Arrest warrant served Korean who opened plane door in mid-air

DAEGU, South Korea – A local court issued a warrant Sunday for the arrest of a passenger who opened an emergency exit door on board an Asiana Airlines flight right before landing in the southeastern city of Daegu last week.

The 33-year-old man, only identified by his surname Lee, was detained by police Friday on suspicions of opening the door 213 meters above ground just minutes before landing at Daegu International Airport in Daegu, 237 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

The Daegu District Court granted the request for an arrest warrant for alleged violation of the aviation security law, citing the seriousness of his case and the risk of flight.

Arriving at the court for questioning earlier in the day, the suspect said he was “very sorry to the kids” that were on the plane when asked by reporters whether he was aware of the danger of opening the door.

The man earlier told police officials he had been under a lot of stress after losing his job recently and wanted to get out of the plane as he felt suffocated.

Under the aviation security law, a passenger who manipulates the doors, emergency exits or devices of an airplane which compromises the security of the flight could face a prison term of up to 10 years.

None of the 194 people aboard, including a group of teenage athletes on their way to a competition, were injured in Friday’s incident. Some nine passengers who panicked were taken to hospitals after showing symptoms of breathing difficulty.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s second-biggest carrier said it has stopped selling certain emergency seats of A321-200 passenger jets.

Starting Sunday, Asiana Airlines halted the sale of the 26A seat of 11 A321-200s, which can carry 174 passengers, and that of the 31A seat of three A321-200s, which can accommodate 195 passengers, the company said in a statement.

The seats right beside the emergency doors in A321-200s will be excluded for reservation even if all seats on the planes are fully booked, the statement said, without providing any specific timeframe for the suspension.

All the emergency seats in other passenger jets operated by Asiana are available for reservation. Other carriers, such as Air Seoul Inc. and Air Premia Co., are reportedly considering suspending the sale of seats near the emergency doors.

The transport ministry said taking such a measure depends on airlines’ own decisions and is not based on the aviation authorities’ regulations. (Yonhap)