Passengers on a Lufthansa flight bound for Belgrade saw a new kind of in-flight drama when they noticed a man tampering with the emergency exit door.
Lufthansa crew members and other passengers restrained the man after others noticed what he was doing. The incident occurred one hour into a flight between Frankfurt and Belgrade.
The man is a Jordanian national with a U.S. passport.
The airline said that the passengers were not in danger during the flight. The emergency door cannot open while the plane is in the air.
After other passengers restrained him, the man was calm for the duration for the flight.
When the flight landed in Belgrade, the passenger was taken into custody by police in the Serbian capital. The police have not yet commented on the matter.
Other reports have suggested that the man tried to force his way into the cockpit of the plane.
According to Milan Djukic, another passenger aboard the plane, the suspect looked nervous while waiting to board. Once on board, Djukic said that the man asked for a new seat three separate times.
Djukic is the Serbian handball team captain.
Djukic told a Serbian TV station that the man got up and began to pound on the door of the cockpit. He demanded that the crew open the door.
A crew member then coaxed him back to his seat. Two other members of the handball team sat next to the man to keep him calm for the rest of the flight.
Djukic said that the incident was not as dramatic as it sounded. Few other passengers aboard the plane realized what was happening.
The airline maintains that safety was never an issue. The man was not arrested; he was taken in for questioning and may be held for up to 48 hours.
The number of incidents aboard planes has risen in the last few months. Troublesome passengers and fake threats have also become a problem since the attacks on Paris last month.
On November 18, two separate Air France flights were diverted away from Paris because of bomb threats. One flight, an Airbus A380 traveling from Los Angeles to Paris, redirected its flight path and landed in Salt Lake City.
A second plane, leaving the same day from Washington Dulles International Airport, landed in Halifax for a similar security incident.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, a Frenchman was said to have approached airline desks at London’s Gatwick airport holding a gun. Airport staff evacuated the busy North Terminal of the airport. Police were said to have shouted at passengers to take cover.
The busy terminal remained closed for six hours as a bomb disposal squad searched the airport following the passenger’s arrest.
Yet some of the incidents have been the product of fear and racism rather than real threats.
At Chicago’s Midway airport in November, a gate agent forced two Palestinian-American men to step aside. Another passenger complained that they felt unsafe after hearing the men speak Arabic.
Passenger complaints also prevented six Muslim men from boarding a flight in Houston.
Four passengers were also removed from a Spirit Airlines flight bound for Chicago. The men reportedly looked as though they might have been of Middle Eastern descent. A passenger was concerned about the men being allowed on the plane.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has told the press that the public is taking “see something, say something” too far.
Although the attacks on Paris remain on the minds of many, passengers both in the air and on the ground may be able to alleviate concerns by taking notes from the Serbian handball team and showing respect for their fellow travelers.
[Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images News]