Passenger disturbance diverts Southwest flight to Arkansas

A passenger disturbance on a Southwest Airlines flight prompted its diversion to Little Rock, Arkansas, on Saturday on one of the year’s busiest travel weekends.

A person was taken into custody by FBI agents, the bureau’s Connor Hagan said. Potential charges would be the responsibility of the U.S. Attorney in Arkansas.

“The FBI is the primary federal agency authorized to investigate potential assault aboard aircraft violations,” Hagan said by email. “We will work closely with the prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas to thoroughly investigate this incident and potentially bring federal charges.”

The exact nature of the disturbance on board the Columbus, Ohio-bound flight from Houston wasn’t entirely revealed. But in an interview, Hagan noted that any physical confrontation or assault on board a U.S. passenger plane comes under the FBI’s purview once the aircraft leaves its gate.

No injuries were reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the disturbance on flight 192 prompted the Boeing 737’s crew to declare an emergency and divert the aircraft to Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock about 3 p.m.

“The aircraft was met by the Transportation Security Administration and local law enforcement,” the agency said in a statement.

The disturbance came amid one of the year’s busiest travel weekends, when many Americans partook in Thanksgiving reunions following the end of pandemic isolation.

The AAA forecast that travel volume on the ground, in the air, and on the water would return to near pre-pandemic levels this week, with more than 53.4 million people expected to leave their home cities and towns for Thanksgiving.

On Monday, authorities alleged, a Utah man held a straight-edge razor near another passenger’s throat on a New York City-to-Salt Lake City flight. He was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

TJ Swigart and Michelle Acevedo contributed.

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