A passenger sparked panic mid-air after when he tried to open the exit gate, apparently mistaking it for the washroom door on a GoAir flight from New Delhi to the Indian city of Patna on Saturday.

A couple of passengers panicked and shouted after they saw the man get up from his seat, walk toward the rear end and try to open the exit door. Cabin crew members rushed toward him and after a bit of wrestling, managed to restrain him with the help of other passengers. The man, who was a native of Kankarbagh, Patna, was kept under watch throughout the journey, local daily the Telegraph reported.

He was handed over to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) once the flight landed in Patna. The CISF personnel handed him over to the police, who detained him at the Airport Police Station, a senior GoAir official told local daily Deccan Herald on Monday.

During the interrogation, the man in his 20s argued since he was travelling in a flight for the first time, he mistook the exit door for that of a washroom.

“The youth has been identified as a resident of Kankarbagh. He works with a private bank in Ajmer in Rajasthan and had boarded the GoAir Delhi-Patna flight on Saturday evening. He was a first-time flier and whatever happened was a result of confusion,” Airport Police Station House Officer Mohammad Sanowar Khan told the Telegraph.

“People asked him why he was doing so (trying to open the exit gate). He told them that he needed to use the washroom urgently and kept tugging at the exit door. Pandemonium prevailed amid all this and he was restrained and finally handed over to us. He said that the confusion happened because he had boarded a flight for the first time in his life,” he added.

The man was released on personal bond late Saturday after police verified his claims.

“One of the fliers was trying to open the rear door on flight G8 149. A passenger alerted the crew members who restrained him. He was later handed over to the CISF, which handed him to the local police in Patna. The case is with the police now,” Vaibhav Tiwari, GoAir’s head of corporate communications, said.

According to aircraft engineers, the gate of an exit door of an airborne plane cannot be opened due to cabin pressure.  

“Though doors of an aircraft cannot be opened while it is airborne, the act itself was such that it created fear among our passengers onboard,” Tiwari added.

In a similar incident in May, a Chinese passenger opened the emergency exit on a plane because the cabin was "too stuffy and hot." He opened the door after the flight from the southern city of Sanya, on Hainan Island, had landed.

He claimed he had "waited in the aisle for 10 minutes as passengers left the plane" and the cabin was "too stuffy and too hot." He was arrested and kept in detention for 15 days, the Independent reported.

goair A GoAir aircraft taxis on the tarmac at Bengaluru International Airport in the Indian city of Bengaluru, March 9, 2012. Photo: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash