Drunk Florida man vapes into bag on Spirit flight, gets banned for life, deputies say

A Florida man won’t have to worry about sneaking smoke breaks on Spirit flights anymore — because his vaping got him permanently banned from the budget airline, authorities said.

The 30-year-old St. Petersburg man was traveling from Detroit to New Orleans when a flight attendant caught him smoking an e-cigarette and exhaling into a bag aboard Flight NK 985, CNN reports. The flight attendant told the man off for smoking — but then the man went to the plane’s restroom and tried smoking again, which set off a smoke alarm, according to CNN.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said the plane’s pilot had to take the aircraft down to 35,000 feet to silence the alarm, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Authorities were on the ground to meet the man when the flight landed at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, though deputies said he won’t face charges, the newspaper reports.

But Spirit took action with a lifetime ban, the newspaper and CNN reported.

“It’s a private business that can ban customers at their own leisure,” said Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jason Rivarde, according to CNN. “It’s like telling you not to come back to the restaurant. Once he was on the ground, he was cooperative with our deputies so he didn’t face any criminal charges.”

Spirit did not immediately respond to McClatchy’s request for comment on Monday, and could not be reached by CNN.

Deputies who encountered the unidentified man on the ground described him as “highly intoxicated,” per the Times-Picayune. Passengers aboard the plane had told the flight crew he was drinking alcohol from his own bottles and concealing them “under his jacket,” the newspaper reports.

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices are allowed in travelers’ carry-ons aboard commercial airlines, though they’re prohibited in checked bags and individual carriers may have their own restrictions, according to the Transportation Security Administration. But even if e-cigarettes are allowed in an airplane’s cabin, that doesn’t mean smoking them is.

The U.S. Department of Transportation formally banned mid-flight vaping in a rule announced in 2016, according to the Washington Post. Then-Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx saying the rule would eliminate “any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both,” the Post reported at the time.

Vape pens on planes have made headlines by causing problems before, including in April, when TMZ reported that actor Grant Gustin, who plays The Flash on the CW, was busted vaping on a Los Angeles to Vancouver flight. An airline spokesperson confirmed the plane in question “experienced a smoke indicator from the forward lavatory while in flight. A vaping pen was confiscated from a cooperative passenger. The flight landed safely in Vancouver, without delay,” PEOPLE reported.

But the devices can apparently cause problems when people aren’t using them, too: A Delta flight from New York City to Houston was delayed earlier this year after a vape pen’s battery overheated in the overhead storage compartment, catching fire and causing flames to shoot out of the bin, according to CBS New York.

“You could tell it was a very strong smell, smelled like a campfire at first,” said passenger Rex Sakamoto, according to CBS. “Once I realized and someone yelled fire, it was startling like wow, I need to get off this plane right now.”

That incident happened as travelers were boarding the plane, so passengers were told to get off as a crew member got a fire extinguisher, according to the TV station.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram