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Electronic Cigarette Smoker Faces Jail in Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Tiff

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

For those craving a cigarette while on a domestic flight, be warned: The FBI could get involved--at least if you're flying on Southwest Airlines. It's all over an electronic cigarette, peanuts and pretzels. And a serious lack of friendly skies that are threatening a smoker with 20 years' jail time.
The FBI has nabbed a serious suspect. A tiff between a Southwest Airlines passenger and flight attendant turned into a serious peanut-throwing incident. Even pretzels got involved.
42-year-old Pogos Paul Sefilian has been charged with the not-so-funny legal charges of "interfering with a flight crew" by FBI -- after flight Southwest Flight 188 from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City turned disastrous near mid-July 2011. Though it's unclear as to the reason why they're prohibited, a Southwest flight attendant told Sefilian electronic cigarettes are prohibited on the airlines' planes. That was after he began to use an electronic cigarette while in the front row of the Southwest Boeing 737.
Perhaps a puff or two was worse than no puffs. Electronic cigarettes, also dubbed "e-cigarettes", simulate smoking -- producing a vapor instead of tobacco smoke. Electronic cigarettes are designed to help smokers quit and have no actual smoke or tobacco smell.
The passenger reportedly put away the e-cigarette. But perhaps withdrawal symptoms and flying may not be a good mix. The Southwest flight attendant claims the man shouted at him the second time the crew member approached him. Nothing claims the man attempted to use the electronic cigarette again -- but rather appears the crew member was approaching the passenger solely to push the idea that the passenger wasn't allowed to use the device on-board, by providing him paperwork.
The Southwest Airlines flight attendant's return apparently didn't go over well. When the flight attendant came to physically show Sefilian the airline policy on electronic cigarettes, the passenger's accused of reacting by throwing peanuts and pretzels at the flight attendant -- and, supposedly, at the cockpit door.
That cockpit door part is probably very important and no accident for inclusion in accusations. Of course anything involving a pilot or the cockpit is going to carry the possibility of a higher or harsher penalty -- related to safety of a plane and its passengers. And the FBI charged the guy with "interfering with a flight crew".
According to the affidavit against the smoker, Sefilian's outbursts interrupted the Southwest flight attendant's normal procedures. It seems Southwest employees have got some other accusations: Sefilian is accused, during the plane's final approach, of standing up on the flight and opening overhead containers in the plane's cabin.
The Southwest crew apparently claims Sefilian ignored six requests from the airline's crew to close them and sit down before the plane's landing. Apparently the overhead cabin issue wasn't that serious, since flight attendants didn't make an emergency closure of the bins themselves -- but at least one instead instructed the passenger to close them. It appears to all come down to ego: the affidavit states the flight attendant's claim is the the passenger walked to the front of the plane (not a far walk, it seems, since his seat was in the first row) and "postured his chest out at the flight attendants," from roughly a foot away before sitting down.
Yeah. That's serious. Those damned peacocks.
Unfortunately for the smoker, he was met by FBI upon landing at Salt Lake City airport. As usual, Southwest Airlines has got a lot (of nothing) to say. The airline really issued what ranks among the absolute vaguest statements possible in the (non) addressing of an issue: "Safety is our number one priority," according to a Southwest Airlines spokesperson, "and flight attendants ensure the safety of everyone on board." Um...was there a reference to an electronic cigarette or e-cigarette policy or incident anywhere in that statement?
Sefilian had been locked up in federal detention center in Salt Lake City for a bit. The kicker: The electronic cigarette smoker was facing up to 20 years over the incident with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. One more reason to fly Southwest. It's the friendly skies.

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