Airline passenger opens emergency exit while deplaning, gets fined $11,000

A 25-year-old man who had just arrived in Sichuan, China, was fined more than $11,000 for opening the plane’s emergency door because the air felt “stuffy.”

The man, identified only as Chen, had just flown from the island province of Hainan in Southern China and was preparing to deplane with his fellow passengers when he began feeling uncomfortable, prompting him to reach for the nearest door handle, the South China Morning Post reported.

Chen, however, said he wasn’t aware the handle was attached to the emergency exit door, and actually “panicked” when it fell inward. The plane's emergency exit also deployed automatically as a result.

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“Because it was so stuffy, so hot on the plane, I just pushed down on the window handle beside me. When the door fell out, I panicked,” said Chen, per the ThePaper.cn, as translated by the Post.

Authorities on the ground did not seem convinced by Chen’s explanation. According to ThePaper.cn, the airline — which was not named in their report — stated that passengers were made aware of where the aircraft’s emergency exits were located during the pre-flight safety demonstration. The airline further said that emergency doors don’t just fall open without passengers applying some sort of force.

As a result, Chen was reportedly detained for 15 days “for the unauthorized removal of aviation facilities” and will be subject to a fine of 70,000 yuan, or around $11,000, according to the South China Morning Post.

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Chen’s ordeal mirrors that of a Ryanair passenger who climbed out onto the wing while waiting to disembark a plane in Malaga, Spain, on Jan. 1. Witnesses on that flight say the passenger had been complaining about his asthma before calmly walking to the emergency exit, opening it, looking out onto the tarmac, coming back into the plane to retrieve a bag, and then exiting out onto the wing.

The Ryanair passenger was “immediately arrested” by police upon returning to the cabin.