In a bizarre incident, a 30-year-old male passenger onboard Asiana Airlines opened the emergency exit door mid-air when the flight was about to land in the city of Daegu, South Korea, causing panic among the passengers. He was later arrested by police for violating air-safety norms. The arrested man told police that he was feeling 'suffocated' and 'wanted to get off the plane quickly'.
An airline official said a man in his 30s who was sitting in the emergency seat seemed to have opened the door when the aircraft was about 700 feet (213 meters) above the ground and about two to three minutes from landing in the city 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Seoul.
According to the police, the incident took place when the plane was approximately 200 meters (650 feet) above the ground. The passenger responsible opened the exit door of the flight. The individual was later taken into custody by the Daegu police for questioning, during which he revealed that the recent loss of his job had caused him considerable stress.
The Airbus A321-200 plane landed safely at around 12.40 pm local time. It had set off from the holiday island of Jeju an hour earlier, the airport's flight schedule showed. As many as 9 passengers were sent to the hospital as they were feeling problems in breathing.
Videos captured by fellow passengers showed forceful winds entering the cabin through the open door, causing seat-backs and passengers' hair to be whipped around, leading to surprise and concern among some individuals.
"I thought the plane was going to explode ... It looked like passengers next to the open door were fainting," an unidentified 44-year-old passenger told the Yonhap News Agency. The passenger said the cabin crew had made an in-flight announcement asking if there were any doctors on board.
Many flyers have raised concerns how it was possible to open the door of a mid-air flight so easily by any passenger. Opening an aircraft door is impossible while the plane is at cruising altitude or above 10,000 feet due to air pressure. However, as the plane gets lower, experts say a door can open as the pressure outside equalizes with the pressure inside the plane.
South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said in a statement Friday that police and the ministry were investigating an individual over violation of aviation law.
Any person who contravenes the Aviation Security Act, which includes passengers operating doors, exits, or equipment inside an aircraft, could be prosecuted and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, the statement said. The ministry also said that it had dispatched an aviation safety supervisor to the site to check whether there was an abnormality in aircraft maintenance.