Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
A man onboard a cancelled American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Baltimore opened an emergency exit on the Boeing 737 aircraft on Thursday night, climbed onto the wing and then jumped onto the tarmac before he was eventually apprehended by local law enforcement and led away in handcuffs.
The bizarre scenes took place after thousands of American Airlines passengers faced a night of disruption at Charlotte International Airport because of severe summer weather and an ongoing staff shortage. Dozens of flights were cancelled and passengers reported tarmac delays stretching three or four hours.
American Airlines flight AA2396 to Baltimore was due to depart Charlotte at 8:55 pm on Thursday but the flight was eventually cancelled only after passengers had already boarded and the plane had left the gate.
By the time the plane managed to return to the gate, however, there was no American Airlines employee available to attach the jetbridge and let the passengers off. A reporter on board the plane said passengers soon got annoyed and “chaos ensued”.
Brandon Goldner, a passenger on the flight and a reporter for WCNC, was sat in one of the overwing emergency exit rows when another passenger crawled over him and activated the emergency exit.
“So a passenger had enough and crawled over us in the exit row and let himself out. They got him by the jet bridge,” Goldner wrote in a Twitter post on Thursday night.
He eventually saw the man being led out of the airport in handcuffs although it wasn’t immediately clear what the man had been arrested for.
In another Tweet, Goldner said of the delay and subsequent flight cancellation: “Horrible cluster. Waited on tarmac for 2 hrs until they finally canceled due to weather in Baltimore. Then another 45 mins while they waited for a gate agent. People lost their cool. Chaos ensued.”
Other passengers also took to Twitter to complain of flight cancellations out of Charlotte, with some saying they had been waiting for three hours just for their baggage to be returned after their flight was cancelled.
Last month, American admitted that it would pre-emptively axe around 1 per cent of its schedule through mid-July because of the airline’s pre-agreed maintenance schedule, staff shortages and other issues. The planned cuts account for nearly 1,000 cancelled flights.
In a statement, a spokesperson for American told us: “After boarding was complete, American Airlines flight 2396, with service from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) to Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), canceled due to severe weather restricting air traffic throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.”
“While waiting for the jet bridge to be repositioned, a passenger opened the over-wing emergency exit and jumped onto the ramp. The customer was immediately detained by American team members before being placed into custody by Charlotte Mecklenburg Police. All other customers deplaned normally via jet bridge once the forward boarding door was reopened.
“We thank our team members for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”
Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.