IndiGo flight delayed by 2 hours after BJP’s Tejasvi Surya allegedly opened emergency exittext_fields
Chennai: On December 10, 2022, at the Chennai airport, Tejasvi Surya, a member of the Lok Sabha representing Bengaluru South, was accused of opening an aircraft's emergency exit without permission. IndiGo, the airline involved, declined to give a statement on the matter. The emergency exit on the flight was opened by a passenger, Chennai airport authorities and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) representatives said; however, they would not confirm that Tejasvi Surya was the passenger in question. However, an eye-witness reported to The News Minuyr that Tejasvi Surya was the one who opened the exit and that he was made to apologize.
Eyewitnesses report that the event occurred as the cabin staff was instructing the passengers on safety procedures to be followed. Tejasvi Surya, a member of parliament, was briefed on the required emergency protocols while seated close to one of the emergency doors. “He was listening to it carefully and minutes after that he pulled the lever resulting in the opening of the emergency exit. Immediately, we were all deplaned and made to sit in a bus,” one passenger said.
It took at least two hours to ensure that the plane could fly once more, despite the airline authorities and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) rushing to the scene. The MP was requested to apologise because it was a violation, and he did so in writing, according to IndiGo sources.
The MP was permitted to board the same flight after he had apologised, although the cabin crew had switched his seating after the event. “He was moved from the seats near the emergency exit and was asked to sit in the back. The BJP MP was accompanied by Tamil Nadu BJP President K Annamalai,” another passenger said.
In the same flight was BT Arasakumar, a former BJP member and current Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) spokesperson. Arasukumar said that there had indeed been an issue with the emergency escape, “The reason given to passengers in the flight was that there was an air leak in the emergency door of the flight. Passengers were asked to get down. We were moved into a bus and only after the CISF carried out security checks and we were allowed to re-board the flight.” Arasakumar was certain that Tejasvi Surya and Annamalai were on board, but he did not see who opened the emergency exit.
The News Minite also reports that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was not aware of this violation that occurred on December 10, 2022, at the Chennai Airport while onboard an IndiGo flight from Chennai to Trichy.
After every passenger had exited the IndiGo flight, Tejasvi Surya was requested to provide in writing, according to sources at the Chennai airport. The MP was given permission to continue without being investigated further.
Clause 22(b) of The Aircraft Rules, 1937 says, “no person shall, on board an aircraft refuse to follow a lawful instruction given by the Pilot-in-Command, or on behalf of the Pilot-in-Command by a crew member, for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the aircraft or of any person or property on board or for the purpose of maintaining good order and discipline on board.”
Further, clause 23(1)(b) refers to assaults and other actions that purposefully damage or destroy property in order to threaten the safety or undermine good order and discipline.
On December 29, 2022, TN Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji tweeted about the opening of the emergency exit door on a flight from Chennai to Trichy, with strong implications implicating Tejasvi Surya and BJP Tamil Nadu chief Annamalai. ANI also reported the incident, however, they withheld the passenger's name. The news portal also spoke to a other passengers who took the same IndiGo 6E7339 trip from Chennai to Trichy, which was delayed by more than two hours as a result of the security breach. Passengers panicked when the door was opened, according to a passenger who saw what happened on board and informed the news portal. “Thankfully it happened when the flight was on the ground. The airline staff told us that it would have been really bad if something like this had happened mid-air. There were a lot of elderly passengers with wheelchair assistance on the flight. It was frustrating,” the passenger said on the condition of anonymity.
On the basis of the airline's complaint, the police have on occasion arrested passengers who opened emergency exits without permission. For instance, in April 2019 on an aircraft from Bengaluru to Lucknow, a first-time passenger sitting close to the emergency exit opened it thinking it was a window. The passenger was offloaded, taken to the airport police station in Kempegowda, and a charge was filed against him there.
Similar to this, an IndiGo passenger who opened the emergency exit of the aircraft before takeoff on a flight from Mumbai to Chandigarh in February 2017 was detained for endangering the lives of other passengers as a result of an IndiGo Airlines complaint. The passenger was arrested for violating sections 336 of the Indian Penal Code (Act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 23(1)(b) of the 1937 Aircraft Rules (Assault and other acts endangering safety or jeopardising good order and discipline).
Opening an aircraft's emergency escape is a significant infraction that requires reporting, claims aviation safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan. “They have to take action and they should have filed a complaint because they have to reset the emergency exit. It should have been reported to the DGCA. This is a reportable incident and just because the passenger apologised and because he is a VIP, it is not something that you can cover up,” he added.
The airline confirmed in a statement on Tuesday, January 17, that "a passenger" on the Chennai-Trichy flight accidentally opened the emergency exit door. "The passenger immediately apologised for their action. As per SOPs, the incident was logged and the aircraft underwent mandatory engineering checks, which led to a delay in the flight's departure," the statement said.
Sanit Kumar, Director of Air Safety, DGCA, stated that he was unaware of the occurrence and requested that we speak with someone in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
The problem was handled directly by the Delhi headquarters, according to Rajendran, Director of Air Safety for the DGCA Southern Region. “This occurrence is not known to me actually because this is based in Delhi. This incident happened before taxiing out. The information must have been passed to their (airline) headquarters in Delhi and it was dealt with by the DGCA headquarters in Delhi. That is why we are not aware of this incident. It was directly handled by the DGCA in Delhi,” Rajendran said.
The Director of Chennai International Airport, Dr Sharad Kumar, was also contacted by the news portal. The airport director said that he was unaware of any investigation by the DGCA into the aviation safety violation that occurred at the Chennai Airport on December 10, 2022. “Once the passenger has boarded the aircraft, it is the airline’s duty to handle them. Until the passenger is on the ground, we are responsible but once the passenger has boarded the aircraft, the Airport Authority is not in the picture,” he said.
The airport director acknowledged that it was a criminal offence, but he added that he was unaware of it and that the DGCA and airlines handled it together. The director responded that he "heard about this incident" when questioned why the airport authority was unaware of the issue, but they did not follow up with the airline or receive any information from them.
In a statement to The News Minute, Chennai Police Commissioner Shankar Jiwal stated that no complaints regarding a passenger opening an emergency exit had been made to the Greater Chennai police as of yet. “Endangering the life or personal safety of others is a punishable offence. We have not received any complaints from the airline or the airport authorities,” he added.
BJP MP Tejesvi Surya and Tamil Nadu BJP President Annamalai, who was with him, were contacted by the news portal several times for a response.