Scary landing for South Korean plane after passenger opens emergency door midair

South Korean authorities detained a man on Friday after he opened a door of an Asiana Airlines plane minutes before it was due to land in the city of Daegu, causing panic among the passengers, officials said.

The Airbus A321-200 plane landed safely at around 12:45 p.m. local time. It had set off from the holiday island of Jeju an hour earlier, the airport’s flight schedule showed.

No one was hurt in the incident, but nine people, all teenagers, were sent to hospital after suffering breathing issues, a Daegu fire department official said.

“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 South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

A passenger plane with a door open on a paved tarmac.
The Asiana Airlines plane involved in Friday’s incident is seen parked at Daegu International Airport in Daegu, South Korea, on Friday. A passenger opened a door on a flight that later landed safely, airline and government officials said. (Yun Kwan-shick/Yonhap/The Associated Press)

The passenger said the cabin crew had made an in-flight announcement asking if there were any doctors on board.

Asiana Airlines Flight OZ8124 had 194 people on board, including 38 elementary and middle school students, Yonhap News Agency reported. 

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

The Transport Ministry said in a statement police had taken into custody the man who had opened the door and authorities were investigating violations of aviation safety laws.

The ministry did not say why he had opened the door.

Two people pull a man wearing grey pants and a black shirt along the back seat of a vehicle as people holding cameras and video cameras surround him.
Police officers in plain clothes arrest an airplane passenger at Daegu International Airport in Daegu, South Korea, on Friday. The man is suspected of opening an emergency exit door on an Asiana Airlines plane during a flight. (Yun Kwan-shick/Yonhap/The Associated Press)

A Transport Ministry official told Reuters authorities were looking into whether Asiana Airlines had followed protocols to manage emergency exits.

The official said it was possible an emergency exit could be disarmed near the ground when pressure inside and outside the cabin are similar.

The plane was two or three minutes away from landing when the male passenger sitting next to an emergency exit opened a cover and pulled a lever so the door opened about 200 metres above the ground, an Asiana spokesperson said.

All on board were seated with seat belts fastened because the plane was about to land, the spokesperson said.

Two people wearing orange t-shirts and white helmets wheel a stretcher with a person lying on it toward the back of a yellow and white vehicle.
Rescue workers move a passenger on a stretcher to an ambulance at Daegu International Airport after the Airbus A321-200, with 194 people on board, landed safely. (Daegu Fire Station/Newsis/The Associated Press)