A passenger accidentally opened the emergency exit of an IndiGo plane at the Chennai airport last month, but the airline allegedly took no action after he apologised. The flight was delayed as the aircraft took off for its destination, Tiruchirapalli, only after stringent engineering checks.
Reports that the passenger was BJP leader Tejasvi Surya have spurred attacks on the Karnataka MP by the opposition, with various leaders questioning why such a grave incident was covered up with a mere apology.
NDTV has reached out to Tejasvi Surya on the reports, which have not been confirmed by the BJP MP or his office.
IndiGo, in a statement yesterday, said a passenger travelling on flight 6E 7339 from Chennai to Tiruchirapalli on December 10 accidentally opened the emergency exit during the boarding process, when the plane was on the tarmac. Reports suggest the passenger "rested his hand on the door", unlocking the exit.
"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 the airline, not revealing the name of the flyer.
The flight was reportedly delayed by more than two hours.
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.
According to Chennai airport sources, Tejasvi Surya was on the flight with Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai.
A Tamil Nadu Minister, Senthil Balaji, flagged the incident last month. Mr Annamalai has also not commented.
Opposition parties targeted the Bengaluru South MP in a series of posts and demanded to know why IndiGo was concealing the name of the passenger.
"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 who he would have held responsible for a disaster if the "prank" had been carried out after take-off.
"Why is this not being investigated?" the opposition party asked.
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?"
Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar's post linked the incident to elections in the state this year. "For a safe take-off and landing, always fly with Congress," he wrote on Twitter.