TAMPA, Fla. — Investigators are trying to figure out what caused passengers to get sick aboard a Frontier Airlines flight bound for Tampa. 

  • Flight 1397 left Cleveland around 1 p.m. New Year's Day
  • Some passengers fell ill about an hour after takeoff
  • Frontier: Matter is "under investigation"
  • More Hillsborough County stories

Travelers aboard Flight 1397 fell ill about an hour into the trip, which left from Cleveland on New Year’s Day around 1 p.m.  Several became nauseous, while others vomited.  

When the plane landed, sick passengers were ushered to the front of the aircraft, while non-sick travelers were moved to the back. The plane landed about 20 minutes early, but passengers were not able to leave for at least 90 minutes. 

“People were upset,” said Jeff Coulter, a passenger aboard the flight. “They asked ‘Why can't they let we who don't feel bad go? Put those people to the back of the plane and then triage them.’“ 


About 266 passengers were on board that flight, according to a Tampa International spokeswoman. 

It’s unclear what caused the passengers to become sick. Some suspect it could have been water fountains inside the Cleveland airport.  

A spokesperson for Frontier said the matter is under investigation and passenger safety is the company's number one priority.

The City of Cleveland also issued a statement following notification by Frontier Airlines of the situation. It reads in part:

"While the cause of the illness is unknown, an early report from Frontier indicated each of the passengers may have used a public drinking fountain before the flight. Cleveland Department of Public Health (CDPH) is contacting each of the six affected passengers to conduct an interview. We are also working to confirm if all six passengers did in fact drink water from the fountain.

CDPH, Cleveland Water and CLE airport staff are working collaboratively to investigate all potential causes, including passenger activities before arriving at the airport. Based on our expertise, water borne illnesses generally have a longer incubation period than what we saw in this instance. Also, Cleveland Water has no known water safety issues in the vicinity of CLE, but is collecting additional street-level samples to verify.

Since Frontier’s initial report referenced the water fountain, airport staff immediately closed down and sanitized all fountains on Concourse A. CLE airport staff and CDPH are testing fountains and will send water samples to an external Ohio EPA-certified lab for evaluation. Due to the nature of the testing, it will take approximately 24-48 hours before results are ready.

On New Year’s Day, more than 11,000 passengers traveled through CLE and no other passengers have reported illnesses.”