- An American Airlines flight headed from Chicago (ORD) to Dallas (DFW) was forced to divert after a passenger tried to open the emergency exit mid flight.
- Other passengers subdued the unidentified man while the aircraft was diverted to St. Louis (STL).
- The man was later released without charges.
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On March 3, 2020, travelers on flight AA2300 were in for a surprise after they noticed an “unruly passenger” pacing up and down the aircraft. Jonathan Cowan, who was seated in the emergency exit row, told NBC DFW that he saw the man rush towards the emergency exit door, then trying unsuccessfully to open it.
Cowan immediately tackled him in an effort to subdue him. Thankfully due to the design of aircraft doors, the cabin air pressure pushing against the door (which initially opens inwards) would have prevented the man from opening it mid flight.
“Have you ever seen a mouse go through a cardboard box that it cannot get out of, trying to get its way out?” said Jonathan Cowan, describing the actions of the man. “He reminded me of a mouse trying to get out of a cardboard box, and he was just going at every single lever right in front of me, on the door.”
Other passengers also stepped in the help restrain the person while the pilots quickly diverted to St. Louis, Missouri.
Another passenger reported that the person did not appear to be under the influence of any substances, but saw that the man was wearing a hospital bracelet.
Once on the ground, St. Louis law enforcement officials boarded the aircraft and took the man into custody. However, after being evaluated, he was later released without any charges.
An FBI spokesperson said, “there was no nexus to terrorism or criminal activity.”
American Airlines responded to reporters saying, “American Airlines flight 2300 with service from Chicago O’Hare to Dallas Fort-Worth diverted to St. Louis due to an unruly passenger.
“The aircraft landed safely and law enforcement met it upon arrival. There were no injuries to passengers or crew members.”
American also said that flight attendants are equipped with restraint tape and plastic handcuffs.
The flight continued on to Dallas, arriving at 12:40 a.m. the next day.