Passenger with box cutters causes Frontier flight to land in Atlanta, airline says

Suspect charged with interfering with flight crew, attendants
A Frontier Airlines flight had to make an emergency landing in Atlanta after a man was found with a box cutter, the airline confirmed.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A Frontier Airlines flight had to make an emergency landing in Atlanta after a man was found with a box cutter, the airline confirmed.

A Frontier Airlines flight headed to Florida had to land in Atlanta late Friday after a passenger was spotted with a box cutter, according to the airline.

The flight departed from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) at about 7:25 p.m. and was originally headed to Tampa, Florida, but it had to make an emergency landing at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at 9:30 p.m. after a passenger was found in possession of a box cutter, airline spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.

The Transportation Security Administration said “a disturbance involving a disruptive passenger in possession of a box cutter” prompted the flight to be diverted. According to a criminal complaint, William Allen Liebisch took out a large box cutter and told a passenger he was going to “stab someone on this plane” while standing in the rear of the aircraft.

No injuries were reported to passengers or crew members, according to de la Cruz. The aircraft landed safely at Hartsfield-Jackson and all passengers were asked to exit as Atlanta police officers assessed the situation, de la Cruz said.

“As the final passengers were walking off the plane, the flight attendants alerted law enforcement that Liebisch was running towards the front of the aircraft,” the complaint reveals.

Liebisch was then tackled from behind by a passenger. After the suspect was apprehended, a yellow box cutter was found in the pocket of his jacket, according the complaint. A search was also conducted and a second box cutter was discovered in his carry-on luggage, according to the TSA.

Liebisch is facing charges of interference with flight crew members and attendants.

All passengers were provided overnight hotel accommodations. A new flight was scheduled, leaving the airport at 9:35 a.m. Saturday and landing in Tampa by about 10:35 a.m.

According to the TSA, Liebisch went through security at CVG, presenting two backpacks and submitting additional loose items into bins for screening. Everything was screened using CT technology, but the TSA said the CT was not correctly used by employees and the box cutters were not identified during the process.

Nevertheless, Liebisch’s property was identified for further search, during which the TSA said one box cutter was discovered.

“The visible blades were removed and disposed of from the box cutter, and the box cutter without the visible blades was handed back to the passenger,” according to the TSA. “This is contrary to standard operating procedure which requires these items to be placed in checked bags or voluntarily abandoned. The backpack containing the other box cutter, and the remainder of the traveler’s property, was screened for explosives, but the box cutter was not discovered.”

TSA employees involved in the incident have since been placed back into training to review CT image and physical search procedures. The agency is also working with CVG and employees from Kentucky on reviewing property disposition of box cutters and other prohibited items discovered during a search. Nationally, TSA said they will issue a brief for all screening employees on this incident with reminders on use of the technology tools and prohibited items.