Man with electronic cigarette not charged in flight diversion

Posted Jan. 27, 2011, at 12:03 a.m.

BANGOR,  Maine — Although his behavior prompted an unscheduled stop at Norfolk International Airport on Monday during a flight from Bangor to St. Petersburg, Fla., a male passenger faces no criminal charges.

The episode that led to the diversion of Allegiant McDonnell Douglas MD-82 Flight G4-875 began when a crew member asked the man to put away an electronic cigarette he brought on board to satisfy his nicotine cravings, representatives from the airline and federal officials confirmed Wednesday.

Not only did the man balk, he also displayed a photograph of razor blades he had on his cell phone, according to Allegiant spokeswoman Jordan McGee, who works out of the airline’s corporate headquarters in Las Vegas.

The unruly passenger’s name, age and hometown are not being released, said Vanessa Torres, spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s division in Norfolk, Va.

Torres did, however, release the following joint statement on behalf of the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration:

“At about 11:22 a.m. EST Allegiant Airlines flight [No.] 75 departed Bangor International Airport en route to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. During the flight, crewmembers expressed concerns about the behavior of one passenger, and based on those concerns, Allegiant Airlines diverted the flight to Norfolk International Airport, where the flight landed safely at 1:14 p.m. EST,” the statement said. “Federal and local officials responded by interviewing the passenger and others to evaluate any safety concerns. The passenger was subsequently released and there are no pending criminal charges. The flight was released to its final destina-tion,” it concluded.

In telephone interviews Wednesday, Torres and McGee said no weapon was recovered.

With regard to the decision to divert the flight to Virginia, McGee said, “The crew just wanted to ensure the safety of passengers. We cooperated fully with the TSA.”

Though not on the long list of items the TSA prohibits passengers from bringing onto airplanes, electronic cigarette devices have been banned by several airlines, including Allegiant.

McGee said the airline does not permit the use of electronic cigarettes because they so closely resemble the real thing, which can lead to confusion.

Electronic cigarettes look much like the real thing but use battery power to deliver nicotine in a vapor form rather than smoke. Because the devices don’t emit secondhand smoke, they can be used in many places where smoking is prohibited. They also do not produce ash or butts.

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