On 17 July, the situation on TAROM flight ROT 101 from Bucharest, Romania to Cairo, Egypt quickly turned into an unbearable situation. Before departure of the Boeing 737-300 (YR-BGB), cabin crew noticed a female passenger sitting on a seat next to the emergency exit (overwing exit).
Upon request by the cabin crew to move the luggage from the floor to the overhead bin, the flight attendant understood that the passenger wasn’t able to communicate in English nor Romanian but only in French, English (or a language that both cabin crew and passenger understands) is required to sit at the emergency exit row in order to understand the orders of the crew in case of an emergency situation. Furthermore, the seat wasn’t allocated to the passenger. When the cabin crew assigned her a new seat away from the emergency exit row, the passenger spat on the crew member.
Things went completely the wrong way when the disobedient passenger’s man also started to interfere with the situation. The pilot could not help but call security to offload the unruly passengers. Instead of evacuating all of the 150 passengers – to cool down the situation, the security personnel decided to violently drag the unruly passengers out of the aircraft causing turmoil among the rest of the passengers (see video at the bottom, viewers discretion advised).
During the turmoil, medical services had to rush twice to the aircraft: the female passenger suffered from a diabetic seizure and another passenger became unwell.
Passenger comment on Facebook
Viorica Hagagg, one of the passengers witnessed the incident and commented on Facebook. Romanian TAROM also turned to Facebook to give their statement, albeit only in Romanian.
“On 16 July 2019 we took a 8:00 pm flight from Amsterdam to Cairo via Bucharest. The hell started during the transit, we had around 35-40 minutes for the transit in Bucharest (12pm). There were people from at least three flights that had to go through the security control, and only one X-ray airport scanner was available in a tiny hall. It reminded me of the horrible movies about crowded breading conditions causing stress-related behaviors in pigs. The situation was ridiculous and funny until my 4 years old son was trapped between people that were rushing to get through the security check to catch their flights and when the security started making jokes about people who did not place their belts in special baskets (it was a mass and everyone was rushing). I did not get the comfort that the security checks were thoroughly conducted.
Luckily, the flight was delayed and we managed to get on the plane. On the plane we understood that a lady who was siting next to the emergency exit and who did not speak English or Romanian (she spoke French) did not understand or did not want to get the instructions with respect to the emergency exit rules. At the end she was sited next to me (at the end of the aircraft).
Few minutes later the security came and asked for her passport and requested her to leave the aircraft because that was the decision of the captain. Even the security was not addressing to me, the attitude was quite threatening on the side of the security. The lady obviously did not understand the request since she spoke no English or Romanian. We asked the security to provide a translator to ensure that the lady understands what she is required to do. The security answered that they can not provide a translator and that there is no need for a translator since they speak English (it is an international language).
The passengers asked why she is requested to leave the aircraft and the answer was “Because I said so”. Later we found out that the reason for requesting the lady to leave the aircraft was not that she did not understand or did not want to follow the instructions related to the emergency exit rules but because she spitted on one of the flights attendants (security).
It is not difficult to imagine what was the lady going through when the attitude was not that friendly and people were tired. Of course spitting is not an appropriate reaction. We asked the security to find a solution to the situation to avoid any escalations and delays, but the security did not take into consideration the signs of an emerging escalation.
The security was repeating that this is the captain’s order. In the meanwhile the lady who suffers of diabetes had an attack, urgently medicines had to be administrated and sugar given. Later the paramedics have twice been requested to assist the lady. We requested to talk to the captain to find a plausible solution to the situation, but we were refused to talk to the captain (later we were explained that the rules did not allow the captain to talk to the passengers).
The videos show that the situation was far from safe for the passengers and the handling by the security were having opposite results from calming down the situation. I remember that in that high tension situation while the security tried to pull out the lady, her husband and their child from the aircraft, the security people were surrounded by passengers and their weapons were not under the visor of the security people, luckily no one passenger snapped in that highly volatile situation to make use of the unsupervised weapons.
The security did not take account that there were a lot of children, old people and people with disabilities on the plane. One person with disabilities became unwell and assistance of the paramedics was requested again (you can see on the video the desperate look of her son when he was asking for help).
The lady’s husband was removed from the airplane in a very unpleasant condition for passengers and crying children. The lady was removed from the plane in very bad health conditions. I hope the reports will show the correct information regarding the lady’s health condition at that moment. I overheard the second paramedics team stating that her condition was very bad. When requesting the security to act reasonable, threats were coming as I should take care that I am not escorted too from the airplane.
After two hours of highly stressful situation and without water, the passengers left the airplane. I did not understand whether removing of the passengers was an indication coming from the security or the passengers decided to leave due to the unbearable conditions. On the ground, no one asked if there are people or children that require assistance.
I asked twice for water to be provided to people, the water was provide only after one hour (I cant believe it is that difficult to find bottles of water on an international airport to give some comfort to people). When I asked for the second time for water, the ground flight attendant told me that I should wait, otherwise the assistance of security will be requested to handle me. At the end, we were provided meals and water, and a flight was arranged around 5am.
Of course it is not polite to spit on a person, but no one tired to understand what was the lady’s condition: was she sick, tiered, threatened or scared. Her husband did not have any feeling of trust towards the security, he was saying that he is afraid to provide them with their passports. By using authority and ego, did not help to calm down the situation but contrary instigated unrest on the plane which is unacceptable on an international airport of a EU country. My son asked me never to fly via Romania. I could understand his request, but it hurted me. Romania is my second home country (I am originally from Moldova) and I wish for those countries that people are treated with respect and dignity.”
TAROM statement on the incident
“we regret what happened, but we can not fail to comply with European regulations or allow a passenger to endanger the safety and security of other passengers.
Emergency exits are used for situations that require the aircraft to be evacuated in the shortest possible time. Therefore, passengers sitting next to them must speak English or Romanian, assist the cabin crew during an emergency evacuation, understand the orders and provide information to the crew and other passengers during the evacuation, to be physically fit to be able opens emergency exit and assists others during an evacuation, assesses the area, and wants to help other passengers move away from the aircraft.
These passengers are given a special briefing before the flight, which must be understood.
In this case, the passenger could not understand or speak either Romanian or English, the place had not been allocated and she refused to identify herself. Personal luggage was stored under the front seat, but is not allowed. The cabin crew acted according to procedures and asked her to move to another place.
The female passenger did not show a proper attitude (she spat on the cabin crew) and security agents were called. Naturally, nobody wants to be spit on, just because they require security rules to be respected. Lack of co-operation with cabin crew can degenerate during the flight and we do not want to take unnecessary risks and emergency landings. Physicians called did not identify special medical problems. For quiet and safe travel, please respect the crew and other passengers. Thank you for understanding!”
After a delay of five hours, the aircraft safely arrived in Cairo.