What Really Happens If You Try To Open A Plane Door Mid-Flight?

In the summer of 2021, a rash of incidents of so-called "air rage" made the news, BBC News reports. Of course, the topic of passengers refusing to behave themselves while in-flight was and is nothing new. But the added complication of coronavirus pandemic mask mandates — plus the general bad mood the country is in — appears to have made things worse in the not-so-friendly skies.

Passengers have been known to take out their anger on other passengers or on the plane's crew, but sometimes, they take out their anger on the aircraft itself. More than once, whether in a fit of rage or due to a mental health episode, a passenger has tried to open one of the plane's exit doors while the plane is in flight. One of the more recent examples is an incident on a Spirit Airlines flight in May 2021, as reported by NBC News.

So what would happen if a passenger tried to open a door on a flight while the plane is at its cruising altitude? Would everyone on the craft be at risk of being sucked out into the atmosphere?

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

It's physically impossible to open a plane's door mid-flight

If you're on a plane and you observe a passenger trying to open the exit door, you should definitely alert the flight crew, but not for the reasons you think.

The passenger is not going to be able to open the exit door — no matter how hard they try. As Business Insider reports, it comes down to a difference in air pressure. The inside of the cabin is pressurized to mimic atmospheric conditions at 8,000 feet, lest the passengers and crew suffocate. But outside, the atmospheric pressure is considerably lower. What's more, to get the door open, it first has to come in a little bit. However, the pressure difference makes that impossible. About 1,000 pounds of pressure are pushing on each square foot of the door's surface, meaning a human would have to be able to lift 24,000 pounds in order to open it. That is, of course, impossible.

Of course, if a passenger is trying to open the exit door, there's still the matter that they're not obeying the rules and are trying to imperil the craft. For this reason, you should definitely alert the cabin crew lest they try something actually dangerous, like assaulting another passenger or a member of the staff.