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Flight Passenger Who Opened Emergency Exit Says He "Felt Suffocated" After Losing His Job

Twelve people were sent to the hospital after he opened the door mid-landing.

Don't be surprised if you notice passengers skirting away from the emergency exit aisle on your next flight. A harrowing incident on a South Korea-bound Asiana Airlines flight is causing passengers everywhere to second guess their airplane seat selection after a man opened an emergency door mid-landing. The terrifying moment of the man opening the emergency exit was captured on video and has since gone viral.

The Asiana aircraft was headed to Daegu, South Korea, when out of nowhere the man seated in the window seat of the left emergency exit aisle unlatched the door. A video taken by a passenger seated a few rows back shows gusts of wind infiltrating the cabin. According to CNN, the plane was mid-descent and about two to three minutes (or about 150 miles away) from reaching its final destination.

It's not the first incident of a passenger opening an emergency exit this year. In March, a passenger was detained after allegedly opening the emergency exit door on an aircraft destined for Seattle from Los Angeles right before it was supposed to take off. But the difference was that that plane was still on the ground.

The Asiana plane was reportedly 700 feet above the ground. The aircraft had 200 passengers on board, six of whom were airline employees. Twelve people suffered respiratory issues from the incident; nine were sent to hospitals in Daegu for further evaluation.

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Officials aren't disclosing the identity of the passenger, who is said to be in his 30s, but did note that he was arrested upon arrival. The passenger also had an explanation for why he did it.

Stressed from having just lost his job, he told officials that he "felt suffocated and wanted to get off the plane quickly," per Yonhap news agency and CNN. In addition to putting himself and fellow passengers at risk, the passenger faces possible jail time.

In a statement obtained by CNN, South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said, "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."

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Even so, people are befuddled how a passenger was able to open an emergency door mid-landing so easily. Could it happen at any point during the flight? How was he able to successfully unlock the door without assistance?

CNN asked Asiana Airlines for an explanation. This is what they said: "The airplane is automatically set to adjust the pressure of the cabin according to the altitude of the aircraft. When the aircraft is high up in the air, it is impossible to open the door but when the altitude is low and close to landing, the door can be opened."

Well, that's a little scary. The next time you're choosing your seat selection on a plane, maybe stay clear of the emergency aisle—even if you want the leg room.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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