(3rd LD) Asiana stops selling A321-200 emergency seats after man opened aircraft door mid-air

Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea's second-biggest carrier, said Sunday it has stopped selling certain emergency seats of A321-200 passenger jets following a recent incident in which a passenger opened a door of the same aircraft model just before landing.

Starting Sunday, Asiana Airlines halted the sale of the 26A seat of 11 A321-200s, which can carry 174 passengers, and that of the 31A seat of three A321-200s, which can accommodate 195 passengers, the company said in a statement.

The seats right beside the emergency doors in A321-200s will be excluded for reservation even if all seats on the planes are fully booked, the statement said, without providing any specific timeframe for the suspension.

The incident took place on an A321-200 aircraft heading to the city of Daegu, 237 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from the southern Island of Jeju on Friday.

A man sitting in the emergency seat row opened the door when the 195-seat A321-200 aircraft was about 213 meters from the ground right before landing at Daegu International Airport.

None of the 194 people aboard the plane fell out or were hurt in Friday's incident, but 12 panicked passengers showed symptoms of breathing difficulty and some of them were taken to a hospital.

A court issued an arrest warrant on Sunday for Lee for an alleged violation of the aviation security law, citing the seriousness of his case and the risk of flight.

Under the act, a passenger who operates the doors, emergency exits or devices of an airplane could face a prison term of up to 10 years.

During questioning, the man said he had been under a lot of stress after losing his job recently and that he opened the door because he wanted to get off quickly after feeling suffocated, according to police officials.

On Sunday, the company also began accepting customer complaints over the incident at its Flight Irregularity Claim Center at the Daegu airport.

After receiving complaints at its customer support counters in other airports and conducting an internal probe, the company plans to provide support measures, such as medical expenses, to the affected passengers.

The company said it has so far received two complaints regarding the plane accident.

Meanwhile, all the emergency seats in other passenger jets operated by Asiana are available for reservation.

Asiana's budget carrier unit Air Seoul Inc. also decided to halt the sale of the 22A seat of the 195-seat A321-200 planes and the 27A seat of the 220-seat A321-200s starting Monday.

Another Asiana low-cost carrier unit Air Busan Co. said it is also considering stopping the sale of emergency row seats.

Budget carrier Air Premia Co. said it is mulling suspending the sale of seats near the emergency doors. Other carriers, such as Jin Air Co., the budget carrier unit of Korean Air Co., are considering a similar move.

The transport ministry said taking such a measure depends on airlines' own decisions and is not based on the aviation authorities' regulations.

An official at an airline company said Asiana appears to be overreacting to the incident, given that passengers in the emergency seat rows are required to assist flight attendants in helping other passengers escape the plane in case of an emergency.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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