No one’s sure why, but Alaska Airlines passenger Alexander Herrera tried to open the door on a Boeing 737 aircraft a few minutes before landing Monday morning (May 27). Fortunately, his seatmates tackled the guy. But is this something to worry about?
Air travel expert Rick Seaney – who loves nothing more than busting a good air travel myth – says the answer is no.
Passengers Tackle Would-be Door Opener
The incident began just as Alaska flight 132 out of Anchorage was beginning its descent toward Portland, Ore. For some reason, Herrera chose that moment to make what have only been described as “unusual statements” and then he attempted to open an exit row door. This was followed by lots of screaming but his seatmates quickly swung into action, jumping on and restraining the man with shoe laces and seatbelt extenders.
Herrara sat quietly through the rest of the flight until he was taken into custody by the feds. He is expected to be charged with interfering with a flight crew. As the seatmates who tackled Herrera, the other passengers gave them a standing ovation.
The Myth of Opening Doors in Flight
Of course, no one wants to see anyone attempt any crazy stunts on a plane, though goodness knows it’s happened before: A former Playmate centerfold was accused of trying to open a door during a JetBlue flight a few years back while the same thing happened on Delta and other carriers (minus the centerfold). But could they have opened those doors?
No. A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines told FareCompare their emergency row exit doors cannot open in-flight since they’re designed to stay locked in the air; passengers can open them on the ground which is of course when they’d be useful.
The doors also have science going for them: As Rick Seaney wrote back in 2011, cabin pressure in effect seals aircraft doors shut, and he added, “Many aircraft doors are ‘plug-type’ in design meaning the doors are bigger than the opening (unless they are rotated).” Once cabins begin to pressurize, which occurs as a plane begins to taxi, “Forget it,” said Seaney, “those doors are shut.”