Man who opened Asiana plane door in mid-air tells police he was ‘uncomfortable,’ Yonhap reports

By Joyce Lee and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) – A passenger on an Asiana Airlines flight told police he opened a door on the plane minutes before it landed in Daegu, South Korea, on Friday because he was “uncomfortable”, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The man, in his thirties, was detained on landing. He told police that he opened the door because he “wanted to get off the plane quickly,” Yonhap said on Saturday, citing the Daegu Dongbu Police Station.

He also told police he was stressed after losing his job recently.

Reuters could not immediately reach police at the station.

The man opened the door when the plane was about 700 feet (213 metres) above the ground, causing panic onboard.

Nine passengers were taken to hospital with breathing issues. They were all discharged after about two hours, a fire department official said.

Police sought an arrest warrant for the detained man on Saturday for violation of the Aviation Security Act and other offences, Yonhap said. Officials gave the man’s surname as Lee but not his full name, as is usual custom.

A video aired on television, reported to have been taken by a passenger, showed the moments before the landing, with a door open and wind rushing in as passengers sat nearby.

Jin Seong-hyun, a former Korean Air cabin safety official, said that as far he knew, the incident was unprecedented, but that passengers have opened emergency exits without authorisation while planes are on the ground.

A South Korean Transport Ministry official said on Friday that it was possible to open emergency exits at or near ground level because the pressure inside and outside the cabin is similar.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Ju-min Park; Editing by Frances Kerry)