Unruly Passenger And Smoking Cellphone Causes Southwest Airlines Diversion

Following a bizarre onboard situation, a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale was diverted to Pensacola on Wednesday. The flight made an emergency landing after two passengers began arguing and one of them slapped the other with a cellphone, causing it to smolder and raise fire risks. The aircraft landed safely with no injuries. Let’s find out more.

Southwest Boeing 737
The Southwest flight arrived nearly 90 minutes late due to the unexpected stop in Pensacola. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying


The incident occurred on Southwest flight WN-4699 from Dallas Love Field to Fort Lauderdale Airport on Wednesday (9th June). However, the usual 2 hours and 55-minute flight took a dramatic turn after two passengers onboard got into a fight which quickly escalated to a physical confrontation.

The flight took off from Dallas at 14:30 local time, 25 minutes behind schedule. Things went smoothly for the first hour of the flight, with the aircraft making its way into the Gulf of Mexico and toward the tip of Florida. However, in the back of the plane, two passengers began verbally arguing, with the confrontation escalating from there.

According to The Aviation Herald, the argument turned physical when the plane was about 110 nautical miles (204 kilometers) away from Pensacola, just entering the Gulf of Mexico. The female passenger reportedly slapped the male neighbor with a cellphone. The phone subsequently began smoldering, with an alarmed passenger warning of a fire. The crew quickly jumped into action.

Flight Map
The flight made a sharp left turn to deal with the unruly passengers on the ground in Pensacola. Map and Data: RadarBox.com

The cabin crew quickly rushed to the scene of the smoking phone to contain the situation and prevent an onboard fire. According to a statement by Southwest, seen in Local 10, the crew placed the phone in a battery containment bag to ensure it does not catch fire. One passenger near the scene was all praise for the crew’s response, saying,

“Everyone kind of went crazy and then all of a sudden we see smoke and I heard the words ‘fire’ and then next to us there was the object literally smoking…They [the cabin crew] truly made everyone feel super safe, and I can not be more grateful for how the situation ended.”

Action taken

The aircraft landed in Pensacola at 16:05 local time, a full two hours and 37 minutes after departing from Dallas. Upon landing, law enforcement promptly offloaded the two passengers who were traveling together. Footage shows at least two officers escorting the pair off the plane, along with a young child as well.

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After spending a full hour on the ground, flight WN-4699 took off for Fort Lauderdale once again at 17:01. This flight much more smooth and landed without disruption at 19:21 local time, 1 hour and 22 minutes after departure. In total, the flight landed nearly 90 minutes behind its 17:55 scheduled arrival.

The aircraft landed safely in Fort Lauderdale, but one subsequent flight was also delayed due to the incident. Photo: Southwest Airlines

The aircraft involved in the incident was a Southwest Boeing 737-700, registered N445WN. The plane is nearly 18 years old and joined the Southwest fleet in December 2003, according to ch-aviation.

The issue of violent altercations onboard has increased significantly in the last year as more passengers return to the skies. In response, the FAA has issued strict penalties against anyone endangering crew or flight safety. For now, cabin crew remain on top of situations such as this one and ensure everyone remains safe.

What do you think about the incident on the Southwest flight? Let us know in the comments.