On January 28, 2023, South Korea’s Asiana Airlines announced that it would be banning the sale of seats near emergency exits on its A321-200 jets.
The decision was made following an incident on January 27, 2023, in which a passenger opened an emergency exit door mid-air on an Asiana Airlines flight from Jeju to Daegu International Airport, southeast of Seoul.
The incident took place whilst the aircraft was at relatively low altitude during its approach to land, and caused panic on board. Whilst no serious injuries were reported, several passengers were transferred to a local hospital for assessment after the flight landed.
The passenger who opened the door was a 33-year-old man who had recently lost his job. He told police that he was feeling suffocated and wanted to get off the plane quickly. He was subsequently arrested and charged with a violation of aviation security law.
The incident resulted in Asiana Airlines carrying out a review its safety procedures. One of the outcomes of the subsequent review was the decision to ban the sale of 31A and 26A emergency exit seats on its fleet of 14 Airbus A321-200 aircraft.
The airline said that the decision was made to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
Emergency exit seats requirements
The emergency exit seats on an A321-200 are located at the front and rear of the aircraft. As a general rule, passengers who sit in these seats are required to be able to assist in the evacuation of the aircraft in the event of an emergency.
As a result, they must be able to demonstrate that they are physically capable of performing this task. It is common airline practice to include additional briefing for those passenger seated next to emergency exits, as part of the takeoff safety briefing given to passengers.
The airline has said that it will continue to offer emergency exit seats to passengers who meet the physical requirements, but that these seats will only be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The incident on January 27, 2023, is a reminder of the importance of emergency preparedness. Passengers who are seated near emergency exits should be familiar with the evacuation procedures for their aircraft and should be prepared to assist in the evacuation in the event of an emergency.