BJP leader Tejasvi Surya opened the emergency exit of an IndiGo plane last month “by mistake” and apologised for it, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said today, confirming an incident that has spurred opposition derision and attacks on the Karnataka MP.
IndiGo said on December 10, a passenger accidentally opened the emergency exit of its flight 6E 7339 (Chennai to Tiruchirapalli) at the Chennai airport during the boarding process, when the plane was on the tarmac. The passenger apologised, said the airline.
The passenger was Tejasvi Surya, the Aviation Minister has now confirmed, over a month after the incident.
“It’s important not to be circumspect. Look at the facts. The door did open by mistake, all checks were taken and only after that the plane was allowed to take off. And he also said sorry for it himself,” Mr Scindia told reporters.
Officials say the flight was delayed by over two hours as the aircraft took off for its destination, Tiruchirapalli, only after stringent engineering checks.
Mr Surya “rested his hand on the door”, unlocking the exit, according to officials.
Several opposition leaders are questioning why Mr Surya “got away with a mere apology” and did not face more serious action.
“The passenger immediately apologised for the action. As per SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), the incident was logged and the aircraft underwent mandatory engineering checks, which led to a delay in the flight’s departure,” said IndiGo’s statement on Tuesday, not revealing the name of the flyer.
A senior official of aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the event was duly reported and that safety was not compromised. The passenger had opened the “Right Hand emergency exit” by mistake, he said.
“The crew took note and resultantly, all appropriate airworthiness action such as reinstalling of door, pressurization check were carried out before the release of the aircraft for departure. No safety was compromised,” the DGCA official told PTI.
Tejasvi Surya was on the flight with Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai.
Opposition parties targeted the Bengaluru South MP in a series of posts and demanded to know why IndiGo had not revealed the passenger’s name.
“Tejasvi Surya is an example of what will happen if children playing games are given the proprietorship. An act of children’s mischief by trying to open the emergency exit door of the plane has come to light. Why prank with the lives of passengers?” said the Karnataka Congress.
“What was the MP’s intention? What plans were there to create a disaster? Why was he transferred to the back seat after apologising,” the Congress asked, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom he would have blamed for a disaster if the “prank” had been carried out after take-off.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi posted: “Shouldn’t one take suo moto cognisance of this incident? What if this happened once the aircraft had taken off rather than when it was taxiing on the runway, should an apology suffice?”