The scourge of deplaning passengers

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The scourge of deplaning passengers

Korean airlines have a unique headache: Passengers who decide they don’t want to take the trip after already being seated on a plane.

According to Korean Air Lines, the nation’s flag carrier, the number of such requests by passengers in the first half of 2013 was 52, a 24 percent increase from a year earlier.

In 2012, a total of 84 KAL passengers asked for the plane to go back to the gate to let them off.

Some of the passengers’ requests are for grave issues such as a sudden illness or news of a death in the family. But not all: According to KAL, 37 percent of the requests are for trivial reasons. Some of examples given by the airline: “I have to get off this plane because I just fought with my boyfriend,” “I need to change my flight because I don’t like my seat,” and “I need to find belongings I left in the airport.”

The airline said although it likes to accommodate passengers, requests to leave the airplane are a giant inconvenience to other passengers and an expense to the airline. Once a passenger leaves a plane, all the other passengers have to deplane so that security can check to see that something dangerous like a bomb hasn’t been put on the aircraft.

“By going through a safety check all over again, it will delay an international flight for two hours and one hour for a domestic flight,” an official from KAL said.

Sometimes a few minutes of taxiing actually reduces the amount of fuel in the tank to an insufficient level and refueling is needed.

“In principle, we do not allow a passenger to get off the plane after coming on board, but air carriers do accept the request in consideration of passengers,” an official from KAL said.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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