An Alaska flight diverted to Chicago after a passenger responded poorly to a flight attendant request to extinguish his cigarette.
Perhaps the passenger did not get the memo that domestic flights in the USA have been non-smoking since 1990. Maybe he was just having a bad day. But one “belligerent” passenger decided to light up midway through an Alaska Airlines flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia yesterday.
When flight attendants asked him to extinguish his cigarette, he begrudgingly complied. But after extinguishing his cigarette, he began to pace the aisle. It is not clear if he was speaking while this occurred or (as I suspect) if he consumed any alcohol onboard.
Alaska opted to divert “due to a disruptive passenger onboard and out of an abundance of caution.” Police met the aircraft in Chicago and the passenger was escorted off.
After refueling, the plane took off again for Philadelphia, arriving about 90 minutes late.
Was It Necessary?
Alaska is not commenting further on this story (I reached out), but I wonder whether the diversion was really necessary. Without directly second-guessing the crew, what made him belligerent? I’ve seen the power of addiction. If the man was just pacing up and down the aisles because he was craving a cigarette, was it really necessary to divert the aircraft and throw him off?
Perhaps the police should still have met him in Philadelphia for smoking onboard, but that’s different than making an unplanned stop.
I generally report on diversion stories to discourage onboard alcohol consumption. While alcohol is not clearly a factor here, I suspect it takes a certain amount of inebriation to ignore all the no-smoking signs.