American Airlines passenger tries to open cabin door mid-flight, gets subdued

Passengers aboard a recent American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Minnesota are applauding the crew for how they handled a frightening incident this past Saturday, when a young man tried to open the exit door during the plane’s descent.  

"I think American Airlines did a great job, especially the pilot of the plane kind of keeping everything in order and keeping everyone calm," said passenger Richard Munassi in a statement to CBS Minnesota.

According to witnesses, the commotion began a few moments after the pilot announced that the flight was preparing for descent to Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport.

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"There was a lot of yelling and screaming. I thought perhaps two of the passengers had gotten into maybe a fist fight," Munassi said.

In reality, the commotion was not a fight, but a number of passengers that had intervened when they noticed the young man trying to open the cabin door. Another witness, Salman Elmi, said the passengers were able to keep the man from reaching the handle until the flight crew could get to him themselves.

“It was a crazy experience,” said Elmi, who added that he heard one of the passengers threaten to punch the young man.

Once the man was subdued, the plane landed “hot,” Munassi said. Munassi later captured footage of the suspect being escorted off the plane by police.

A representative for American Airlines also directed inquiries toward the FBI, who is reportedly investigating the incident.

A representative for MSP airport also confirmed that the investigation was handed over to the FBI, but told Fox News the following:

"On August 19, 2017 at 3:35 p.m., Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport police officers were dispatched to Gate E13 to meet American Airlines Flight 604 from Los Angeles International Airport. Initial radio information was that a passenger attempted to open an emergency door on board the aircraft," the MSP spokesperson stated.

"The matter is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations."

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The incident also marks the fourth time in the last two months that passengers have tried to open an aircraft’s doors before the flight had come to an end. In July, a 23-year-old man aboard a Delta flight from Seattle to Beijing was caught lunging for the exit before engaging in a fight with the plane’s crew and passengers. A few days later, an AirAsia passenger tried the same thing. And in early August, a 17-year-old successfully opened the emergency door of a Copa Airlines airplane after it landed on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport before sliding down the wing and onto the ground.

According to an aviation blogger who spoke with Travel + Leisure, however, it’s “physically impossible” to open a plane door at cruising altitude, as the pressure within the plane “creates a situation where the door cannot open.”

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It’s unknown how high off the ground the American Airlines flight was when the latest incident took place, but witnesses say he was waiting until the plane got closer to the ground before he attempted to open the door.