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Airplane fail! Man arrested after allegedly mistaking exit door for toilet

James Gray was arrested, fined and banned after trying to open an exit door on a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight.
/ Source: TODAY

Not all doors are meant to be opened. Take the emergency exit doors on planes, for example. Unless, of course, in an actual emergency, one should never go so far as to even touch the handle on those doors.

But what if you simply mistook it for a door to the plane’s lavatory?

This is what James Gray, a passenger on a recent flight from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Amsterdam, is claiming. Soon after the plane touched down at Schiphol Airport, Gray was led away by authorities, in handcuffs.

According to the Sunday Post, Gray then spent the night in an airport detention center, before being released with a $658 (434 British pounds) fine, and being issued a five-year ban against flying KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

The reason for his penalties? Trying to open the door on the plane while midair at 30,000 feet.

“The crew told me to stay in my seat and I was to be arrested when the plane landed. I tried to explain it was a simple mistake,” said Gray, describing what happened after he tried the handle of the emergency door, allegedly under the assumption it was the bathroom.

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“It was a misunderstanding," he said. "The police came and arrested me.They weren’t too friendly.”

When Gray went to board his return flight to Edinburgh on KLM, he was denied access. The five-year ban was effective immediately. So Gray flew back to Scotland on another airline.

KLM didn't reply to TODAY’s request for comment, and a spokesperson for Schiphol Group declined to comment.

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Gray said he would never try to open an emergency door on a plane, as he “realizes the danger of that sort of thing.”

It would seem that KLM doesn’t care much for Gray’s defense, even if it is true. His action still qualifies as “unruly behavior.”

Vaughn Jennings, managing director of government and regulatory communications at Airlines for America, an airline advocacy group based in Washington, told TODAY that his organization has supported the vigorous prosecution of passengers charged with unruly behavior aboard aircraft.

"We also have supported international efforts, principally at the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Air Transport Association, to assure that other countries appropriately deal with unruly passengers," he said.

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Gray isn’t the first person to tamper — knowingly or not — with an emergency exit door on a plane.

Earlier this year, a man was detained at Nanjing Lukou International Airport after opening an emergency door while a Boeing 737-800 was preparing for take off. This guy, however, didn't defend or excuse his actions.

In that case, witnesses said the door opened “with little effort.” But that would not be the case had the plane been in air. With the pressure differential, it’s virtually impossible to open a plane door while in flight. What’s more, many airplanes have mechanical locks that only release in an emergency.