Opening the Door On A Plane During Flight: What Happens?

Ken Hyde

By Ken Hyde

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If you have ever been on a plane at least once, you probably heard the flight attendant stress repeatedly, “Never have the airplane door opened mid-flight.”

Most people follow the instructions without a second thought. However, many of my readers are curious about what would happen if they ignored the rule and did the exact opposite. Keep scrolling to learn more!

You CAN’T Open An Airplane Door In Flight

Although it might be feasible during descents, you can’t do this most of the time. This whole situation all boils down to the mechanical door locks and how the cabin is pressurized.

You CAN'T Open An Airplane Door

Specifically, the pressurization ensures every passenger in the cabin can breathe in and out as they normally would, even at extremely high altitudes. Such cabin designs result in high pressure pushing hard against the airplane door from the inside.

Plus, since these doors are locked as long as the plane is still in the air, only the pilot(s) can unlock them. Unless any unexpected event occurs, the locks will stay where they are until the plane is about to land. Hence, no matter how strong one might be, bursting the door (and door locks) open is downright undoable.

Still, as said earlier, the pressure inside the cabin will be released during descent (due to the safer, lower altitude), making it easier to open the door. That’s why most cabin crews often wait until the plane is landing.

What Happens To The Plane If The Door Is Opened?

In emergencies, the exit door will be released as the plane descends to a safe landing spot as quickly as possible. Here’s exactly what happens.

Since the plane is still at a high altitude, the pressure inside the cabin will rush out forcefully (in an attempt) to balance with the thin air outside. That results in loud whooshing and strong wind inside, which might knock around loose items and even hurt passengers if they do not move around carefully.

Plus, the temperature will be below freezing, about -40°C (-40°F), and too much exposure could cause hypothermia. Worse, there’s not as much oxygen in the air as at sea level, so passengers might start feeling dizzy within a few seconds. That explains why oxygen masks are stored above each seat and automatically drop from the ceiling once the door opens.

How about sudden decompression? Bad news: it’s the most dramatic and dangerous scenario. The pressurized cabin air escapes much faster than the lungs can comfortably adjust (a few seconds) and is characterized by a rush of air and constant loud bangs. 

In that case, the airplanes must have another pressurization system to maintain cabin pressure even if one system fails. Otherwise, physical injuries (due to the force of the escaping air and immediate oxygen loss) will be inevitable.

Fact: There Were Passengers Who Tried To Open The Airplane Door Before

A lot, actually. Almost every time, they failed spectacularly and were handcuffed right away, except for several recent incidents. Let’s have a look.

Passengers open door plane

1. During a Polish LOT Airlines flight, a man got extremely aggressive and tried to open the plane doors during the flight. But the crew and other passengers stopped him before he could do anything. Later on, the police in Iceland arrested him.

2. In May 2023, a passenger on an Asiana Airlines A321 flight managed to burst open the airplane door mid-flight. 

Passenger opens plane door mid-flight

You can guess why: the airplane was about to land (and at a much lower altitude than before), which means the pressure inside the cabin was reduced enough to let the door open. Later on, an Asiana spokesperson also explained that the cabin pressure adjusts automatically depending on the current altitude. 

Nine passengers were hospitalized due to this incident. South Korea’s authorities have now made it mandatory for their airlines to warn passengers before takeoff not to mess with exit row doors.

Following the accident, Asiana even took a huge step by deciding not to sell certain seats near emergency exits on the Airbus A321-200 flights. They were seats 26A (on planes with 174 seats) and 31A (on 195-seat planes).

3. A man in Mexico opened one of the cabin doors and stepped out onto the wing.

As wild as it might sound, that was actually doable since the airplane was stuck on the ground for hours without water or air conditioning for anyone inside. The Mexico International Airport reported that while nobody got hurt, the airline officials had handed the man over to the police.

This accident occurred in January this year (2024), around 11:30 a.m., 3 hours after the flight was supposed to leave Mexico City. The long delay was reportedly due to some maintenance problems. Later, because of what this passenger did, they had to switch to another plane.

We don’t know what charges await this man. But all the other passengers wrote a letter of support for him; they explained that opening the emergency door was to keep everyone safe since the oxygen loss had endangered their health. They even signed their names to the letter and shared it on social media.

Door Accidents In Aviation History

Over the years, there have been quite a few door accidents. The January 2022 one is an example, when the second exit door of a Boeing 777 British Airways got torn off. The plane was being pushed back at the time, but the jet bridge was still connected to the door.


Bursting the airplane door open during flights is downright impossible – except for one wild accident with Asiana Airlines in South Korea, but that’s almost like winning a one-in-a-thousand lottery. Other than that, no one has ever come close before being handcuffed right away.

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Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde is the founder of The Wright Experience™. He is passionate about antique airplanes and has restored many of the Wright brothers' planes, including the 1918 Curtiss Jenny and the 1903 Wright Flyer. He is also a pilot and mechanic who has worked for Capital Airlines, Bendix Corporation, and American Airlines.

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