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How a Spilled Soda Grounded an American Airlines Flight

As if air travel isn't stressful enough, imagine some rogue ginger ale sending your flight into chaos.
soda on plane tray
Photo: Getty Images

Even as airlines have stripped down or done away with snacks, meals, and passenger dignity, one "freebie" remains for the hoi polloi in coach—a free beverage. (If you're lucky, you'll get the whole can!) But if we want to hold on to this shred of civility for much longer, we'll need a collective effort from everyone to avoid a repeat of what happened Monday on a flight from Miami to Chicago. when a guy spilled a soda and forced an emergency landing.


American Airlines flight 1090 hadn't gotten far when it was forced to divert to Jacksonville because of a spilled soda that doused an electrical outlet. A spokesperson for the company told the Orlando Sentinel that reports of smoke in the cabin were false, and attributed the emergency landing to a maintenance issue. The airline also laid the blame for the soda spill on a passenger.

"American Airlines flight 1090, a flight from Miami (MIA) to Chicago O'Hare (ORD), diverted to Jacksonville, Fla., (JAX) due to a maintenance issue; a passenger spilled a soda on an electrical item in the main cabin," a statement sent to MUNCHIES read. "Our highly trained crew quickly reacted, and resolved the issue. Out of abundance of caution, the crew made the decision to divert to JAX."

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But said passenger, seated in aisle 7, spoke with and disputed the account, saying the soda was spilled in the awkward handoff from the steward.

"I can't really tell you how far it went, but I was soaked," Preston Wake, 43, told "I had to change my clothes and everything."

That sounds like one big soda and a serious spill—serious enough that it led to the plane being grounded for more than five hours. The Federal Aviation Administration has launched an investigation to figure out what happened. So far, there's no word on what type soda we're talking about here.

Let the tale of AA flight 1090 serve as a reminder to hold those complimentary beverages tightly on your next flight. You don't want to be the guy who forces an emergency landing because you spilled your tomato juice or whatever, and you certainly don't want to be the reason everyone loses free drink privileges.