The New York Post broke the story, writing "the embarrassing comedy of errors began when the captain of a Chautauqua Airlines flight from Asheville, N.C., decided to take a bathroom break before landing. But when he tried to get out of the men's room, the door jammed, trapping him."
Chautauqua – a subsidiary of Republic Airways – was operating the flight as a Delta Connection flight for partner Delta Air Lines. The Post says the plane was near LaGuardia and getting ready to land when the incident occurred. The pilot, in an effort to seek assistance, began pounding on the lavatory door. A "well-intentioned passenger sitting in the front row heard his thumping and hurried over to help."
The pilot asked the man to try to alert the crew to the situation. The passenger eventually ended up talking with the co-pilot through the locked cockpit door. The Post's story made no mention of where the flight attendant was during the ordeal.
The co-pilot the thought the man's accent sounded Middle Eastern and apparently feared the passenger had sinister intentions. "The captain disappeared in the back, and, uh, I have someone with a thick foreign accent trying to access the cockpit," the co-pilot is quoted by the Post as saying to air traffic control.
The lavatory-bound pilot even passed his cockpit-access code along to the passenger, but that did little to assure the co-pilot, according to the Post's account.
"What I'm being told is he's stuck in the lav," the co-pilot continued, "Someone with a thick foreign accent is giving me a password to access the cockpit, and I'm not about to let him in." At that point, the controllers advised the flight to make an emergency landing.
Then the captain freed himself from the bathroom and let himself back into the cockpit. He explained the situation to the tower, adding: "There is no issue, no threat."