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'China Air Rage': Chinese Passengers Arrested after Opening Emergency Exit Doors

( [email protected] ) Jan 12, 2015 03:42 PM EST

China Air Rage
A couple caused chaos on a flight because they weren't seated together - scalding a flight attendant with hot water and noodles.

Furious by a delayed flight, two Chinese passengers opened emergency exit doors in protest as the plane took off--ultimately landing them in jail in the latest case of a growing trend known as "Chinese air rage."  

The Daily Mail reports that China Eastern Airlines flight MU2036,  travelling from Chengdu to Beijing, was already seven hours behind schedule at 3:45am on Saturday morning due to heavy snowstorms. As the crew began de-icing the plane, passengers, all of whom belonged to a tour group, began to complain about the lack of ventilation and delay in take-off.

Despite the pilot's explain that the air condition needed to be turned off during the 30 minute de-icing process, members of the tour group began arguing with the crew, said police. Thirty minutes later, a man surnamed Zhou, prompted by a female tour guide named Li, opened three emergency exits to prevent the plane from taking off and forcing it to open the gate.

According to state broadcaster China Central Television, a total of 25 passengers out of the 153 on board were held for questioning while the rest continued on to Beijing aboard a separate flight. Zhou and the tour guide were sent to jail for 15 days for opening the doors and "inciting passengers with false information," while police continued to look for the person who opened the other exit door.

"Opening those doors was extremely dangerous because there was nothing to protect passengers from the force of the engines," China Eastern maintenance engineer Zhu Yun told CCTV.

CNN reports that the names of all those found to have been involved in the incident would be placed on a "national uncivilized traveler record." The record will be distributed to travel related businesses around the country, administration spokesman Zhang Jilin said in a statement. Names can remain on such lists for up to 18 months, during which travel agencies can decide whether or not to accept listed travelers.

Outbound Chinese tourism has expanded rapidly in recent years; in 2012, Chinese overtook Americans and Germans as the world's top international tourism spenders, with 83 million people spending a record $102 billion on international tourism, according to NBC News. 

However, the growth has not come without a cost. In June, just 18 percent of flights left on time at Beijing airport and just 28 percent had punctual departures from Shanghai, according to FlightStats.com, putting Chinese cities at the bottom of the list of on-time departures at major international airports. Consequently, an increasing number of passengers, frustrated by delayed flights, have attacked flight attendants or scuffled with one another.

NBC News reveals that things have "gotten so heated" that there's even a term for when passengers berate flight staff: "air rage tribe."

A British businessman on board a Hong Kong Airlines flight recently described how an elderly passenger reacted when the plane was delayed for six hours at Sanya Airport in Hainan province.

"He went completely mental and stormed up the plane and into the business class. I heard a punch and looked up and he was attacking the stewardess," Graham Fewkes told the South China Morning Post in March.

"What surprised me was that passengers were applauding as the man was hitting her."

Earlier this month, Beijing called on its nation's tourists to improve their behavior, and Vice Premier Wang Yang stated it is important to "project a good image of Chinese tourists."