South Korea’s second-largest airline Asiana is to be fined and faces a rebuke over an incident in May where a passenger managed to open the emergency exit of an Airbus A321 aircraft while the plane was still flying.
The man successfully managed to open the exit partially because the door wasn’t being supervised by a member of cabin crew and because the aircraft was at such a low altitude, meaning that the pressurisation effects were no longer string enough to stop the door from opening.
Despite the plane’s altitude, however, Asiana Airlines flight OZ8124 from Jeju to Daegu on May 26, 2023, remained in the air for several minutes before landing as wind swept through the cabin and other passengers looked on in horror.
At least six passengers had to be taken to the hospital following the terrifying incident, although, thankfully, there were no serious injuries and most of those taken to hospital were suffering from short-lived breathing difficulties.
The passenger sitting next to the exit was arrested on suspicion of deliberately opening the door but it has since emerged that the suspect was only identified after he made a confession to airline staff.
In fact, the cabin crew and pilots initially believed a technical malfunction had caused the door to open and the suspect would have been allowed to walk free if he had not handed himself in.
On the Airbus A321, there are four emergency exits on either side of the plane, but the middle two exits on the left-hand side don’t have a member of cabin crew member stationed closeby.
At these exits, the nearest crew member is sat on the opposite side of the aircraft and during flight OZ8124, the flight attendant didn’t notice the passenger tamper with the door.
The South Korean government said Asiana’s response to the incident had been “inappropriate” and that elements of the response broke the airline’s own protocols.
The government was able to impose a fine on Asiana by finding the airline in breach of the Aviation Security Act, which requires carriers to immediately report incidents of unlawful interference with an aircraft. Asiana did not immediately report this on May 26 because it didn’t initially realise the aircraft had been tampered with.
Following the incident, several South Korean airlines have blocked certain unstaffed emergency exits from passengers, while others have begun assigning these seats to emergency service workers and airline employees ahead of other passengers.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.