Air rage and emergency exits: Two stormy weeks in Chinese aviation

A fight broke out over a crying baby on a plane this week, one of several inflight incidents involving Chinese passengers in recent days.

Story highlights

  • Past two weeks have seen media coverage of four separate incidents of Chinese tourists misbehaving on planes
  • A couple, after throwing a series of tantrums, threw hot water at a flight attendant
  • Emergency exits were opened in two separate incidents for different reasons
  • A mini-brawl was touched off by a crying baby and reclining seats
Deja vu?
Yesterday's news?
Nope, it's just another series of air dramas involving disruptive Chinese air travelers.
It hasn't been the most peaceful fortnight in the aviation industry -- we've seen the aftermath of a Korean Air exec's "nut rage" and R&B singer Jeremih arrested for attempting to force open a closed airplane door after missing the last call for boarding.
In the midst of this unruly behavior have come no fewer than four inflight dramas involving Chinese tourists.
On the heels of a "Gimme my cup noodle water!" meltdown and two emergency exit incidents, a bizarre fight between multiple passengers broke out over a dispute involving a crying baby.
The poor kid probably just couldn't get any sleep with all the fuss going on.
Hot water throw down
The fortnight of infamy was highlighted by the cup noodle row heard 'round the world -- or at least across Asia.
On December 11, four tourists threw a series of tantrums on an Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Nanjing.
The episode began during takeoff when, observing safety rules, cabin staff refused to serve hot water to a couple who wanted to immediately get going on their cup noodle.
The couple retaliated by crushing nuts on the floor.
The man, Wang, was allegedly still fuming when a flight attendant for the budget airline brought him a cup of hot water after the plane reached cruising altitude, then attempted to charge him 60 Thai baht ($2) for the water.
"You think I can't afford it?" Wang demanded, using the word "laozi," a pompous way of referring to one's self as a boss or superior.
A video captured Wang yelling at the attendant.
As the quarrel dragged on, the man's girlfriend, Zhang, threw hot water on the back of the flight attendant.
Thai authorities eventually ordered Zhang to pay 50,000 baht ($1,500) to the flight attendant.
Each passenger involved in the incident was fined amounts between $3 and $6.
Chinese government not amused
The China National Tourism Administration issued a stern statement after the Air Asia episode, saying it had "severely damaged the overall image of Chinese people" and demanding local authorities review the case.
Air rage is a common sight in delay-prone China.
In recent years, state media has reported numerous dramatic incidents involving irate passengers, ranging from blocking moving aircraft on an active runway to fistfights with airport employees.
During an official visit to the Maldives in September, President Xi Jinping personally asked Chinese tourists to behave themselves while traveling abroad.
Last year the government released a lengthy list of do's and don'ts aimed at turning Chinese travelers into "civilized tourists."
All the warnings and cajoling seem to have fallen on deaf ears, though.
Quickest way off a plane? Emergency exit!
Impatient or lacking fresh air or ... something ... Chinese passengers in separate incidents in the past two weeks decided to deal with their "stuck on a plane" dilemmas in unexpected fashion.
Upon landing in Sanya on December 8 after a China Eastern flight from Xi'an, a fidgety passenger not content to suffer through the excruciating disembarkation process -- Don't judge! We've all been there! -- went ahead and opened the emergency exit door, engaging the aircraft's inflatable slide.
Xinhua news agency said the reason for the man's action was unknown, but The Nanfang website from southern China reported that the passenger said he simply wanted to depart the plane sooner.
His solution, to borrow loosely from Jane Austen, did display a certain amount of sense, if not sensibility.
Regardless, the shortcut cost the airline $16,000 and a two-hour delay, according to Xinhua.
That unauthorized exit was followed by an incident on December 14 during which a first-time flier on a Xiamen Air flight reportedly felt the urge for some fresh air while waiting for his plane to take off.
His fix? Open the emergency door for better ventilation.
The man wasn't fined or punished because the act didn't cause any damage, stated the airline.
Baby mama drama
Calm in the skies reigned for three entire days before being shattered on Thursday when a minor brawl broke out on an Air China flight from Chongqing to Hong Kong.
The imbroglio began when a pair of passengers complained about the crying baby seated behind them.
The child's mother, meanwhile, spared no words in expressing her own displeasure with the people in front reclining their seats into her space.
Unable to compromise, the quarrel escalated into a full-on fight.
A photo in which one woman appears ready to slap another woman -- who herself seems to be floating almost perpendicular to the floor of the aircraft, perhaps readying to deliver an unorthodox blow of her own -- quickly circulated online.
"A group brawl above 7,500 meters. Our plane was almost turned around," wrote a passenger who shared the incident and picture on Weibo, China's Twitter.
The plane wasn't diverted, though Hong Kong police were called in to keep everyone calm and carrying on once the plane landed.
Meanwhile, no air rage incidents have been reported for 24 hours ... and counting ...