An enraged passenger opened the emergency exit of an Air Deccan flight that was cancelled after it had already taken off, resulting in his arrest. The passenger’s actions caused substantial financial loss to the airline.
The incident took place at the airport on Monday night when the Air Deccan Mumbai-Delhi flight DN 657 had to turn back soon after take off because of poor visibility at the Delhi airport.
The flight, with nearly 150 passengers on board, came back to Mumbai at 8.05 pm. When the crew asked the passengers to get off the plane, they refused. The passengers insisted the flight should take off.
Amidst protests and shouting by the passengers, the crew, who had completed their stipulated flying hours, got off and the airline’s airport staff took over.
"While everybody stayed put, a DGCA official disembarked knowing the situation. But a young man all of a sudden opened the emergency exit door near the wing making the escape slide inflate and we had to hand him over to the police," said Air Deccan spokesperson Arpita Das.
She said when other passengers were standing and demanding an explanation, the youth, Dheeraj S Malhotra (24), opened the emergency exit door before the airline employees could react.
"From inside he was not visible. Our ground staff saw the door opening. But by the time we could have reacted, the exit door was already open and the escape slide inflated," added Das.
Any time an emergency exit opens, the escape slide attached to the door in a compressed position gets inflated to enable passengers to slide down.
Malhotra is a student of NM College, Vile Parle, and stays with his relatives in the city.
Opening an emergency exit without sufficient reasons is a violation of the Aircraft Act and invites punishments under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
After Air Deccan filed an FIR, Malhotra was arrested and questioned by the airport police. He was produced at the Andheri court on Tuesday and has been granted bail.
"Due to his action, we had to suffer a financial loss of $ 20,000 as the inflated escape slide was to be deflated and cut off. The aircraft has been grounded but it will resume service in a day or two without an escape slide," Das said. "As per DGCA rule this A 320 aircraft can’t take its full load of 180 passengers and on a passenger and escape slide ratio basis we can take on board a maximum 149 passengers. Till the replacement comes, we will have to suffer loss of business."
Commenting on the incident Madhukar Choudhury, inspector at the Airport police station said: "Malhotra told us that he was angry with the airline as he was stuck in Mumbai for the last two days due to repeated cancellation of flights. He hails from Dehradun. His relatives got him out on bail."
Malhotra told airline officials on Monday night that he opened the door because he was feeling suffocated.
"We will claim all the loss caused to us. Our legal department will pursue the case," said airline officials.