Flight 265 was on its way from Baltimore to Austin, Texas, Monday evening, when it had to make the emergency landing, Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins said. The aircraft was a Boeing 737-700, according to the AirTran website.
Crew members stopped the man from opening the door, said John Greaud, vice president of operations for the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. He said he wasn't sure if they used verbal commands or if they physically subdued him.
The 119 passengers were temporarily removed from the plane so officials could interview them about what happened and check the aircraft at Memphis International Airport. Hawkins said the man was turned over to authorities in Memphis.
The flight, with its passengers and crew of five, resumed its trip to Austin.
It's not possible to open an aircraft emergency exit during a flight because the cabin pressure prevents that from happening.
It wasn't immediately known if charges would be filed. The U.S. attorney's office in Memphis declined immediate comment Tuesday.
AirTran Airways is a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.