December 7, 2023

  • A viral TikTok showed what appeared to be a broken window on a Southwest flight.
  • The broken piece was actually the plastic barrier, which an airplane expert said is “non-structural.”
  • The passenger said she was given a $300 flight voucher by the airline.

A passenger on a Southwest flight posted a TikTok which quickly went viral for what appeared to be a shattered window, but later explained that it was only the plastic layer that broke.

The passenger was headed from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas when she said she put her hand on the window next to her seat, instantly breaking the plastic mattress.

“As soon as my elbow applied any slight pressure, as soon as that was happening, the whole window broke, shattered, the whole thing,” he said. TikTok explains the situation.

Later in the video, she said a flight attendant contacted the pilot and assured her there were no cabin pressurization issues and they were safe to complete their flight to Las Vegas.

Southwest did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Joaquim Martins, a professor at the University of Michigan and an expert on aircraft design, told Insider that while he has never seen a plastic barrier break on an airplane before, it posed no safety threat.

Martins said the plastic part of the window is unaffected by cabin pressure. Instead, the outer glass window absorbs all the force.

Breaking nonstructural objects on airplanes is “absolutely normal,” Martins said, and the video’s virality likely stemmed from the shock of what appeared to be a broken window.

Martins clarified that if it was the actual glass panel, “she would have sucked things up and she would have had to wear an oxygen mask.”

In 2018, a Southwest passenger killed after being partially sucked out of a window that broke after the plane’s left engine exploded in mid-air.

In the TikTok explaining the incident, the passenger said Southwest grounded the plane for repairs — Martin said that’s standard practice when anything on a plane breaks.

“There are many items that are perfectly safe to fly, but they need to be repaired before they fly,” Martin said.

The passenger said she received a $300 flight voucher from Southwest after the incident.

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