- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

BEIJING (AP) - Chinese air travelers have opened airplane emergency doors without authorization 12 times so far this year during taxiing or while at a standstill, and one of the passengers was put on trial in the country’s first such legal case, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said Monday.

The man, identified only by his family name of Piao, stood trial on the charge of endangering public safety in the northeastern city of Yanji on Monday, the administration said in a statement.

Piao opened an emergency door on an Asiana Airlines flight without authorization on Feb. 12 when the plane was taxiing, causing the emergency slide to eject and prompting the flight crew to take emergency measures to halt the aircraft, the administration said.

His act caused the flight to be delayed for four hours and severely disrupted the airport operations, the administration said.

Passengers have opened emergency doors without authorization 11 other times in 2015 at airports throughout the country, the administration said.

The acts “have severely hurt aviation safety, disrupted flight operations and caused ill social impact,” the statement said.

There is no data available for previous years, but the attention paid in China to the current incidents suggest such acts were rare or non-existent in the past. And while there’s no clear explanation for why people have tried the willful act, Chinese are traveling in record numbers, many of them flying for the first time.

In one case last year, a man pushed down the handle to open an emergency door to let in fresh air while passengers were embarking on the tarmac in the eastern city of Hangzhou, according to media reports.

More recently, Beijing resident Zhou Yue was administratively detained for 15 days after he forcibly opened two emergency doors on a domestic flight in January. He was also publicly shamed last week when tourism authorities announced that Zhou was blacklisted for rude behavior.

Piao is the first person in China to face a criminal charge for the wanton act, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said. No verdict was announced on Monday.

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