• American Airlines flight AA1680 was forced to divert to Jacksonville due to a passenger accidentally discharging pepper spray onboard, causing panic.
  • The aircraft was thoroughly cleaned, and passengers were transferred to a separate plane, which departed for LaGuardia Airport.
  • Pepper spray is prohibited in carry-on bags and American Airlines prohibits defense sprays on its aircraft. The FAA will investigate the incident.

A flight from Miami International Airport (MIA) was forced to divert to Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) on Sunday, August 20. American Airlines flight AA1680 diverted after a passenger inadvertently discharged their pepper spray while onboard the aircraft, which spread throughout the cabin, causing passengers to panic due to the lingering mist.

Diversion necessary

The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was originally bound for LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York from Miami late Sunday evening. The passenger in question accidentally triggered their bottle of pepper spray shortly after takeoff. This caused the aircraft to divert to Jacksonville, and it landed at the airport around 18:30 local time.

The aircraft was immediately cleaned thoroughly by American Airlines staff members upon arrival and the deplaning of passengers. However, the passengers boarded a separate aircraft shortly after arriving. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, was able to depart Jacksonville Airport around 19:15 local time. The flight reached its original destination of LaGuardia around 35 minutes after midnight.

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 N323SG
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), pepper spray bottles are prohibited in carry-on bags. However, a four-fluid ounce, or 118 ml, container is allowed in checked baggage. The pepper spray must also have a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. In addition, some airlines prevent pepper spray even in checked bags. American Airlines does not allow defense sprays such as pepper spray or mace aboard its aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also said it will investigate the incident. A statement released by the FAA said,

"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."

Other recent American Airlines incidents

The airline has been in the news several times for various in-air incidents or diversions over the past few weeks. Late last week, an American Airlines Airbus A319 was forced to return to its departing airport after the crew had to shut an engine down. Initially bound for Phoenix, the aircraft was forced to divert back to Memphis International Airport. As it was climbing, the crew received a right-hand engine stall and responded by shutting the engine down. The aircraft returned to Memphis safely, and the flight was eventually canceled.

An American Eagle Embraer ERJ145
Photo: Carlos Yudica | Shutterstock

Another American Airlines flight experienced depressurization earlier this month. An American Eagle Embraer ERJ145 was flying between Charlotte (CLT) and Gainesville (GNV) on August 10 when the crew noticed a pressurization issue midway through the flight. Because of this, the aircraft descended nearly 15,000 feet in less than three minutes. The aircraft, initially flying at 29,900 feet, completed the remainder of its flight at 10,050 feet. The airline released a statement about the incident, stating,

"While in flight, the crew received an indication of a possible pressurization issue and immediately and safely descended to a lower altitude. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience and thank our team for their professionalism."

The aircraft landed safely in Gainesville just after 17:00 local time. There were no reported injuries.