MacArthur Airport's commissioner, Teresa Rizzuto, said the pilot contacted airport law enforcement, who met the plane at the gate. "We take this stuff very seriously," she said.
The suspect, identified as Draco Slaughter of Chicago, was arrested on a charge of first-degree falsely reporting an incident, police said. A message left for him at a home address provided by the Suffolk County Police Department was not immediately returned Sunday night.
Flight 373 had arrived at about 2:35 p.m. at the Ronkonkoma airport, about 50 miles east of New York City on Long Island, and passengers were getting off the plane when an attendant noticed a carry-on bag on an empty seat across from Slaughter, police said. When asked about the bag, Slaughter said it was his bag and "there was a bomb in it," police said.
The flight attendant notified the pilot, said Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Olga Romero, who confirmed the details.
The flight was delayed about two hours while police inspected the aircraft, Rizzuto said. It was making a scheduled stop in New York before leaving for West Palm Beach, Fla. It took off at about 5 p.m.
Slaughter was scheduled to have an initial court appearance Monday. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.