Arrested: Southwest Airlines Passenger Exits Plane Through Emergency Hatch

Yet more bizarre airline passenger behavior as Americans fly the friendly skies this Christmas season. This time a man was arrested after allegedly climbing out of an emergency hatch on a Southwest Airlines flight Sunday in New Orleans.

The aircraft was on the ground at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport but preparing to take off. It was still parked at the terminal.

Witnesses reported the man went out through the hatch and walked back and forth on the plane’s wing. He then jumped down and raced across the tarmac before being taken into custody.

A plane’s overwing exits are located near the middle of the aircraft to give passengers an emergency escape hatch in the event of an evacuation.

Passengers would then slide down the plane’s wing onto the tarmac, creating a substantially lower fall than the drop from typical emergency exits.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office took the suspect into custody after he also allegedly attempted to steal a service truck. Witnesses said he was prevented from escalating the situation even further by responding officers.

He was taken to an area hospital for evaluation, and no charges have been filed at last report. His name was not released.

A New Orleans television station ran photographs of the overwing emergency door open and a man being handcuffed by two law enforcement officers.

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines told Newsweek: “We commend our flight and ground crews for their swift action and apologize to our customers for their inconvenience”

Airport officials merely released a statement acknowledging an incident “yesterday evening involving a Southwest Airlines passenger’s unauthorized deplaning of the aircraft.”

Passengers experienced a similar situation during the height of the pandemic. In July 2021, a person on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Baltimore “deplaned” out of the emergency exit onto the tarmac at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Fliers suffered through a two-hour delay and then a flight cancellation. The passenger was arrested by police.

Interestingly, the pandemic period saw a spike in unruly passenger incidents on airliners. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 2023 has seen an 80% drop in these chaotic scenes from their high point in 2021.