An unidentified male passenger on board a Rossiya Airlines flight in Russia is facing potential legal action after he opened an emergency exit hatch while preparing for departure, and set off an emergency slide, joining a growing trend of unruly airline passengers.
According to the Mash Telegram Channel, on 11 July at 2:20pm local Moscow time at Sheremetyevo International Airport, a passenger onboard a Rossiya Airlines flight from Moscow to Antalya opened the left emergency exit ahead of the plane’s departure, which released the plane’s emergency inflatable slide.
The passenger claims they opened the door due to ‘low oxygen’ in the cabin, following a failure in the aircraft’s air conditioning system.
Passengers and witnesses claim the flight was delayed due to the air conditioning malfunction, and those on board were struggling to breathe. The airline said the flight was delaying “no more than 20 minutes”.
Some eyewitnesses reported other passengers falling unconscious due to the heat inside the aircraft, which resulted in the man deciding to open the emergency exit. The man appeared unaware that his action would cause the emergency slide to deploy.
The Rossiya flight – a subsidiary of the top Russian carrier Aeroflot– was forced to disembark all passengers from the aircraft, and replace the jet in its entirety, according to a press service message sent to RBC.
The airline said it had suffered financially due to “the flight delay, replacement of the aircraft with a reserve one and replacement of the emergency ladder on the second left door”, the message said.
“At the time the door was opened, the flight departure delay was no more than 20 minutes,” the press service added.
As a result, the airline decided to replace the aircraft and the departure finally occurred four hours later, causing huge disruptions to the carrier’s schedule, the airline specified.
The airline plans to recover the losses in court from the passenger, however, no further details have surfaced since the carrier told RBC.
Aeroflot’s passenger code of conduct describes that if any passenger endangers others or breaks cabin crew enforced rules, they would be “held liable for additional costs incurred by the airline as a result of his/her conduct,” the airline says.
The liability could also involve up to two years in prison or a fine of 2,000 or 5,000 rubles (over US$3,000) under the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, part 6 Articles 11.17, introduced by Federal Law of the Russian Federation, December 21, 2009 No.336-FZ.
This follows a dramatic increase of unruly passengers seen in the United States recently, after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded over 3,000 cases of unruly passengers since 1 January.
This is compared to only 142 enforcement actions imposed on unruly passengers in 2019 in total, the year before the pandemic.