Airplane doors cannot be opened mid-flight because of the difference in pressure between the plane and outside conditions.

Opening an airplane door at cruising altitude would require over 24,000 lbs of force, which a human is of course unable to generate.

Hypothetically, if someone opened an airplane door, the cabin would depressurize, and a strong suction effect would suck out the air, people, and loose objects from the plane.

Opening an airplane door is illegal at every stage of a flight and regardless of what altitude it is attempted to be opened at.

Opening an Airplane Door Might Be Possible During Take Off

As planes are pressurized, and the cabin pressure is higher than outside air pressure by as much as 55,158 newtons per square meter or 5,500 kg per square meter, it is impossible to open a plane’s door in flight.

An airplane’s door is very firmly sealed shut.

An airplane door can’t be opened when the cabin pressure and outside pressure differ so drastically.

The pressure difference is smallest at the start of a flight and increases with altitude. 

At most, you could potentially open the airplane door after a flight takes off and when the plane hasn’t yet pressurized. 

Why You Can’t Open an Airplane Door in Flight

There is around 1,100 pounds of pressure against each square foot of the airplane’s door, making it is impossible for a human to overcome that force.

In fact, even if all of the passengers on a plane attempted to open the door, it would still be impossible to open during flight.

An aircraft door is similar to a drain plug in the way that it is fixed in place by interior pressure.

Airplane doors open inward, so they’re fixed in place because of the difference in the cabin and outside pressure. 

A Mammoth Force Would Be Required

Assuming a plane’s door is 6 feet tall and 3.5 feet wide, a person would have to exert more than 24,000 lbs or 10.9 metric tons of force to open an airplane door at cruising altitude.

Even at low altitudes, because airplane doors are also held securely with electrical and mechanical latches, you’d still need a large amount of force to open a plane’s door.

What Hypothetically Would Happen If the Door Was Opened

Hypothetically speaking, if someone opened an airplane door at cruising altitude, the plane’s cabin would depressurize.

The result of this depressurization would create a strong suction effect that would suck in loose objects and people who aren’t wearing seatbelts out of the plane’s door.

Additionally, the cabin’s temperature and oxygen levels would also rapidly plummet.

Passengers without oxygen masks would be deprived of oxygen and experience hypoxia

If you open an airplane door at a low altitude or in an unpressurized plane, there would be a minimal amount of suction pull and oxygen loss.

In fact, during emergencies, pilots often descend to low altitudes and depressurize the cabin to let the airplane doors be opened.

The Penalties For Attempting to Open an Airplane Door Are Severe

If someone attempted to open an airplane door, crew members and other passengers would attempt to stop them.

The passenger attempting to open an airplane door would be taken into custody and face criminal charges, ranging from a major fine to a prison sentence. 

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has already fined passengers as much as $80,000 for attempting to open airplane doors.

The fine the FAA issues depends on the seriousness of the situation and how much the passenger resisted. 

In some US States, a passenger could receive as much as 20 years in jail for attempting to open a plane door, but most judges have only sentenced people to 1 or 2 years in prison.

You Can’t Open a Plane Window Either

You cannot open a plane’s windows during a flight because they open inwards, and the pressure difference between the cabin and outside prevents them from being opened.

Pilots descend to safe breathing altitudes if a plane window opens during flight because the plane’s cabin would lose pressure. 

The effect of opening a plane window during a flight at cruising altitude is the same as opening a plane door during a flight at cruising altitude.

The cabin would depressurize, causing a strong suction effect that would suck in loose objects, along with oxygen depletion. 

If you opened a plane window in a non-pressurized aircraft or at low altitudes, you’d only experience some wind and an increase in noise. 

In conclusion:

  • You cannot open airplane doors due to the difference in pressure between a pressurized cabin and the outside.
  • Airplane doors are intentionally designed not to be opened at high altitudes.
  • If someone were to open an airplane door at cruising altitude, it would depressurize the cabin and create a suction effect.
  • The suction effect would suck in air, loose objects, and passengers not wearing seatbelts out of the aircraft.
  • The exact same effect is caused if someone opens an airplane window at a cruising altitude.
  • Attempting to open an airplane door is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $60,000 and 20 years of jail time.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).