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Frontier Airlines flight diverted after unruly passenger discovered with a box cutter

The Transportation Security Administration employees who screened the male traveler's items ahead of the flight did not follow protocol, according to the agency.
Authorities arrest a Frontier Airlines passenger with a box cutter in Atlanta
Authorities arrest a Frontier Airlines passenger with a box cutter in Atlanta on Friday.Emily Burns

A Frontier Airlines flight bound for Tampa changed course Friday night after an unruly passenger was discovered with a box cutter, according to officials.

After the suspect was taken into custody and searched, a second box cutter was found in their carry-on, according to the agency. Blades are prohibited in the cabin but allowed in checked bags.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, employees who screened the male traveler’s items ahead of the flight did not follow protocol, according to the agency.

Frontier flight 1761 took off from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport at around 7:20p.m on Friday and was en route to Tampa when the crew declared an emergency.

The plane was then "diverted to Atlanta after a passenger on board the aircraft was observed in possession of a box cutter," according to a statement from the airline shared with NBC News.

"No injuries to passengers or crew have been reported," said Frontier spokesperson Jennifer F. de la Cruz. A new flight was scheduled for Saturday morning to take passengers from Atlanta to Tampa.

The plane landed in Atlanta at around 8:45p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Frontier Airlines didn't provide any additional information on the incident, but according to the Transportation Security Administration, there had been a disturbance involving the passenger in possession of the box cutter.

"The cockpit was secure and passengers were deplaned in ATL," the TSA said in a statement. "FBI and Atlanta Police Department responded to the incident, took the suspect into custody and the flight was canceled."

Ahead of the flight, the suspect presented two backpacks and “additional loose items” that were screened using “CT technology which creates a 3-D image that can be rotated 360 degrees for a thorough analysis.” The employee screening the suspect’s items didn’t use the full capabilities of the technology.

“The box cutters were not identified by the CT operator, but his property was identified for a further search,” the TSA said in a statement Sunday. "During the search, one box cutter was discovered."

The visible blades from the box cutter were removed and it was given back to the passenger, which "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," the agency said.

It's not clear at this time what charges the suspect is facing.

The incident is now under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI and the FAA.