A flight from Manchester was delayed by almost eight hours after a passenger mistakenly opened an emergency exit instead of the toilet door.
Pakistan International Airlines‘ (PIA) flight PK702 was ready for an on-time departure to Islamabad at 9.20pm on Friday 7 June. The doors were “armed,” the mode in which the emergency evacuation slide is deployed as soon as a door is opened.
Even though the seatbelt signs were on, a female passenger decided to use the toilet. But she mistakenly opened door L5, at the rear of the aircraft on the left-hand side, rather than the adjacent toilet door.
Cabin crew would normally be seated at the emergency exit. It is not clear why they were unable to prevent the incident.
In a statement, PIA said: “A passenger erroneously opened the emergency door causing the emergency slide to activate.”
Departure was immediately halted, and all the passengers were taken off the aircraft.
The plane finally left Manchester at 5am on Saturday morning – with several dozen fewer passengers on board.
After a slide is deployed in error, an airline can choose to continue to fly and replace it at its home base, as PIA did.
But as the aircraft’s evacuation capacity is cut, the number of passengers must be reduced commensurately. Flight PK702 could take off only after 38 passengers volunteered to travel on a later flight.
A spokesperson for the airline said on Saturday: “All passengers were provided dinner. The offloaded passengers were provided with transportation and hotel accommodation and will be adjusted on the next available flight.
“PIA regrets the inconvenience caused to its passengers due to this incident.”
The plane arrived at 4.10pm on Saturday afternoon, seven hours late. Several further departures were delayed as a result of the disruption.
Some of the offloaded passengers complained that their baggage had been left behind in Manchester.
One of them, tweeting as “Sleeping Beauty”, wrote on arrival at Islamabad: “Pathetic service from PIA. I am one of the 38 passengers who voluntarily offloaded from PK702 so it can fly to Islamabad only on the condition that all 38 of us will get our luggage.
“First you did not give it to us in Manchester. Then when we reached here today we were told half of our luggage is still at Manchester airport. A lot of us don’t even have clothes to wear here.”
The airline later tweeted: “We strongly urge passengers to follow security instructions as such mishaps result in inconvenience of hundreds of other passengers.”
PIA’s chief executive, air marshal Arshad Malik, has ordered an inquiry into the incident.