Flight attendants ask whoever has settled in the seats next to the emergency doors if they feel comfortable opening them should the need arise. If the occupants are children or express that they don’t feel comfortable, the flight crew will do what they can to move people around.
Yet who’s to define “emergency?” Sure, it’s obvious if the plane is compromised, but what about a personal emergency?
Romuald Graczyk of Poland, 57, found out that when it comes to airplanes, personal emergencies don’t count. Now he could face a fine up to £40,000.
On Jan. 1, Graczyk was traveling back from London where it’s believed he spent the holidays. Ryanair flight FR8164 had boarded but delayed an hour at Stansted Airport.
When it landed at Malaga Airport in Spain, a half hour passed without any information. Feeling stressed and having anxieties about an impending asthma attack, Graczyk opened the emergency hatch and stood out on the plane’s wing.
Unauthorized opening of a plane’s emergency door is a serious security breach. The flight crew called airport police at once.
Graczyk sat on the wing of the plane for about five minutes, some reporting that he’d intended to jump down. It was the ground crew that persuaded him to go back into the plane.
By the time officers arrived, Graczyk was calmer, and cooperative with officials. He was taken to the airport police office where his information was taken and he was informed that his breach will likely incur a fine.
While Ryanair announced that the man had been arrested, Malaga Airport Guardia Civil chief Miguel Sanchez rebutted, “He wasn’t arrested because no damage had been done and no-one was in danger.”
Although cooperative, it’s unlikely that Graczyk will be able to pay for the fine. The address he supplied, his last known, is to a homeless hostel run by Caritas, a Roman Catholic charity.
Officials soon found out that Graczyk hadn’t stayed at the hostel for over a year. He was described as a private man who hadn’t caused any trouble.
Passengers who’d sat near Graczyk seem to support the man’s actions. Raj Mistry confirmed that Graczyk had complained of breathing problems, particularly when flying, and had used his inhaler twice.
“I don’t blame him. If a plane is at a standstill for over 30 minutes and you have no freedom and a health condition, you are bound to do something.”
Other passangers looked on, shocked, believing the mysterious passanger was crazy. Mistry commented that no one seemed to notice Graczyk was having breathing problems.
While fellow passengers and the airport police may consider Graczyk’s actions peculiar but benign, it’s the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA) who will ultimately decide what penalties to wage against Graczyk. Sanchez believes that “this breach will be considered as one of the more serious types.”
But why? No one was in danger, the plane was still, he was non-aggressive, and he believed he couldn’t breathe. In that heightened panic, self-preservation kicked in and he acted accordingly.
At the same time, to grant him leeway would set a precedent for anyone restless with air travel who breaks a rule then cites a medical condition.
Unsurprisingly, social media has not been so understanding. Upon seeing the footage, one commenter posted, “Human stupidity of the highest level. Another one who should never be allowed back on a plane for the rest of his life.”
While incidents are often evaluated by the masses through social media, in reality, none of the people commenting were there. To pass judgement on the man or evaluate the situation without the whole story is unfair.
No official penalties have been announced for Graczyk. Since he left the airport, officials have not been able to locate him and don’t believe that penalties will be enforceable.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.