CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A California woman is facing federal charges after throwing a fit on a plane at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport this week. 24-year-old Cynthia McKnight is accused of screaming and spitting on passengers and police.

“Several agencies have been involved in this case. On the transit side, charges were filed for a litany of offenses,” NFTA Chief of Police Brian Patterson said.

Patterson said McKnight became agitated then opened a cabin door and inflated an emergency slide on an American Airlines flight bound to Chicago Tuesday night.

“The plane was preparing to actually take off and the pilot was forced to return based on this passenger’s unruly behavior,” Patterson said. “There was an attempt to calm her down and that attempt failed, at which point she then opened the emergency exit door. So we do not know the exact cause.”

Patterson said the woman is facing charges of harassment, criminal tampering, resisting arrest, and criminal trespass.

“When officers approached the subject was physically combative, including spitting at officers,” he said. “She had to be physically restrained before she was handcuffed and subsequently was arrested.”

Patterson added it’s unlikely TSA officials could have prevented this incident and is reminding travelers that if they see odd behavior in the airport, or while boarding the plane, to say something.

“Very tough thing to control a human being’s behavior in the moment,” Patterson said. “I think, one of the things that we’ve tried to do, is educated passengers. I think we’ve done that with some success. If you see something, say something. there’s a push to kind of police our own.”

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.