A Southwest passenger flying from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas posted a bizarre-looking video on TikTok that showed her sitting next to a shattered window that had a large piece missing (see video below). Without any further description, it looked like the hole led right out to the blue sky behind it.
But in later posts, she said that in reality, only the inside layer of the window – made of plastic – had broken after she had simply leaned against it.
"As soon as my elbow applied any type of slight pressure, as soon as that happened, the whole window just broke, shattered, the whole thing," she explained.
She said she called a flight attendant over, whose "jaw dropped" at the unusual sight. "She hits a 180, she runs on over to the pilot's cabin," the passenger said, and after speaking to the pilot, the attendant came back to assure the passenger that everything was safe — the outer protective window was enough to ensure an incident-free landing.
Joaquim Martins, a professor at the University of Michigan and expert in aircraft design, told Insider that while he hasn't seen a plastic barrier break on a plane before, it didn't pose any safety threat.
Martins said the plastic part of the window is not impacted by cabin pressure. Instead, the outside glass window absorbs all the force.
Non-structural items breaking on planes is "perfectly normal" Martins said, and the virality of the video probably came from the shock of what appeared to be a broken window.
Martins clarified that had it been the actual glass panel, "stuff would be getting sucked out, and she would have had to put on an oxygen mask."
In the end the airline offered the passenger a $300 flight voucher as a peace offering.