A viral TikTok showed what appeared to be a shattered 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 from the airline.
A passenger on board a Southwest flight posted a TikTok that quickly went viral of what appeared to be a shattered window, but she later explained it was only the plastic layer that broke.
The passenger was headed from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas when she said she rested her arm on the window next to her seat, instantly breaking the plastic layer.
"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 said in a TikTok explaining the situation.
Later in the video, she said a flight attendant checked with the pilot and assured her there were no issues with cabin pressure and they were safe to complete their flight to Las Vegas.
Southwest didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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 2018, a Southwest passenger was killed after she was partially sucked out of a window that broke after the plane's left engine exploded in midair.
In the TikTok explaining the incident, the passenger said Southwest grounded the plane for repairs — Martin said that's standard practice when anything breaks on the plane.
"There are several items that are perfectly safe to fly with, but they need to be fixed before flying," Martin said.
The passenger said she received a $300 flight voucher from Southwest following the incident.
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