Passenger Fined $11,000 for Opening Emergency Exit on ‘Stuffy’ Plane for Fresh Air

A passenger waiting to exit a plane after it landed said he was fined $11,000 after opening the emergency door because the packed plane was “stuffy.”

A 25-year-old man, identified only as Chen by the South China Morning Post, said he flew from the island of Hainan, China, to Sichuan, China, before the deplaning incident at the Mianyang Nanjiao Airport. After deciding he needed some fresh air, Chen pulled a handle he said he didn’t know was attached to his row’s emergency exit door. Upon realizing the emergency slide was deploying automatically at the same time the door came inward, he said he “panicked.”

“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,” the man told, later translated by South China Morning Post.

RTR4V55L A passenger waiting to exit a plane after it landed said he was fined $11,000 after opening the emergency door because the packed plane was “stuffy.” Reuters

The airline, which was not named in the Chinese media reports, told that the man’s lack of knowledge was inexcusable due to the safety instruction demonstration and emergency manual made available to every passenger on flights. The airline said a significant amount of force would need to be applied to the door handle in order for it to open and deploy the emergency chute down the side of the aircraft.

The airline specifically indicated in the report that all passengers sitting by emergency exits were made aware of the precautions and responsibilities they have when sitting in such rows.

Chen said he was detained by police for 15 days following the incident “for the unauthorized removal of aviation facilities.” He was also fined 70,000 yuan, or a little more than $11,000 to cover the airline’s maintenance and delay costs. The China Air Transport Association has been tightening up fines and detention periods for unruly passengers for the past several years. People found smoking or involved in fights at airports or on planes can be barred from boarding any plane throughout the country for one year. South China Morning Post noted in a separate report that Chinese aviation agencies are cracking down over international scrutiny they're receiving from recent incidents. 

In 2014, a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, to Nanjing, China, turned back to Thailand after a female Chinese passenger tossed hot water and noodles at a flight attendant and a male passenger. In March, a ground crew employee at the Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport in Xiamen, China, was fined for what he said was being "too handsome" in a viral video.