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Asiana Airlines to Forgo Selling Certain Exit Row Seats

Racing to the Bottom

In a baffling move at once reactionary and self-defeating, South Korea’s Asiana Airlines has stopped selling certain emergency row seats in the wake of a 26 May 2023 incident in which a passenger aboard one of the airline’s Airbus A321s opened the third of the jet’s four portside emergency exits as the airliner was attempting to land at Daegu, South Korea’s Gukje Gonghang International Airport (TAE).

Asiana set forth on Sunday, 28 May that emergency exit seats 31A and 26A aboard its 14 A321-200 aircraft would no longer be offered for sale. The airline added: “As a safety precaution, this measure will apply even if the flights are full.”

The airline declined to disclose how, precisely, the move is to dissuade passengers seated elsewhere aboard its aircraft from attempting to open emergency exits in flight.

The perpetrator of the 26 May incident, a man in his thirties arrested by South Korean authorities for allegedly breaking aviation security laws, stated he’d been under a great deal of stress after recently losing his job and had opened the door because he wanted to deplane on account of feeling suffocated.

A Daegu police detective remarked: “He [the suspect] felt the flight was taking longer than it should have been and felt suffocated inside the cabin.”

If convicted, the man stands to suffocate within a South Korean prison cell for up to ten-years.  

The A321 aboard which the incident occurred was inbound to Daegu from the island of Jeju, a popular vacation destination some 88-nautical-miles south of the Korean Peninsula. Notwithstanding the suffocating man’s unique ventilation scheme, the aircraft landed safely. What’s more, excepting nine teenage passengers hospitalized for claimed respiratory issues, the entirety of the plane’s passengers went unharmed.

An unidentified 44-year-old passenger aboard the flight stated: "I thought the plane was going to explode. ... It looked like passengers next to the open door were fainting.”

The antecedent claim is refuted, in part, by video footage shot by another of the A321’s passengers. Subject video shows passengers seated, lap-belts secured and armrests firmly gripped, enduring the baleful blast of relative wind with laudable comportment. Excepting badly mussed hair and clothing set wildly aflutter, the individuals seated throughout the Airbus’s cabin—even those in the exit-row adjacent the open door—externalized about the same degree of discomfort as moviegoers sat before a contemporary Disney film.

The doors of pressurized aircraft, to include emergency exits, comprise aneroid-wafers—pressure-sensitive devices that render egress from in-flight planes a practical impossibility. Aneroid devices measure differential pressure. As the Asiana A321 was at a low altitude (656-feet AGL) at the time of the incident, the aneroid-wafer within the wrongfully-opened door sensed negligible differential pressure. Ergo, the suffocating man was able to open said door—albeit not easily.



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