ISLAMABAD: An investigation into an incident aboard a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Manchester to Islamabad last week, in which a passenger mistook the aircraft’s exit hatch for a toilet door, remains ongoing.
“We are waiting for the detailed inquiry report which will answer all the questions,” Samir Nizami, the national carrier’s deputy spokesperson, told Arab News on Monday. “The information will be shared with the media soon.”
The PK-702 flight, identified as a Boeing 777 long-range aircraft, was scheduled to depart the UK on Saturday but was delayed for seven hours after the passenger, searching for the toilet, mistakenly opened the plane’s emergency exit door, “deploying the exit slide automatically,” according to a statement by PIA.
Reports claim between 37 and 40 passengers were offloaded before the flight resumed its journey to Pakistan.
Aviation industry expert and writer Tahir Imran, who has spoken to airport authorities in Manchester and airline officials, said: “They were offloaded because the emergency slide was not operational in that section of the plane which is a safety hazard.”
Typically a Boeing 777 can carry over 300 passengers, but it is unclear how many were travelling at the time. Airline officials have declined to describe or reveal the identity of the female passenger responsible for the mistake, though witnesses suggested she was middle-aged and possibly had been a first-time flyer.
An anonymous PIA engineer on the Manchester route, explained: “When the cabin is pressurized by the captain, the door cannot be opened. There are two levers on the doors of the aircraft. The small lever is used to arm the door — where the evacuation slide deployment mechanism is nestled —before the plane is towed or begins to taxi towards the runway.
“The larger lever is the final lock and can be opened without much force. The woman apparently loosened the small lever which may have activated the emergency chute, but the (cabin) crew monitor the exits.”
A similar incident took place on an Indian airline GoAir flight in September last year, when a young first-time flier in his 20s sparked panic among passengers by trying to open a plane door thinking it was a toilet.