airline said it had learnt a good lesson and found out problems in its administration. It promised to improve management, further educate its employees about professional ethics, and protect consumers' rights and interests.
The short apology was released on the same day when the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) imposed a 1.5-million-yuan(about 214,286 U.S. dollars) fine for the incident on CEA, one of the country's three major carriers.
CAAC also decided to strip the company of some routes and flights in Yunnan and transfer the operations to other airlines.
CAAC attributed the incident largely to some pilots of CEA's Yunnan branch, saying they had ignored the passengers' interests and disrupted the flights on purpose.
According to a CAAC investigation, only three of the 21 returned flights on March 14 and April 1 were forced to fly back to the departure points in Yunnan because of poor weather or aircraft failure.
More than 1,000 passengers were stranded at the airport in Kunming, the Yunnan capital, over the two days.
However, an investigation was still underway as the reason for the other nine early flight returns hadn't been identified because of problems with the quick access recorder (QAR) data.
CAAC urged the CEA to ensure flight safety and severely punish those responsible for the incident.
CEA originally said the incidents were due to bad weather. However, flights with other airlines flying the same routes landed on schedule during the same period.
The company finally admitted some pilots on the 21 flights deliberately turned their aircraft around and promised to offer compensation of up to 400 yuan to passengers affected.
Earlier media reports said the pilots took the extreme step of expressing their grief with the company over poor working conditions and low wages.