A misunderstanding about where to store a piece of luggage caused chaos for 134 passengers and five crewmembers aboard Southwest Airlines flight #3814 from Orlando to T.F. Green Airport late Tuesday night.
Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said the flight was diverted to South Carolina’s Charleston International Airport, where a disorderly passenger who refused to listen to flight crew orders was asked to exit the plane. The two people he was flying with accompanied him off the plane.
“A customer onboard was not complying with our flight attendant’s request to stow his bag,” Eichinger said yesterday. “They were diverted to Charleston. There, the customer was interviewed by local authorities. He was released and continued on to Providence later on [yesterday] afternoon [with his companions.]”
Warwick resident Kim Picozzi was aboard the plane with her daughter Jackie, 30, as well as her grandson, Tyler, 10. They were on their way home from a trip to Disney.
“We took off and the pilot said we were scheduled to arrive home about a half-hour early,” Picozzi said. “We were all excited that we were going to be home early.”
Expecting to touch down in Warwick by 11:30 p.m., Picozzi was enjoying the flight. Suddenly, the captain addressed passengers, telling them they were experiencing turbulence. Then, he informed them of the emergency landing.
“I just assumed it was for weather,” Picozzi said.
But when Aviation Authority Police Officers, the FBI and Homeland Security Federal Air Marshal Service responded, she knew something was wrong. At that point, the passengers were removed from the plane and questioned by authorities.
“All kinds of people came on the plane,” she said. “They took off two men at first, and then a few minutes later they came and got the third. They were looking through their bags. Everybody on the plane was starting to talk.”
Picozzi said she overheard some passengers say they witnessed “suspicious” activity, and others said they noticed the passengers in question appeared overly concerned with their carry-on luggage. Picozzi saw no such thing.
“They didn’t find anything on their persons or in their luggage,” she said.
Once the issue was rectified, passengers were given the option to take a later flight home or stay on the plane and head directly to T.F. Green. Picozzi and her family remained on the plane and arrived in Warwick at 1:30 a.m. yesterday after the plane was given clearance to leave around midnight.
Picozzi’s husband Frank picked them up at the airport. He is pleased the ordeal is behind them, as is Picozzi.
Aside from the flight fright, she said they had a great time on their trip.
“We had a ball,” Picozzi said.