The Department of Homeland Security and the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) has launched an urgent investigation after an unruly passenger onboard a Frontier Airlines flight from Cincinnati to Tampa was able to smuggle two box cutters onto the plane.
The alleged perpetrator managed to evade x-ray screening checks at a TSA security checkpoint at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on Friday evening before boarding Frontier Air flight F9-1761 to Tampa.
During the flight, the man allegedly threatened to harm other passengers and flight attendants after he was spotted with one box cutter. The threat was deemed so serious that the pilots made an emergency landing at Atlanta Hartsfield where local law enforcement took the man into custody.
After his arrest, the man was searched and a second box cutter was found in his possession.
Box cutters and most other blades and knives have been prohibited in the airplane cabin since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The TSA was created to replace the patchwork of airport security checks across the United States in the wake of the atrocity, but the agency’s success in finding prohibited items has been called into question on a number of occasions.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the TSA said the Frontier Air flight diverted after a “disturbance” in the cabin involving a “disruptive passenger” who had been spotted with a box cutter.
“The cockpit was secure and passengers were deplaned in ATL (Atlanta Hartsfield Airport),” the statement continued. “(The) FBI and Atlanta Police Department responded to the incident, took the suspect into custody and the flight was canceled.”
“Following a search of the suspect, a second box cutter was discovered in the passenger’s carry-on. TSA takes its role in transportation security very seriously… TSA has started an internal review of the incident by viewing CCTV, airport security checkpoint processes/operations and will continue to provide updates as they are available”.
It is believed that the TSA failure rate for finding prohibited weapons could be as high as 80 per cent, although the exact figures are classified for obvious national security reasons.
However, in 2017 multiple sources claimed the failure rate ranged from 50 to 80 per cent. The DHS regularly sends out so-called ‘Red Team’ undercover testers to see if TSA agents will detect and stop dummy weapons getting through airport checkpoints.
In 2015, the failure rate was said to be as high as 95 per cent, although it’s not known whether recent improvements in screening technology have had a positive impact on the failure rate.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.