An elderly passenger has been arrested and detained in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong for endangering the safety of an aircraft, after he tried opened an emergency exit as the plane sat on the tarmac.
In an apparent attempt to beat the queue to disembark, the passenger, identified by his surname Song, opened an emergency door near his seat after his flight from the northern city of Jinan in Shandong province to Putuo near Shanghai landed.
The 65-year-old Song said that it was his first time to fly and he wasn’t aware of the safety protocols, despite clear warnings posted around the emergency exit, according to The Paper, a Chinese news publication.
His attempt at a novel disembarkation ended when he saw that there were no stairs leading down from the breached exit.
He was surrounded by cabin crew and airport security and led away, and the cabin crew were able to re-secure the door without further incident.
He was detained on April 21 for ten days under Article 34 of the Public Security Administration Punishment Law, which focuses on airline safety.
The incident is far from the first report of Chinese passengers behaving badly on board planes. In recent years, state media has detailed numerous dramatic incidents involving irate passengers, ranging from blocking moving aircraft on an active runway to fistfights with airport employees.
The repeated reports evidently took a toll on the country’s image – during an official visit to the Maldives in 2014, President Xi Jinping personally asked Chinese tourists to behave themselves while traveling abroad.
The plea didn’t seem to have much effect, however. Later that year, upon landing in the city of Sanya, on Chnia’s resort island of Hainan from Xi’an, a fidgety passenger unwilling to suffer through the excruciating disembarkation process went ahead and opened the emergency exit door, engaging the aircraft’s inflatable slide.
The state-run Xinhua news agency said the reason for the man’s action was unknown, but in an apparent mirror of this week’s episode, the Nanfang website reported that the passenger said he simply wanted to depart the plane sooner.
Less than a year later, passengers on a plane departing Kunming Changshui International Airport in southwestern China, angry with the crew for turning off the air-conditioning during the de-icing process, opened three emergency exits just as their plane was pushing back from the gate.
The flight was canceled and 25 passengers were detained.
That incident followed a China-bound Thai AirAsia flight just a month earlier, which was forced to return to Bangkok after a female Chinese passenger threw hot water on a flight attendant amid a heated argument between her boyfriend and the cabin crew over service.
The China National Tourism Administration issued a stern statement after the AirAsia episode, saying it had “severely damaged the overall image of Chinese people” and demanding local authorities review the case.
While a headache for passengers, few China-related air incidents stray into the territory of mortal danger. But a number of examples of Chinese passengers – usually elderly, first-time flyers – throwing coins into the plane’s engines prior to boarding as an “offering” present a worrying escalation.
In one such example in 2017, police took away an 80-year-old woman after fellow passengers reported that she was throwing coins at the plane during boarding of her China Southern Airlines flight as it sat on the tarmac of Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.
“The passenger, surnamed Qiu, who has no prior criminal record or mental health issues, claimed she tossed coins as a prayer for a safe flight,” Shanghai Police said in a statement.
It added that officers found nine coins at the scene, including one that fell into the engine of the Airbus A320 aircraft, with others scattered on the ground nearby. Local media estimated the cost of engine inspection and flight delay could easily run in the thousands of dollars.
The total value of the offering? 1.7 yuan (about 25 US cents).
Chinese travelers’ unruly, ill-advised or just plain dangerous behavior led to the China Air Transport Association’s creation of a blacklist, aimed at cracking down on “uncivilized” air passengers, in 2016.
The list was introduced in February that year, with authorities saying unruly travelers not only disrupt aviation operations and threaten public safety but also hurt the country’s image.
It was introduced with the support of five major Chinese airlines, which handle more than 80% of China’s air traffic, according to Xinhua.
“Uncivilized behavior” that can land one on the blacklist includes: interrupting, attacking or threatening staff; fabricating and intentionally spreading false terrorist information; picking fights or brawling in the aircraft or airport; and opening emergency doors without authorization.