American Airlines PAX claims pepper spray used deliberately on 737 MAX flight

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8
Kevin Porter / Shutterstock

An American Airlines jet was diverted to Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) after pepper spray was released in the cabin causing many passengers on the flight great discomfort.  

Flight AA1680 was traveling from Miami Airport (MIA) to New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) on August 20, 2023, when a female passenger discharged a pepper spray.  

According to another passenger on the flight, who subsequently posted about the incident on Reddit, half an hour into the flight people at the back of the aircraft started coughing and had trouble seeing.  

As a result, the pilot of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 made the decision to divert the aircraft to JAX.  

However, on route to JAX the female passenger told the American Airlines flight attendants that it was an accident, and she had mistakenly discharged the pepper spray thinking it was another one of her personal products.  

According to the passenger writing on Reddit, when the plane landed in Jacksonville the female and her family were escorted from the plane by waiting police officers.  

In a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) following the incident the agency said that the pepper spray had been released “inadvertently”.  

“American Airlines Flight 1680, a Boeing 737, diverted to Jacksonville International Airport in Florida around 6:30 p.m. local time Sunday, Aug. 20, after a bottle of pepper spray was inadvertently sprayed in the cabin. The aircraft was cleaned after diverting and continued to LaGuardia Airport in New York without further incident. The FAA will investigate,” the FAA said in a statement provided to AeroTime. 

The FAA did add that the information in its statement was “preliminary and subject to change”.   

In an email exchange with the website Insider, the passenger who discussed the incident on Reddit questioned the FAA’s interpretation.  

“The FAA decision that the pepper spray was ‘inadvertent’ doesn’t sit well since 1) the suspect family was not as effected by the pepper spray as my side of the plane — showing it was pointed away from them 2) pepper spray is hard to open let alone accidentally 3) the female suspect resisted giving the pepper spray to the FA and didn’t immediately apologize,”  the passenger wrote in an email. 

She added: “If it were inadvertent, there should have been a remorseful response.” 

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and American Airline’s website pepper spray is not allowed in carry-on bags under any circumstances. 

Passengers on flight AA1680 were eventually switched to another aircraft and continued their journey to New York. 

“American Airlines flight 1680 with service from Miami (MIA) to New York (LGA) diverted to Jacksonville, FL (JAX) after a disruptive incident involving a customer. The flight continued to LGA later in the evening. We thank our team members for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience this may have caused,” American Airlines told AeroTime in a statement.

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