Seoul – A man who opened an emergency exit on an Asiana Airlines flight in mid-air felt “suffocated” and wanted to get off quickly, South Korean police said on Saturday.
The plane was carrying nearly 200 passengers as it approached the runway on Friday at Daegu International Airport, about 240 kilometres (149 miles) southeast of Seoul, on a domestic flight.
When the plane was around 200 meters (650 feet) above ground, the man who police said was in his 30s without providing further details, opened the exit door.
The passenger was taken in by Daegu police for questioning and told officers he had been “under stress after losing a job recently”.
“He felt the flight was taking longer than it should have been and felt suffocated inside the cabin,” a Daegu police detective told AFP.
“He wanted out quickly”.
The passenger faces up to 10 years in prison for violating aviation safety laws.
A video clip shot by a nearby passenger showed wind ripping through the open door, with fabric seat-backs and passengers’ hair flapping wildly as some people shouted in surprise.
Another video shared on social media showed passengers sitting in the emergency exit row next to an open door being buffeted by strong winds.
A dozen passengers were taken to hospital after experiencing breathing difficulties but there were no major injuries or damage, according to the transport ministry.
“It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors on board,” a 44-year-old passenger told Yonhap.
“I thought the plane was blowing up. I thought I was going to die like this.”
A transport ministry official told AFP that this was “the first such incident” they were aware of in Korean aviation history.
Experts say South Korea’s aviation industry has a solid safety record.