An American Airlines flight this week was diverted after a male passenger attempted to open an emergency exit door during a flight.
What happened on the flight
The flight, AA2300, was operating the evening service between Chicago and Dallas Fort Worth on Tuesday, 3 March 2020. About 45 minutes into the flight, the unnamed man tried to open the emergency exit door. Several passengers moved quickly to subdue the man. DJ Mitchell told 5 NBCDFW;
“Everyone who could get to the guy, got to the guy to subdue him.
“There was no screaming, no excitement. It was a little nerve-wracking, but that’s about it.”
The passenger, described as ‘unruly’, was restrained by crew and passengers. He was walked off the plane by airport police after it diverted to St Louis.
The colorful account of one passenger
Passenger Jonathan Cowan was reported in Stuff as saying he was seated in the exit row when he noticed the passenger trying to open the exit door.
“He started coming at the door. He just had these big, black gazing eyes. There was really no emotion. He had all the door levers being flipped up. He was just going at it, attacking it.”
“I got him to the ground, pinned him. A couple of other gentlemen got on the back of me and helped pin him down.”
“I hammered his hands down. You ever see a crocodile try and take somebody in the wild … they just take you, they latch on and then they roll and keep on doing that and that’s all I was doing just to get him to the ground.”
After Mr Cowan had crocodile rolled the disruptive passenger, the crew came to his aid.
The passenger was cable-tied and subdued until the aircraft landed safely in St Louis. There were no reported injuries. The passenger remains unnamed. Footage posted on Youtube of him been escorted off the plane has his face blurred, but he is clearly a young caucasian male wearing a dark hoodie.
Differing accounts of the incident
The incident has variously been described as scary with people either reporting screaming or being calm and quiet as the situation was dealt with. Passengers took to Twitter and other social media to post their footage.
Didn’t think I’d be stopping in #StLouis but I guess when someone tries to open the airplane door while in the air, you’d want to get him off! #AmericanAirlines @AmericanAir #flight2300 #dfw pic.twitter.com/NBYg6SKRAj
— Amy McIntee (@AmyMcintee) March 4, 2020
It is doubtless unsettling to have a passenger attempt to open a door when in flight. However, it is near impossible to open aircraft doors whilst the aircraft is in the air. The cabin pressure inside the plane keeps the doors sealed.
Plane delayed, the man released without charge
In a statement, an American Airlines spokesperson said;
“The aircraft landed safely and law enforcement met it upon arrival. We thank our crew members for their quick action to ensure the safety of everyone on board and providing excellent care to our customers during a difficult situation.”
The aircraft was kept on the ground in St Louis for several hours before it continued onto Dallas Fort Worth. It landed there around 01:00 on Wednesday morning. It landed late but safe.
The passenger was detained by airport police in St Louis on behalf of federal agencies. He was later released without charge. An FBI spokesperson said;
“There was no nexus to terrorism or criminal activity.”