SINGAPORE - A man was escorted by auxiliary police off an inbound Scoot flight from Athens early on Monday morning (Sept 16) after he refused to comply with instructions to leave an emergency exit row seat.
A passenger who witnessed the incident told The Straits Times that the man, who looked to be in his early 60s, had moved to the seat one hour before the landing time of 3.35am.
He had refused to move from it even after flight attendants repeatedly asked him to do so.
Although Flight TR713 landed as planned around 3.35am, passengers had to remain in their seats for about 15 minutes, with the man initially refusing to leave the plane with the auxiliary police.
In response to queries, Scoot said the man, who was on board the flight that departed Athens on Sunday, did not meet the criteria needed to occupy the emergency exit row seat.
As part of safety guidelines, passengers sitting at such seats would need to meet various requirements, such as being in good health, able-bodied and capable of opening the exit doors if required during an emergency.
The requirement applies to all passengers, even for those who have paid to upgrade their seats for more legroom.
A Scoot spokesman, who did not specify which criterion the man failed to meet, said: "Our cabin crew are trained and authorised to identify and reseat customers that do not meet these requirements.
"As the elderly customer refused to comply with crew instructions including the captain's, and was being unruly, auxiliary police assistance was requested to meet the flight on arrival."
The spokesman added that its customers must abide by safety instructions from cabin crew during flights, and that the airline may refuse to carry passengers who pose safety risks.
Consultant Jen Pelaez, 31, one of the passengers on the flight, told ST that the incident started at around 3am.
She said the man had moved to the emergency exit row seats with a younger man who was holding crutches at about 2.30am.
A flight attendant subsequently approached them at about 3am and explained that the seats were for paid upgrade and that the two men did not fit the requirements needed to sit there, said Ms Pelaez.
The commotion caused other passengers to wake up, with some also urging the men to return to their seats.
The younger man subsequently did so. But the older man continued to stay in the seat even after the plane's pilot took to the public announcement system to warn that instructions of flight crew should be followed.
Ms Pelaez said: "When the plane landed, the pilot did not turn off the seat belt sign. We were not able to deplane until the man went with the auxiliary police."
According to data released in Parliament by the Ministry of Transport last year, there was an average of around 10 incidents of unruly behaviour yearly on flights to Singapore in the five years before 2018.
Internationally, there was an unruly passenger incident every 1,053 flights in 2017, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Between 2007 and 2017, the association recorded a total of more than 66,000 unruly passenger incidents.