Hainan Airlines Group has defended its decision to give cash, property and free flights to the crew and passengers who foiled a mid-air highjack attempt in June.
Concerns have been raised that the high-profile rewards could encourage passengers to confront dangerous hijackers in the future.
The company announced on Monday it was rewarding the nine-member cabin crew and 22 passengers that were on a Tianjin Airlines flight that flew from Hotan to Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on June 29. The crew and passengers are believed to have stopped an attempted hijack.
At least 10 people were injured during the fight according to information provided at a news conference held last week by airline officials and local government.
The reward includes cash and property worth 4 million yuan ($628,500) for each of the two safety officers and the chief purser, while the rest of the crew will receive property, cars and cash worth 2.5 million yuan.
Hainan Airlines Group, which owns Tianjin Airlines, has also decided to grant the 22 passengers who participated in the fight free lifetime air travel.
Li Jun, a staff member from the general office of Hainan Airlines Group, said the company will publish instructions for the passengers to help them claim the reward. The names of the passengers have not been released due to security concerns.
The generous rewards have prompted fears passengers could be encouraged to put their lives at risk in any future hijackings.
A netizen who uses the online handle Wanyanluo wrote on micro-blogging site Sina Weibo that he is worried the reward could make passengers believe they too could stop a hijacking.
"It requires professionalism and experience to deal with a hijacking. The high profile reward will be negative in the long-run because it encourages untrained passengers to carry out actions that they are not trained to do," he wrote.
A staff member of the Flying Corps of Air China, who wished only to be identified by his surname Zhang, said the thinking on whether passengers should be involved in fighting hijackers has changed after the infamous Sept 11, 2001 attacks, when passengers on one of the planes prevented hijackers from reaching Washington DC, instead crashing the plane into a field killing all on board but injuring no one on the ground.
Zhang said there were several failed hijackings during the 2000s in China, and the airline companies offered spiritual support to the crew who helped stop the hijack attempts, instead of providing large cash bonuses.
He said that although he does not believe the high-profile reward will lead to potential unprofessional fights between passengers and hijackers, he suggested airline companies and media should not publicize reward, but focus on informing the public on the best way to deal with a hijacking.