Passenger lets off pepper spray on United Airlines flight

A passenger on a flight from Florida to New Jersey let off a can of pepper spray shortly before take off, leaving travelers with burning throats and causing a delay.

United Airlines Flight 1061 was taxiing and preparing to depart Fort Myers on Monday when several passengers began coughing.

A man said he had accidentally hit a tiny can of pepper spray that he was carrying on his keychain, Fox News reported. 

The spray, which is legal in all 50 states but not allowed to be carried on aircraft, had been missed by Transport Security Administration (TSA) agents.

Joseph Grande, a fellow passenger on the plane, told Fox 4 that he could feel his throat burning.

‘Everybody started coughing, and during COVID everybody starts looking around,’ he told the TV station, adding that he instinctively ‘grabbed’ his mask.

Distressed passengers were given the option to disembark but could not simply catch another flight due to coronavirus restrictions. United is currently operating flights between Fort Myers and Newark only every other day, Simple Flying reported.

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Grande said he and his fiancée did decide to leave the aircraft but claimed they received little help from United in rearranging their flight or arranging accommodation for their unexpected stay in Florida.  

‘I was like, is there a taxi credit that I can use, or a hotel? And they’re like no, United didn’t inconvenience you, this is someone else. So technically we’re not even going to help you out,’ Grande told Fox 4.

Luckily he was able to stay with a relative.

A spokesperson for United Airlines said that the flight had returned to the gate ‘due to a disruptive incident involving a customer prior to take off.

The flight had safely departed ‘soon after’, the spokesperson said in a statement distributed to media outlets. 

The flight took off one hour and 21 minutes late following the incident, according to Simple Flying.  

The TSA told Fox 4 that agents had missed the spray canister but have been given a refresher course to ensure they spot them in the future.  

Fox 4 reported that passengers can bring one 4 oz. container of mace or pepper spray in checked baggage, as long as it has a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. It is not allowed in cabin baggage.

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