Passenger Next to Crying Child Opens Plane’s Emergency Exit Door

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HOANG DINH NAM / AFP / Getty Images

A Vietnam Airlines jet taxis at Hanoi's Noi Bai international airport

Sitting next to a screaming child on an airplane can make someone want to jump out the window. One man aboard a Vietnam Airlines plane Tuesday attempted to take that adage literally. Luckily for all on board, the plane had already landed, but that didn’t stop 29-year-old Le Van Thuan from opening the plane’s window exit and releasing the emergency slide.

But it wasn’t Thuan who wanted to escape, according to the Associated Press. The mother and her screaming child were looking to disembark the plane as quickly as possible after landing at Ho Chi Minh City airport. Turning to Thuan in the next seat for help, he opened the door, according to airport staff members. Neither Thuan nor the mother ended up using the slide, and the incident led only to greater annoyance for all aboard. The plane was disabled after the slide was opened, leading the airline to seek out another jet for the return journey.

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Vietnam’s TuoiTreNews reports that Thuan faces a fine of at least 15 million Vietnamese dong ($720) for simply opening the door. But the slide release – though it went unused – will prove more costly. Much like an airbag, it must be refit inside the plane, at a cost of $10,000 to the airline.

As uncommon as the situation seems, Vietnam Airlines is no stranger to erroneously opened exit doors. It’s the third time in the past six months that a Vietnamese flier has opened one. In November, a 22-year-old college student – who claimed he had never been on a plane before – accidentally opened the door, thinking it would release the window shade. And in July, a man opened the exit door out of sheer curiosity, he said. Both were fined 15 million Vietnamese dong – meaning Thuan could have expected such a steep fine.

Because it’s proving to be a chronic problem in the Southeast Asian nation, chief inspector Nguyen Van Hao of Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport is calling for steeper penalties for law-breakers. “We are going to ask the government to increase fines to prevent such an incident happening again,” he said. “Several passengers have been fined for this, but people continue to open emergency doors.”

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