What happened when a woman mistook an emergency exit for an airplane restroom?

Posted at 10:32 AM, Jun 10, 2019

UNITED KINGDOM — It was a 7-hour delay for more than 300 passengers and crew on board a Pakistan International Airlines flight this weekend after a woman mistook an emergency exit door for the plane's restroom.

Once she opened it, the airplane's emergency chute deployed. That spurred a series of events.

The plane was still on the ground; it was about to push back from the gate. (Which begs the question: Why was the passenger out of her seat at the time?)

An airplane's emergency door cannot be opened when an airplane is in-flight as the pressure won't allow it. Last month, a passenger on a Ryanair flight (also from the Manchester Airport) tried to open a door in-flight, and he was tackled by other passengers. The door would not have opened.

A chute deploys at 3,000 pounds of air per square inch. If someone had been standing by the Pakistan International Airlines airplane where it opened, they could have been killed.

In 2010 when a JetBlue flight attendant popped open a flight's emergency slide and went down it following a verbal altercation with a passenger, it was estimated it cost $25,000 to replace the slide.

Fortunately, no one was injured on the Manchester Airport ground when the woman on the PIA flight opened the emergency door. But the incident added seven hours onto the schedule for the airplane — which was already scheduled for a 7-hour, 50-minute flight to Islamabad.

Here are some of the things the mistake spurred:

• By aviation rules, the slide has to be removed and replaced. It can be used again once it is tested for safety
• The crew had to re-seat or offload nearly 60 passengers — the rear door could no longer be used in an emergency
• Offloaded passengers were given transportation to a hotel and hotel accommodations
• The offloaded passengers were given the opportunity to take next available flight

Officials say some media outlets reported shortly after the incident that the plane was on the runway during the incident, but that is not correct.

Deploying a passenger airplane chute is very costly: An average of $20 million annually is lost in North America alone due to accidental slide deployments, according to the International Air Transport Association.