Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures!

Live and Let's Fly has been silent the last three days as I weighed how I wanted to cover what happened to me on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Istanbul last week. The situation was both traumatizing and highly embarrassing and I wanted to ensure that I had ample time to consider what transpired before hurling any accusations or failing to understand the other side. But frankly, the more I replay the incident in my mind, the more certain I become that I was wronged. Here's my story:

Last Thursday I was scheduled to fly from Newark to Istanbul on United's direct flight. The 767-300 was outfitted in a two-cabin configuration, staffed by a legacy United crew, and I had been upgraded to business class. It was my first time on this reconfigured aircraft and my first longhaul in the Continental BusinessFirst seat. Naturally, I wanted to provide a review for you.

As I settled into my seat, I pulled out my iPhone to take a few pictures of the seat. When I held the phone at forehead level to take the picture below, a flight attendant came running over and told me that I could not take any pictures of the cabin. She referenced this section of the Hemispheres magazine:


The allegedly off-limits picture:


I looked at the FA, smiled, but said nothing, putting my iPhone away. To be clear, I did not take any more pictures—not a single one.  Meanwhile, another passenger was taking pictures behind the curtain and the FA ran over to him and demanded that he stop as well. This passenger had a lively discussion with the FA, though I did not hear the resolution.

Naturally, the FA's warning bothered me and I felt the need to explain myself. I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat. I then said this verbatim—

"I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist. Here is my business card [offering her one]. I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog."

She took my jacket but refused to take my business card saying, "No, that's okay," then saying, "I did not know that" after I explained my reason for taking pictures. I again emphasize, I took no more pictures.

A few minutes later a Global Services rep came onboard and asked to have a word with me, motioning for me to follow him. As I walked up front, I noticed the FA who had reprimanded me earlier ducked into the front galley and out of sight.

He was direct—"The captain is not comfortable with you on this flight. You'll need to gather your things and we'll find another way to get you to Istanbul." I was flabbergasted. My first thought was that they had the wrong passenger—they must have wanted the passenger who was arguing.

The GS rep stepped into the galley, around the corner, and asked the FA to verify it was me. She leaned forward, our eyes briefly meant, then she quickly hid herself again. Yes, she meant me.

I asked to speak to the captain—surely this was a ridiculous misunderstanding. The GS rep would not let me approach the flight deck but offered to talk to the captain on my behalf.  He stepped into the cockpit for a few minutes and a few minutes later the captain emerged. He would not look me in the eyes as we spoke.

Captain: Sir, you are not flying on this flight.

Me: Can you tell me why?

Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.

Me: That's a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].

Captain: Look, I don't care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We'll call the police if we have to.

Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.

Captain: Look, we're already late. I'd advise you to get off this plane now. Make it easy on yourself. Don't make us bring the police in. Goodbye.

Me: Wait. Captain, may I have one of your business cards?

Captain: I don't have any, but United will have no trouble finding me. My name is...[removed].

With that, he turned and retreated back into the flight deck, with the female first officer looking on.

I looked at the GS rep and shook my head. I walked back to my seat, opened the overhead bin, and retrieved my garment bag and rollerboard. There were whispers throughout the business class and Economy Plus cabins as I made the walk of shame down the aisle.

Again, I was asked to step off the aircraft and said, "Just as soon as I get my coat back." The only FA who knew which coat was mine was still hiding somewhere, so she had to be found in order to retrieve my coat. I never saw her again.

As I walked down the jetway and back into the terminal, I remarked, "I want you to note that I was cooperative in your report and that the FA lied about me taking further pictures."

The GS rep was very understanding, said he sided with me and claimed that he had done his best to make my case to the flight crew, but they "jointly decided" I would not fly. I had a connection in Istanbul that I would now miss—there was no way to get me into Istanbul in time to make my connecting flight to Baku on a separate ticket.

We began working on alternative arrangements that would preserve my upgrade to business class to Istanbul. Because of the sold-out cabins on many routes and my desire to have a decent rest (i.e., not just fly to London or Barcelona with five hours of sleep), I was ultimately rebooked to fly to Istanbul via Washington and Kuwait City, with the final segment on Turkish Airlines in economy class. But I had to buy a new ticket to Baku, which set me back another $225. I won't blame United for that, but this situation comes down to one glaring problem:

The FA lied. Yes, she outright lied about me, falsely stating that I flouted her order and continued to take pictures.  The blame lies almost entirely with her. I'll return to her in a moment.

The captain was unprofessional and weak—he could not even look me in the eyes when he spoke to me and he was not at all interested in what I had to say. I believe I am being quite charitable to say I understand his considerations. The problem boiled down to a "he-said, she-said" situation and I don't begrudge the captain for trusting a member of his flight crew over me. But he also had no interest in getting to the bottom of what happened; he just wanted to get the flight underway. And the condescending and downright nasty way he spoke to me is no way to talk to anyone, let alone a 1K who has held elite status on United for one decade.

But the true culprit is the FA here. Even though the 9/11 attacks were over a decade ago, maybe I should have never used the word terrorist in my explanation. Maybe the FA was not used to a passenger defending his action. But whatever the case may be, nothing can justify the fact that this FA lied about me.

Even if I give her the absolute benefit of the doubt—that though I did not take any more pictures she genuinely feared I would be a safety threat to the flight—that does not give her license to state mistruth that impugns my character. And if she was indeed scared of me, how pitiful is that? Indeed, the terrorists have won when 11.5 years after the attacks U.S. citizens are scared of a camera onboard an airplane.

This was not an issue of privacy—the real impetus behind United's onboard photography guidelines above. You can see that the picture of my seat did not compromise anyone's privacy. Instead, I believe the FA simply could not fathom why I would want to take pictures of my seat and therefore deemed me a security threat and lied in order to get me off the airplane.

Not only did this episode publicly defame me, it made me question my loyalty to United. I'm not some kettle traveler making a baseless loyalty claim. Regular readers know that I am extremely loyal to United Airlines, fly them often and almost exclusively, write about them even more often, and have accrued nearly 950,000 lifetime flight miles with United—I'll be a 26 year old million miler flyer later in the year.

I have no regrets about this incident (other than not being able to take the flight). I did nothing wrong and the FA who lied about me should be held to account by United. Surely, a liar is more of a security threat than a passenger who wants to take a picture of his seat.

United has not been contacted yet, but I will send them a copy of this story. I welcome an investigation into this incident and encourage my seatmate or any of those seated around me on the flight to chime in should you come across this story. I have nothing to hide other than my humiliation for being thrown off a flight on the pretense of a mistruth.

Update: United Airlines Responds to Photo Incident


Brad February 19, 2013 at 11:02 am

This makes me sick. There is no excuse for how you were treated. Beyond a power trip, the only thing I can think of that would lead to this would be use of the word 'terrorist'. Maybe not the best word choice on a plane in this hyper-nervous world we live in, but there is no reason why that should have led to this happening.

If taking pictures were 'illegal' I should have been kicked off many flights, including my one flight on a reconfigured 767-300 like you were on which I reviewed. Your response to the irrational request by the crew was probably better and more polite than mine would have been. And for that you got booted?!

This is unbelievable. United owes you a major apology.

Jeff February 19, 2013 at 11:23 am

Wow, that's crazy. It'll be interesting to see how United responds.

Steve S February 19, 2013 at 11:36 am

I can't believe it. That is ridiculous! Do you know if the person taking multiple photos, got kicked off the flight?

Jon February 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Why would you argue with an FA....especially pre flight? Right or wrong doesn't matter at that time-getting off the ground does.

Flaunting a biz card makes it worse. Say ok, take off, have dinner then chat when life is less chaotic for FA.

Andras February 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Maybe she did not want to be reviewed... If true indeed outrageous.

Heather February 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm

While I agree that this shouldn't have happened and it is unfortunate that the FA outright lied, I tend to agree with Jon. Some times it is best to let sleeping dogs lay and this was one of those moments. As much as you feel that you were in the right, and the FA was in the wrong, we all know what type of flying world we are now.

I also believe that had this happened to someone else and you had not known about what was causing your delay, we would have probably be reading a post about your flight being delayed, etc. You really do need to look at it from all angles. Both the captain and the FA were trying to get the flight off the ground - not argue with a passenger.

And lastly, your sense of entitlement, because it really comes across in your posting (sorry - I know this sounds harsh) really does not help your case.

Andrew February 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I was on that flight in 18A/B with a good friend of mine and saw the flight attendant storm up to the guy in 17C for taking a photo as well. Definitely lots of chatter by folks and FT/MPers in my area. That crew was pretty horrid. Sorry to hear about what happened. :/

Jerry February 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

You should talk to some media outlets about this, or get more bloggers to support you

  1. That is crazy stupid of UA. You should publicize their names if you got them. Both FA and Captain, wow..

  2. I guess we'll learn to NOT argue pre-flight anywhere

  3. I don't know how much you can do to get revenge, but let's start badmouthing UA from now on :)

Andrew February 19, 2013 at 01:00 pm

Isn't United's slogan something along the lines of "United, The Go F yourself skies"

HansGolden February 19, 2013 at 01:10 pm
And lastly, your sense of entitlement, because it really comes across in your posting (sorry - I know this sounds harsh) really does not help your case.

I disagree. He came across very graciously and unentitled.

Andre February 19, 2013 at 01:43 pm

The whole situation was silly, but US-based carriers are paranoid like that many times. Using that word was not very smart. Do you really think the non-FT public will side with you after any statement comes from UA quoting what you said to the FA? Not sure sure about that. You can't fight the fear propaganda...

You wanted to express that you weren't doing anything wrong after the FA made her point, she didn't like that and she had a way to get rid of you, that's the unfortunate moral of the story.

Before you get annoyed about what I said... I'm not blaming you for taking the photos and the FA was being ridiculous with the original request. However once that request was made you should have known what kind of paranoia you're dealing with and let it go. But it's so ridiculous that you probably couldn't have imagined it.

David February 19, 2013 at 01:56 pm

[email protected] This is a case where you take that option and use it. He'll get back to you within the hour.

steve February 19, 2013 at 02:34 pm

Look, the FA set you up, just like a conniving witch, and she got her power rush at causing damage. The captain, he doesn't have the interest or time to get to the bottom of the issue, and that isn't his job. Still, the behavior of the captain and FA, i.e. not looking you in the eye, scampering back to the galley, should be enough for you to get a clue on the sad nature of people these days. All they have to do is scream 'I feel uncomfortable, I feel threatened.' They don't 'feel' anything, but robotically act out as children do from their own inadequacies, but also with intent. That the captain would quickly introduce the police option is also quite the norm these days. True, it's their aircraft and you're only a guest, but this story only retells how quickly you can get into a pickle these days. Other comments made here about letting sleeping dogs lie is precisely part and parcel of how we quickly arrived at the situation today. There a few 'men' to stand up for what's right, they'd rather be man-boys, take it like sheep and work on their computer games. I'm sure some of the commentators here would say 'Gee, Matt, be glad if you don't have a record after this.' A minor thing today is seemingly a national security situation. The powers that be behind the curtains are laughing at how they've managed to screw up society. Wanna fly? Then shut up. There's your slogan. At least in Asia and Europe it isn't this paranoid, yet. United should change their name to 'Interflug'. Also, watch the movie 'What's Up Doc' with Barbra Streisand for some comic relief, and education on wiley destructive characters.

Ray February 19, 2013 at 02:38 pm

This is outrageous. The entire "no photography on planes" has always struck me as particularly ridiculous, so it is annoying to hear that it is now being rigorously enforced, at least by one crew. My suspicion, however, is that we are only hearing one side of the story on this incident. The crew may have a very different recollection of the events on this flight.

jeff February 19, 2013 at 02:39 pm

I am not condoning what happened, but this is an example of a life's lesson where you have to pick and choose your battles. It is like arguing (or feeling you have to get in the last word) when dealing with a police officer during a traffic stop. You may be 100% in the right, but there is a time and a place for discussion, and the side of the road (or pre-departure on an aircraft) is not the place to prove who is "right".

Additionally, I don't feel the Captain was in the wrong - he is going to support his crew (absent clear evidence the crew member is wrong.)

Learn how to swallow your pride and keep your mouth shut. If you are not happy with how you are treated, or how this is ultimately resolved, then take your business elsewhere.

I've read about these stories happening numerous times to the common passenger and each time I cannot believe it happens and continues to happen. You are probably the most high-profile person that it has happened to and I hope it turns into a situation where you are able to change policy/procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again to the common-folk. Even when a passenger/traveler is RIGHT, they are powerless when it comes to a he-said/she-said argument with an Airline or TSA official.

AAExPlat February 19, 2013 at 02:50 pm

Honestly...the behavior of the FA should merit legal pursuit and recovery of damages. If this kind of stuff stands unchallenged...what's next? Passengers having to take off their clothes if the FA deems it necessary for security?

James February 19, 2013 at 03:03 pm

Wow, unbelievable. I usually book internal flights in the US on United (anything transcontinental I use a European airline, preferably Virgin), but I think I'll start using Virgin America and Delta as a result of this story.

Sean February 19, 2013 at 03:14 pm

I, too was on this flight in 18F. I saw the flight attendant come up to the guy in 17C and (very rudely) demand that he not take pictures. She said that it was "against FAA laws." The guy in 17C simply shook his head, said, "really?" (in disbelief). He then put his camera away and said nothing more. We then heard commotion and it became apparent that a pax in BF was being kicked off (you, as it turns out).

The flight crew from what I witnessed was EXTREMELY unprofessional and blew this situation out of control. There were quite a few very frequent fliers and bloggers onboard this flight, too.

I really hope United gets screwed in the media for this. You handled it like a champ.

I was sternly reprimanded after taking this photo on Delta:

I told the FA I took it "because the sticker was funny." She was not amused. I'm a writer as well, but am now scared to take photos on flights. Absurd.

I'm so sorry this happened to you, Matthew. It's a shame the FA singled you out over the other passenger taking pictures, especially as you complied and tried to explain yourself. And I disagree with Jon... I would have also attempted to present my business card(s) showing my "credentials" for wanting the picture(s) in the first place. I wouldn't, however, have used the "T" word.

I take pictures on every flight and I'm equally careful not to capture passengers or crew members, simply focusing on the seat (as you did) and meals. I hadn't seen that detailed onboard photo/video policy from the Hemispheres magazine until now.

Once the FA made up her mind that you were a "threat," there was really nothing that could be done, unfortunately, as wrong as she was.

I look forward to your follow-up posts with United's input and resolution.

Professor Sabena February 19, 2013 at 03:25 pm

about 5 years ago I was on a QF 747 flight from LAX-SYD. What was fascinating about it was about 2 hours out of SYD - there was an optical phenomenon which displayed as a circular rainbow. Not an image in the glass as it could be seen easily from multiple windows at different angles.

I was sitting in the Upperdeck adjacent to the Emergency Exit. The view from my seat was spectacular.

A week later I flew with a local colleague from SYD - BNE and back. The Aussie FEDERAL police paid my colleague a visit at home. When it was explained that I am a bit of a plane geek - they laughed and said that it had been reported that I was a "terrorist type" and that I was taking pictures of the exit.

I have since flown to and from Oz many times and no issue further has been reported.

Yes people are jumpy. Yes US ancient FAs have been known to behave erratically. Was their justification? No

But perhaps they breed this at UA. On a flight in 2003 from SJC-OGG i watched a UA FA insist that an 11 year old boy was a threat and had him and his father and brother literally frogmarched off the flight in plastic cuffs while we all had to witness the walk of shame. The FA was positively gloating over the event.

Perhaps it was the same FA.

I would not let it rest.


Matt February 19, 2013 at 03:26 pm


Since 9/11 using the word 'security' by FA or just about anyone with some position in the airport, means they become almighty and can do whatever they like. I've learned to keep my cool, which is very hard in situations like these, and yes, 1K and similar statuses automatically make you believe you will get at least a bit more respect and appreciation...

This is the very sad truth about US carriers which I avoid like the pest.

I had a story where a male FA started threatening me using the 'security' pretext for placing my luggage some place, after I specifically asked another FA and got an approval.

It was ME who went to the captain after the flight, and it was the FA that almost wet his pants.

I sincerely feel for you, and hope you get over it soon.

Greg February 19, 2013 at 03:33 pm

One thing that leaps out here to me is that you didn't actually violate their stated policy. You took a picture of a personal event -- sitting down in a new seat. There are no other passengers or crew in the picture.

steve February 19, 2013 at 03:38 pm

After reading other commentators regarding their own 'treatment' it boggles the mind that the public has it in their power to stop this ill behavior by simply not flying. Two weeks of not flying would put a screeching halt to their assanine attitudes. But to date the airlines have operated at will, seeing their 'customers' as a captive audience.

Sadly, with billions traveling it seems you could put a plane's destination as 'Hell' and people would push each other out of the way to buy a ticket. That's one of the reasons for the behavior problem.

Don't fly, no revenue, bankruptcy, out of business. No more power trips for these cretins.

NyRon February 19, 2013 at 03:42 pm

Being a United FA myself.. I want to apologize to you for your not so good experience onboard one of our planes... However, we as safety-first professionals, have a post 9/11 code of safety ethics to which we abide.. Your thoughtless decision to use the word "terrorist" was the pivotal point that changed the direction of this scenario.. Backdate to September 11th 2001.. One of the 3 downed planes which eerily departed Newark was UNITED flight 92... Since that faithful day, Airlines have adopted a "better safe than sorry" policy that legally enforces a passenger's immediate removal from any flight regardless of your FF status be it global alliance, 10k, 1k, or premier Plus etc.. Furthermore.. Who's to know if flight attendant XYZ lost a friend, sibling, parent, spouse, family member, or whomever on flight 92? Also the ONE thing to agitate us flight attendants, is to argue with us [for whatever reason] during pre-departure process, which can be VERY stressfully hectic, as the pressure to quickly prep the cabin AND close the boarding door is solely placed upon us. This haste severely intensifies on delayed flights since passengers tend to add to the delay and to our stress by asking inquiring with us about connecting flights, without saying hello hi or how are you? Moral of the story is, in life, you make decisions that have consequences. Sometimes they overlook the sensitivity of others, causing you to be left behind..

The global Flyer February 19, 2013 at 04:08 pm

We always need to hear the other side of the story. Sometimes the lamb is not as tame as it claim to be.

Matt February 19, 2013 at 04:37 pm

@ NyRon: Sorry this is nonsense.

Being so robotized to the point where a friendly passenger is telling you that he is NOT a terrorist...

Oh, no! your system has detected a banned word, press [call captain button] and throw this threat of the aircraft.

don't be stupid, use your brains.

james February 19, 2013 at 04:39 pm

And then there's the story of the guy who got kicked off the plane when the FA refused to help him with his Canon...but I digress...

Ironically I'm sitting with a Delta pilot at the moment and just relayed your story. He said that while it seems rediculous and he probably would have reacted differently, the moment you use the word terrorist the FAs lose it. There are certain words that FAs are now trained to listen for and report. It's up to the pilot to access and decide. Clearly your flights pilot was a jerk.

I flew UA from Rome to DC on Feb 2 this year. I was in first and I took lots of pictures. One FA did come over and ask me to make sure no crew were in the pics and no pics of the cockpit were taken. I showed him what I took and he had no issue with it.

I suspect you ran into an uptight FA who took things out of context or had a shitty day and took it out on you.

That sucks! Sorry to hear it happened.

I was also on that flight in row 18 along with Sean and Andrew. I also witnessed someone in the row in front of me get seriously reprimanded for taking a picture. So sorry that happened to you. I was not impressed with that crew at all from start to finish.

Ed C. February 19, 2013 at 05:06 pm


What the heck UA?!?!

Obg February 19, 2013 at 05:12 pm

Matt I was the passenger you referenced behind the curtain. I am just getting back from Istanbul now. There were a bunch of others that witnessed what transpired (all 1ks). Feel free to contact me offline, I was planning on sending an email outlining what happened as well. For your readers info, the FA that was jarring at me was citing an FAA regulation (that does not exist) prohibiting photography.

Insane. Completely insane. Sounds like things spiraled pretty quickly - but it never should have even started. Since when does a FA get antsy over an innocent picture??

northy February 19, 2013 at 05:17 pm

Do we really think a terrorist would be dumb enough these days to say, "I'm a terrorist", or, "I'm not a terrorist"? Seems like if someone was plotting something they wouldn't want to draw more attention to themselves.

Ridiculous situation.

Zach February 19, 2013 at 05:21 pm

No matter how hectic it ay be pre flight it is still a FA's job to treat passengers with respect.

At no point in this story did Matt argue with her or raise his voice about her decision to stop him from taking photos. He seemed reasonable and collected in his decision to clear the air with the FA so there was not any misunderstanding of the situation.

I don't think the use of the word "terrorist" is a good enough reason to kick somebody off a plane but unfortunately I feel like that might be United's story. Is terrorist like when nobody in Harry Potter was able to say Voldemort? Does it make terrorists more powerful when we say that word?

If this side of the story is the full story, and I have no reason to believe Matt would lie, then I think the FA went too far in their reaction.

Best of luck getting some type of apology for the walk of shame and having to rework your entire trip just for a bad apple.

Mitty February 19, 2013 at 05:32 pm

Matt, I'm appalled to hear about your story. I definitely hope this is investigated thoroughly by UA. Keep us updated.

A finely-written piece. You were clearly wronged and I hope UA has the good sense to compensate you for their egregious judgement.

JAson February 19, 2013 at 05:34 pm

I would never fly UA if I were you.....but wait I guess you need that 1K and mileage crap so that you can get a first class seat and then be kicked out like a dog...

Scott February 19, 2013 at 05:35 pm

Matthew - I am a long time and multiple millions of miles flyer across a variety of US airlines. I have found your blog to be insightful, clinically accurate and exceptionally unbiased in its posts. And to those, especially the FA's responding - hiding once again behind the useful at your convenience 9/11 experience - it's time for you to grow up and either be a "professional" or not - you can't play the "safety professional" and completely incompetent "service professional" at the same time. And if you can't Delta just had 44000 applicants for 400 positions.

Tired of these antics - I forwarded your blog to Jeff Smisek - as attached -

Mr Smisek -

I have gone through all of the status symbols at your airline - 1K, GS, Million Miler - and it pains me to read about this behaviour by your Flight Attendants and Pilots - I hope they enjoy all of their "power" inside that metal tube because if they worked for me in a service business - they would have been fired on the spot.

Shame on them - and shame on you for allowing such behaviour. And if you allow it to continue - why not eliminate all your 1K reservation reps, all of the GS agents - they are nothing but window dressing at this point.

See the following:



ORDport February 19, 2013 at 05:36 pm

I have to agree with NyRon, there are definitely a few key phrases not to use in an airport or on an airplane because they COULD draw the ire of some jazzed up security personnel (or in this case FA). I think you know/understand that.

I understand you explaining you're a blogger, that’s cool, and something I might’ve done if I didn’t want to just let things be and say nothing, but why you ever said you're not a terrorist is beyond me, who would ever say something like that!? Especially on an airplane!?

That said, it sucks that happened to you.

Glenn Fleishman February 19, 2013 at 05:37 pm

I have a theory consistent with everything that was said, and agrees with Zach's point.

Have United's flight attendants been told that if someone merely the uses the word "terrorist," "bomb," or any similar word that they must immediately report it to the pilot? Did she fear that had she not, a fellow attendant or passenger might have heard you use that word (in a benign context) and report it and then she'd lose her job?

Likewise, has the pilot been given direct orders that any time the word is used and reported he must bar a passenger? Pilots don't like such orders, I know, and they are typically the sole determinant of who flies on a plane. But they have less and less leverage in contracts and employment, and perhaps this is a new directive.

It would explain the discomfort of the FA and the captain: they are embarrassed by the policy, but a combination of other crew, airline employees who might be flying (and listening), and, for all we know, airline surveillance of crew made them enforce it.

It would offer a consistent explanation!

Carl February 19, 2013 at 05:42 pm

This story is incredible. It does sound like the FA didn't like you trying to explain.

Do let us know what UA does to respond.

George February 19, 2013 at 05:45 pm

Amazed at the number of readers who feel everyone should bow down meekly to authority. Sit up straight, hands in our laps? Sad and pathetic.

Tim A February 19, 2013 at 05:45 pm

Sad that no one can use common sense anymore. Guess who avoids like the plague using the word "terrorist" — terrorists! If FAs overreact to hearing that word, they need to switch to another line of work.

Reminds me of the question on the back of the immigration form for countries that don't need a visa: "Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities?" Yep, I'm sure all the terrorists mark "YES" on that one.

Fat February 19, 2013 at 06:05 pm

Saying, "I'm not a terrorist" isn't really a good thing to do in or around an airplane, and I don't think it's an issue with United.

if you disagree, when you're going through security before your next flight, try saying "I'm not a terrorist" to the friendly TSA agent and see what happens.

Sunny February 19, 2013 at 06:08 pm

My Mother was also the victim of FAs lying about a situation. In her case, they claimed that they administered oxygen to her inflight. This is patently false and no such thing happened! Because of this, she refuses to fly Air Canada. There is zero recourse for victims of FAs lying since it is usually considered an internal matter.

GN February 19, 2013 at 06:09 pm

Put it the other way around. Given what happened and your interaction with the captain, would you trust your life flying in his aircraft? I wouldn't.

Gary S February 19, 2013 at 06:10 pm

damn. now i have to come up with new catch phrases, if I can't shout "I"M THE BOMB!" and "SERIOUS LIKE A TERRORIST ATTACK!" to my bros when I get on UA.

Chris February 19, 2013 at 06:14 pm

Matt Get a life man !! You breached the airline no photos policy. A flight attendant called you on that (doing her job) - you put your camera away. Flashes were going off near your seat from others while the flight attendants were busy with pre-flight work. THEN you wanted to express your point of view to try and justify why you needed to take a photograph. (maybe a little unsatisfied with the airline policy?) You used the word "terrorist" to make your point - dumb dumb dumb.

The moral of this story is - Never argue with a flight attendant in particular during busy pre-flight time. Never use the word "terrorist" or "bomb" or "explosive" on an aircraft or at an airport.

The flight attendant and pilot did the right thing by everyone on the aircraft and got rid of the problem - ("you")

Suck it up princess in future when in business class just kick back, smile be happy and enjoy the flight.

cheers Chris

Axclr8 February 19, 2013 at 06:14 pm

Sorry to hear about what happend to you - I think you met someone who was simply had a bad day and decided to take their crap out on you - there is no execuse for what you had to go through and you should for sure contact cnn. I am a Million Milier on Delta - I have taken lots of photos from the Upper Deck but of stupid stuff like my glass of wine with the skys in the background (on KLM in Business Class on the Upper Deck) or recently from Nice to Paris taking photos of the Alps - not once was I told to stop. However, after hearing this story - I am now never going to do it - the reason is simple - if you photograph a piece of the aircraft - it is possible to reverse engineer the part and replace it - and I am not going to complete the last part but if any of you are Engineers involved in the 3D world of Manufacturing - you know exactly what I am talking about - this is what the airlines want to avoid in addition to figuring out the electrical schematics - enough said. The airlines know exactly the reasons why photographs should not be taken of the interior. Regarding the FA - you intimidated her with your blogger status - she percieved that as a threat - and voila - she leveraged your use of the "T" word to get you thrown out. I was also bullied at one time in Business Class by a Delta FA - I wrote a long letter to the Executive Managment of DELTA (my girl friend came up from Economy to give something to me) oh boy - it was not good. Anyways - Delta bent over backwards to fix the situation. My suggestion is to take this up to the Exec level and CNN and see what happens. But what is strange is that I see so many other blogs on Frequent Fliers and they are all taking photos in Business Class of themselves and their experience. So - I really think you met the wrong FA and the wrong flight crew. Fight and escalate this. Good Luck!

Larry Seltzer February 19, 2013 at 06:17 pm

The Hemispheres ONBOARD PHOTO OR VIDEO section strikes me as utterly unclear. What on earth (or in the sky) is a "personal event"?

ML February 19, 2013 at 06:22 pm

Wow. This is ridiculous that you were treated this way. This is classic United customer service and why I left for AA Exec Plat. I know customer service can vary wildly from interaction to interaction and that poor service can come with any airline, but when you fly 200k miles a year, you start to notice consistent trends in poor service - and United has VERY poor service. I'd rather fly Southwest, sit in coach each week, and get domestic-only points than fly with United. I disagree that with those who say that Matthew should have waited until later in the flight to say something...who knows what she would have done! She might have diverted the flight and made up some even more outrageous claim to get him thrown off the plane! It's time you stood up to poor service at United and take your spending to another airline.

Total February 19, 2013 at 06:24 pm


Your thoughtless decision to use the word "terrorist" was the pivotal point that changed the direction of this scenario

Oh, eek. For God's sake. So if I say "Wow, that show was the bomb!" I'm right off the plane?

Good Lord.

Sonny P February 19, 2013 at 06:29 pm

This is absolutely unacceptable. That flight attendant should be fired immediately as truly, a liar is much more of a security threat than taking a couple pics. Definitely take this story to the media so United learns their lesson on dealing with situations like this....

Michael February 19, 2013 at 06:44 pm

You know how many people should be kicked off planes. I guess when I want a free seat next to me I will be reporting him/her to FA to have them removed for taking pictures. Thank YOU united for telling me how to have someone kicked off a plane. LOL

I usually take things to the extreme especially when in the right. If that was me I would state every person on this plane must have their phones and cameras checked for pictures as IF i get removed so does the next 15 people. I would request for the pilot to produce me the exact FAA law number so when he could not produce it I could just laugh and go so I am still on your plane the law is to provide me water so I would like my glass now.

The pilot and FA are prob. laughing right now cause that's how they think I hope they get screwed at some other business when its there turn.

David February 19, 2013 at 06:50 pm

had a very similar situation on a PS flight out of LAX one time several years ago.

I certainly got United's Personal Service on that flight.

lpjg February 19, 2013 at 06:51 pm

The airline industry has changed and if you interfere with a flight attenant duties you can be thrown off. Period. The airlines don't want a problem in the air. The airlines have to take every situation seriously because the one time that they don't something could happen. There is a reason for the airlines rules. It is to protect the public and I would like to be safe as a single mother of two girls. I suggest passengers get on the flight, behave and have respect for other passengers as well as the flight crew. We do not get paid to board the fligt and we are there for safety. If she thought for any reason that the picture taking was wrong then she is right. I know it may not seem fair for a passenger that may not know the rules but it seems like you are a frequent flyer.

Stephen --- NYC February 19, 2013 at 06:54 pm

@Darren When I saw that photo, I thought of the following:

Did you ever see the British TV show "The IT Crowd"?

"Jen has to give a speech when she is named employee of the month so Moss and Roy give her the Internet in a box to use as a visual aid."

Hilarity ensues as a result of her subsequent actions.

The Value Traveler is digusted by your story and will support your cause in bringing attention to this heinous act committed by a low life United flight attendant. I take pictures of my seat ALL the time..and have never been asked to not take pictures. I take pictures of my food all the time and never been asked to stop.......this flight attendant obviously should be fired....really!!

Pursue this and dont rest until you have compensation! We deserve better, as we are the backbone of these carriers revenue!

Dan February 19, 2013 at 06:56 pm

Do u have a twitter handle with updates on stories???

Smitty February 19, 2013 at 07:00 pm

In my opinion, your title "Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures!"–with an explanation point–is deceptive and misleading. You weren't thrown off for taking pictures. You were thrown off for saying the word terrorist. But starting your story with that exclaim is effective in framing your position.

It's illegal to scream Fire in a crowded room if there isn't really a fire. It's illegal for good reason.

It isn't illegal to say the word Terrorist on an airplane, but maybe it should be. For good reason.

I think the title "Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Saying Terrorist!" would be a more honest and less manipulative title for your story.

Bob K February 19, 2013 at 07:02 pm

I have not flown Frontier Airlines since a very similar situation occurred with me on one of their flights. The FA outright lied. Absolute authority can be grossly misused when in incompetent hands.

Chris: "Matt Get a life man !! You breached the airline no photos policy. A flight attendant called you on that (doing her job) - you put your camera away...."

@Chris: If it was against airline policy to take a photo of the seat, then every passenger who flew aboard the first 787 flight should have been kicked off that flight.

This was an absurd situation, and the FA completely over-reacted. Over the past ten years, I have taken thousands of photos on UA flights, and have never run into such a crazy FA. While I might get an odd look from a passenger, I could care less about them.

Though I might not have said anything about not being a terrorist, this entire situation could have been avoided if the FA had not hidden in the galley, and the Captain had actually listened to Matthew.

@Matthew: I hope you are contacted by UA, and they straighten this out. If you don't hear anything, I've got some contacts that I can put you in touch with.

Jay February 19, 2013 at 07:12 pm

A flight full of points and miles afficianados sounds like hell. You should be glad you got thrown off!

Heather (comment #6) hit the nail on the head.

Eric Pease February 19, 2013 at 07:13 pm

Egregious behavior by the United crew. Can only hope this goes viral.

Milo February 19, 2013 at 07:21 pm

As a former Continental, current UA, International Service Manager (Purser in UA lingo), I can only apologize for the treatment you received, and hope that you give us opportunities in the future to restore your loyalty to our company. As I was not on this flight, and did not witness the entire interaction, I cannot even speculate about the behavior of the F/A and Captain in question. I can only tell you that I do expect better from my co-workers, and hope that this is the one and only time that you have such an extreme, and disappointing experience on a UA flight. This merger is difficult for all of us on the front lines, and it is very disheartening to read stories such as yours.

Peter S February 19, 2013 at 07:21 pm

This is a conspiracy theory. Maybe the FA is the pilot’s close friend (bias) or mistress so he does whatever the FA told him to do and you were being screwed.

Bettt February 19, 2013 at 07:22 pm

Because an ACTUAL terrorist would blatantly take pictures and use the word "terrorist" in every other sentence.

I feel for ya. Sorry. :(

Lee February 19, 2013 at 07:23 pm

A sad tale. It does seem that there's no question that the FA was in the wrong, assuming the story is accurate. This whole "do not use the word terrorist" defense is ridiculous. Maybe we are reaching a time when childishly overusing the word is the only way to bring it back to usefulness.

Dave February 19, 2013 at 07:25 pm

Matt, your getting booted had nothing to do with the photos. You used the word "terrorist" while arguing with an FA during pre-flight. Even pre-9/11, you would have gotten booted for that.

I know it sucks, but you're still alive and you eventually made it to your destination... as did everybody else. In fact, there were 300 people on that plane, and only one of them was inconvenienced. You. 299 of them probably flew more comfortably knowing the guy who argued "I'm not a terrorist" during pre-flight wasn't in there with them.

Sorry. No love for UA here, but I'm not sure it's as one-sided as you think it is.


Oliver February 19, 2013 at 07:25 pm

If the author was a terrorist threat worthy to be removed of the airplane, why did they rebook him on another place without first strip-searching him and taking his belongings apart? That's some awesome security United is providing us with.

ThisIsUnbelievable! February 19, 2013 at 07:31 pm

With regard to NyRon's (himself/herself a United FA) response in the comments above, which are,

".. Your thoughtless decision to use the word "terrorist" was the pivotal point that changed the direction of this scenario.."

Can you not use the word terrorist during flight? Or any other of the thousands of words in the English language that have been used in context of 9/11 or the wars and events that ensued thereafter? Is there published list of such words that passengers should be made aware of so we don't get booted for accidentally using an off-limit-while-flying word? I find it incredible that after the author has explained everything in detail, another United FA would essentially defend/condone the actions taken by the horrible FA that the author had to deal with. This suggests to me that this is training (or lack thereof) or policy that is decided on at a higher level in United; I wonder how many United FAs would agree with the author's removal. I understand the sensitivities after 9/11, but the author did not use that word in a manner that would suggest a threat to the FA.

I respect/admire you for taking a stand even though it led to more trouble for you.

UA Over-Entitled February 19, 2013 at 07:50 pm

Are you sure it was a legacy United crew?

That's crazy. While having left the issue alone after the initial encounter might have been the better course of action, as in nothing further would have happened. That doesn't mean the FA acted appropriately, she totally blew this out of proportion. And the Captain saying that they were already late was unprofessional, irrelevant of why the decision was made it makes it sound like getting the flight out is more important than customer service, because the minute it would take to pretend to listen to you would have made a difference. I'm assuming he wouldn't have changed his mind.

While I wouldn't recommend arguing with the Captain, at the point where you're kicked off the flight and been threatened it you don't have much to lose. They're not going to actually have you arrested for taking a minute to state your case. Even more reason the Captain should have been more professional when he spoke to you.

A simple, "I'm sorry if there was a misunderstanding but if my FA isn't comfortable with you on this flight then I'm going to have to back her up." Then he doesn't sound like a jerk, you at least think he listened, even if he didn't. The FA thinks she was backed up by the Capt and the same outcome happens with less drama.

Good Luck with United. If they give a BS response I would move to another airline. While I don't feel like a 1K makes you extra special, it does warrant that the airline really look into this. If in 10 years you never had an issue then there was at the least, a misunderstanding and that should be acknowledged.

SFOSW February 19, 2013 at 07:55 pm

Hey NyRon, it wasn't UNITED 92. It was United Flight 93. If you're gonna quote 9/11... Get it right.

Yes the OP had a sense of entitlement in his post. He was also wrong to even bring terrorism into the discussion. He went THERE... and got what he was looking for... a fight. one he lost.... Yes the FA was wrong for freaking out. We freak out a lot these days. We put up with more and more BS from the company as much as the snotty "elite" people we are trapped in an airplane with.

-A FA with slightly more attention to detail

Alex T February 19, 2013 at 08:09 pm

If taking pictures is not permitted, this should have been explicitly advised to all passengers at the gate, before boarding. Putting such terms and conditions in an in-flight magazine are only legal cover ups. It does not say anything about customer service and being proactive to avoid any issues on board. So, I do hope you get your apology, because, let's face it, if you do not, there are plenty of other airlines out there who will be happy to take your dollars. You win, UA will lose.

Jim February 19, 2013 at 08:10 pm

Well, after reading this I will NEVER fly with UA again. They WERE my backup Airline, but never again. That crew needs to get several doses of common sense training. Wise up UA.

WalnutArtisan February 19, 2013 at 08:11 pm

I am a Flight Attendant myself, and as a Flight Attendant I can NEVER assume that customers know what I know!!! Not all customers are aware of the company established policies and procedures! There are millions of customers who fly on UNITED that does not speak English, for example, some of the customers on that flight to Istanbul does not speak English, and would't know how to read photography guidelines. The ONLY reason that I think you felt to explain yourself is because Flight Attendant must have approached you in very harsh and judgmental manner, and ordered you to stop taking photos. Usually, in this type of situation, I would approach a customer, I would ask how they are doing, if they are comfortable, ask them if they would want to drink something, and then I would get into their level, establish eye contact and would speak very softly advising customer of the policies in none ordering manner! I would allow customer to give their side of the reasoning. I think FA used very poor judgement!!! In normal situations, it is customary to engage customer in conversation by other crew members to evaluate the situation, before making a decision to remove someone from the airplane. I'm sorry what you have experienced and I hope the incident will be evaluated. Please share on the outcome of this complaint.

This is … beyond words.

I’ve had issues with exCO United staff before out of IAH over photography – to the point where I now avoid IAH for the fears of intolerant crew like this.

It’s another joy of travel chipped away.

We're becoming a nation of frightened sheep and I'm glad Matthew has chosen not to be one.

Sam February 19, 2013 at 08:35 pm

This story really makes me angry. It's unbelievable how you were treated. I completely understand how stressful and hectic things must be pre-flight for the FA, but it's their job to be professional and provide good customer service. There is no getting around the fact that the FA acted inappropriately. There is no way she could have objectively believed you were any kind of threat.

I really hope that you are contacted by UA and that the FA is disciplined. I'm sure this type of situation occurs frequently (and that this particular FA has caused other pax inconvenience or unpleasant flight experiences). While I'm sorry you had to go through this, I am glad that you are in a position to bring attention to the incident. Keep us posted!

Unbelievable, this makes my blood boil. Do not let it rest. You and any other passenger deserves to be treated better than this. Sometimes these old FA think they are God and control everything. Her name should be published for all to see along with the name of the Captain. I have taken many photographs and a few times asked not too. But it always makes me angry because I see hundreds of photographs of people WITH the Captain IN THE COCKPIT and they want me to put my camera away because I took a picture of the seat! or the food! or the seat in front of me.

Denise Beausay February 19, 2013 at 08:43 pm

Hmmmm He writes pretty for sure and is a professional "spinner". Where is the truth? Somewhere in the middle I presume? Now he IGNITES the flames of Passengers VS Crew under the guise of a loyal United Blogger. Bad form sir.

Joseph M February 19, 2013 at 08:44 pm

I don't have a blog but I fly 20 - 60K a year mostly on Delta and AA. I take pictures of every meal, seat on my flights etc and have never had anyone, either crew or passenger, take exception to my doing so. I really find it incredulous that one would be removed from an airplane for doing so. This story doesn't do much to improve my already low regard for United Airlines customer service, policies and procedures. I realize they did make effort to get you to your final destination after they removed you from the plane. Imagine how you would have been treated absent status on United.

Russell February 19, 2013 at 08:51 pm

@NyRon What utter, utter rubbish.

You are actually saying that use of a word without any threatening context or indicators is, in and of itself, the proximate and necessary cause for all that? That FA's are actually incapable of doing anything other than reacting in one way? Not only are you saying that FA's are incapable of thinking beyond the level of a trained dog (& not a bright one either) but that they should be rewarded for doing so. Don't you dare invoke all the cultural memories of events from over a decade ago! It's disingenuos and demeans those events. There was no threat. No reasonable person would ever perceive there to be a threat. The crew, FA & captain, if they acted as reported, were simply unthinking morons. Any reasonable employer would fire such people as incapable of performing their jobs.

There's a reason that so many people avoid American carriers these days (& it's not just because of the crappy hard & soft products, delivered badly) and you're exemplifying it entirely.

Justin February 19, 2013 at 09:02 pm

CRAZY!!! Sorry to hear that this happened to you. One of my favorite things to read from bloggers are their trip reports!

Jess February 19, 2013 at 09:07 pm

Really? It should be illegal to say "terrorist" on a plane? Because terrorists tend to say, "Listen, before we take off, I'd like you all to know that I am NOT a terrorist. Here's my business card clearly stating I am NOT a terrorist!"

At no time did anyone tell him he was being kicked off for stating he was not a terrorist. They said it was because he wouldn't stop taking pictures. His title is, therefore, perfectly apt.

Adam February 19, 2013 at 09:09 pm

Sorry to hear about everything that happened. This incident flustered me so much that I felt obligated to help pass on the story to United.

BR February 19, 2013 at 09:13 pm

Definitely go to the media with this

United shouldn't have wrong you: 1) You are a very loyal flyer 2) You are a travel writer so you can publicize the bad experience on your blog 3) You have a law degree

steve February 19, 2013 at 09:21 pm

RE: ipjg "We do not get paid to board the fligt (sic) and we are there for safety." That sentence manifests the enormity of the problem we have with people. No doubt this matrix clone truly believes what she wrote. She couldn't be a better poster child for the Age of Fear. We're doomed. Oops, is 'doomed' on the no-speak list. Welcome to Brave New World, 1984 all rolled into one. We've arrived, courtesy of one dumb and brainwashed population. The Age of Englightenment and Reason never stood a chance.

Stephen - Texas February 19, 2013 at 09:25 pm

@Matt are you considering making contact with the mainstream media about your story? It appears that many of your readers and fellow bloggers would be happy to blast every media outlet we know with your story.

It is disappointing to hear of the few FAs who are disenchanted with little accountability for the inexcusable actions. Is it incredibly difficult for an FA to be terminated by the airlines?

Considering what others bloggers have received from UA don't be surprised if you receive nothing more than silence.

Roy February 19, 2013 at 09:26 pm
  1. How many times have you had the opportunity to read the Hemispheres magazine as a 1K passenger, and with this being your profession you still aren't aware of the rules regarding photography?
  2. It's clear from the comments that MULTIPLE passengers were takings photos during boarding, I hope your not so self-involved to not recognize that this would feel pretty uncomfortable to ANY FA.
  3. WHY with your awareness of the travel industry would you attempt to prove your point (still during boarding) by using the word ''terrorist' and implying that your business card/status/blog/coat trumps any form of security measures?
  4. As a blogger one would assume you attempt to see things from others perspective: as the FA with numerous passengers taking numerous photos AND feeling the need to discuss and defend this, should she/he ignore this and deal with it over the Atlantic? If the risk is an actual terrorist having photos of the flight deck door, flight deck entry/exit procedures, standard operating procedures, crew member areas of responsibility, is this worth a snapshot of a TV screen?
  5. PUBLICLY DEFAME? I'm assuming there was not an announcement made specifically citing you as the cause of a delay and you were not dragged off in handcuffs through the entire main cabin aisle? You even stated that a Global Services Rep brought you out of the cabin to discuss the situation, which is about as respectful as anyone could be on an aircraft. This literally means the crew involved a representative specifically employed to deal with these kinds of situations to personally discuss and re-book your travel plans.
  6. For those that say,"I take pictures all the time!" There is about 4 FAs for every 125 passengers, they cannot be everywhere at once. Apparently no FAs have actually seen you taking pictures, or they would have told you not to.
  7. "Even though the 9/11 attacks were over a decade ago" I hope your heart sank as you typed this, being fully aware that your job doesn't really expect you to keep terrorism on the forefront of your mind each day as you clock in. An issue here is being so self-involved that you cannot imagine a flight crew experiencing, assessing and managing an entire aircraft of passengers and circumstances, and then making difficult decisions to protect EVERYONE's safety, all while hanging your coat.
Keppler February 19, 2013 at 09:34 pm

I am not a UA loyalist, I must say. I spent about ten years amassing about 1.2M miles, and very little of that was on UA flights because the attitude of the crew was often unpleasant. So, I guess I'm not especially surprised by your experience. Sounds like you handled it very well. I hope the airline deigns to contact you about this and makes some attempt to make it up to a loyalist. Good luck.

Chuck February 19, 2013 at 09:41 pm

Hey, sorry about the issue you had and I feel sorry for all the people who say just be quiet and take it. I just watched the Time Machine last night and these type of people are what come to mind when they show the Eloy just mindlessly following each other. It is more common than ever that people just follow any "rule" and don't use what little mind they might have. There was a kid here who was expelled from school for throwing a make believe "grenade" while playing. I wonder if this FA was his teacher....sad, very sad. I would just take my business elsewhere after receiving compensation from United whether it's an apology or monetary.

LC February 19, 2013 at 09:49 pm

I had the same situation on a United flight several years ago -- kicked off based on a FA lying to the pilot. I had no recourse and it was simply a matter of him backing her up without question. I guess it's an unwritten code that the pilot back the FA no matter what.

Matt February 19, 2013 at 09:56 pm

Part of me wishes you had waited for the police to come, but it's great that you complied. Good show. I've now resolved that if I'm ever wrongfully thrown off a plane for any similarly stupid reason that i will loudly apologize for the crew's apparent ineptitude and that despite being so dense, they probably are otherwise kind people. I sincerely hope there's a good explanation on the other side of this story because this is just lame. Social media, go to work!

Kiwiscanfly2 February 19, 2013 at 09:59 pm

Am so sorry thus happened to u

Tim February 19, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Well, shame on UA. But, quite frankly, you acted like a knucklehead. Yes, you are only 26, but as an experienced traveler you really should know better. Don't say terrorists, Al Qaida or bomb on an airplane. Don't flaunt your useless business card. Just a case of DYKWIA. Be a better judge of character. The FA sounds like a majorly frustrated bitch. But she is a bitch with power over you.

Having said that UA was wrong. I would speak to CS, and if you can, Jeff. I am not defending UA at all, but you are not helping your case. The policy is ridiculous and shows where we are as a nation. A bunch of pansies.

Logan February 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Nobody's decision here was right or wrong. The way this was handled by UA's crew(according to your story), however, was not professional. Unless you are posing an immediate threat, they still need to treat you with respect.

Happy Jack February 19, 2013 at 10:27 pm

WOW. Thanks for posting about this and warning me about United. I would have never known about the no-pic policy and I would have probably been kicked off also.

Billy February 19, 2013 at 10:38 pm

"So I was on this flight and the whore of an FA wouldn't let me or others take pictures for my trip report. I'm going to see if I can get her fired." Meh. Would have been a boring blog post. Well played.

DaninSTL February 19, 2013 at 10:42 pm

United was out of line. It's just to bad you've invested so much in them to be let down.

I don't fly United much due to my location but I've never been impressed with the FAs on UA. Maybe just me, I'm sure there are good ones but most I've met don't seem to like their job or act like tenured union supermarket clerks.

Get your million miles and get a status match from someone else I say.

Dinomonte February 19, 2013 at 11:04 pm

She lied.

But you said the T word. Very dumb.

Beyond belief. I hope United takes customer service issues like this seriously. On the face of it, it doesn't seem to be an issue of not following f/a instructions...which is a documented no-no. We all know that "United Breaks Guitars". So perhaps, on reflection, the world's largest airline (at this moment in time) might attempt a common-sense approach to a real problem. I'm looking forward to United's response.

Sean February 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm

This exact thing happened to me last week on flt from Tokyo to Newark. Im a 1k million miler and had never flown the configuration. I settled in and snapped a pic and texted it to a friend who flies the same route on occasion. Immediately the FA that was at the door greeting came over and said in my ear that I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the flight crew. I said I just took a picture of this new seat she said no more pictures and stormed off. I didn't get kicked off. Btw if I did I would never fly them again. FAs put up with lots of crap but the attitudes and threats of police needs to stop. Spend sometime on some of the Asian carriers and see how nice and genuinely thankful the employees are for your business and try and see what has gone wrong with crabby people manning the business "first" cabin. A quick check of your seat number would tell the fa everything about you and your ticket. It's ridiculous for you to have been de-planed.

Rob February 19, 2013 at 11:15 pm

NyRon made great points. I had a feeling the word "terrorist" would set off all sorts of bells and whistles inside the FA's head. I just read MommyPoint's having the issue with her baby girls' booster seat, in her case she gave up when she knew it was going nowhere and had to deal with her kid flying with no booster seat.

This post was scary on my end because I do tend to take pics of the seats, windows, meals and IFE. I hope I don't get kicked off a plane one day. I don't plan to stop.

Scott February 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Sorry to hear about our some (turning into many I'm afraid) FAs are using security as a means to an end....they either hate the new responsibilities/increased work they have and feel powerless....thus using security gives them power...or they are idiots who don't have brains and can't use common sense.

Now I'd like to say I've also had some very wonderful FAs recently who are clearly very smart and service oriented. And to them I say Thank you! Unfortunately, it sounds like you got the stupid, self absorbed, power obsessed, angry type.

To United: you owe Matthew at minimum an apology and hopefully some form of compensation in miles, free flight, upgrades....something...and id suggest you'd find a way separating the stars from the angry bitter workers you have in the sky's so much more often these days.

Good luck Matthew....I've always enjoyed you blog....

rene February 19, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Crazy. I have tweeted, uh, everyone about this. The best part, with all it's faults, Delta is so much better than United. Plus, I have a post on the way to show Delta is 10x better than United and this is just one reason why. But thanks so much for this post! - Rene

Albert February 19, 2013 at 11:32 pm

This is truly unbelievable - I'll be writing into United for sure to have them change this policy. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

Eric February 19, 2013 at 11:51 pm

This really seems to optimize the sad state of security theater and American air travel. Sorry to hear this happened to you.

Loren February 20, 2013 at 12:01 am

Unlike a bunch of other people on here I don't think it was the word "terrorist" that caused the trouble.

Rather, it was you defending yourself rather than meekly submitting to her authority that set her off.

I also think you're being too generous here--their deliberate misdeed cost you that second ticket, I think they owe you it's value.

Lynn February 20, 2013 at 12:09 am

Having been a flight attendant going on 38 years, I can say I would have been mortified over this injustice. I've flown with fas like this. They have all the rules and regs in their minds, but no idea how to treat people with dignity. I guarantee you there was more than one co-worker who was also embarrassed by her running up and down the aisles being the picture police. I fly internationally and I often get people to open their window shades when we are flying over something beautiful and, by all means, take pictures. Guess I better stop doing that - nah!

Stephan February 20, 2013 at 12:11 am

Amazing what happened to you. A very sad state of affairs. Only on a US airline. Hope you get some compensation from UA. How can you ever fly with this outfit again? You need to go more public given your status with UA.

And some of the mindless, almost drone-like replies here (ie: NYRon and Heather#6), just makes one wonder what has become of this country. The terrorists won a long time ago and the rest of the world just laughs at stuff like this. Can you imagine this happening on ELAL?

Andy February 20, 2013 at 12:13 am

I'm sorry this happened to you! What I've learnt from your story (and others) is that to only answer the question asked and provide no extra information. Even though sometimes it's frustrated, it saves headaches later on.

Skypath February 20, 2013 at 12:15 am

@WalnutArtisan I'm sure many of us greatly appreciate the sort of angle that you would take. Do please keep it up and I honestly hope to one day run into you in my flights!

UA Flier February 20, 2013 at 12:18 am

Is it just me, or does NYRon strike anyone as an FA impostor? Things really got murky for me when he called out the wrong UA Flight on 9/11, then started referencing products "global alliance, 10k, 1k, or premier Plus etc.."

It's called Global Service, and Premier Access and unless I just fell off the turnip truck anyone who works for UA, including the custodian knows what Global Service is. I'm hardly what you would call a UA frequent flier, but I know the product names.

Just strikes me as a little odd that this person may not be who they say they are.

Curtis Jackson February 20, 2013 at 12:19 am

Let me add to the minority chorus: You did nothing wrong from a legal or airline rule standpoint, but you chose to (a) bother the FA with an unnecessary explanation during pre-flight in (b) a most entitled fashion and (c) employing the word "terrorist". Calling the FA a liar rather than using less inflammatory language also wasn't the smartest move, although I'm sure by then it was already too late.

I think the no photos rule is absurd, just as I think most of security theater is absurd, but your handling of the conflict situation, while sincere, was more than a bit juvenile.

As someone else said: Learn to pick both your battles and the manner and timing thereof. If it hadn't been so important to you that the FA know that you are 1K and a travel blogger, everything would've been fine.

Eric February 20, 2013 at 12:39 am

Dishonesty seems to be the norm. I had a United flight the day after Christmas from Nashville to Houston that was officially cancelled due to weather despite being calm in Both cities and the earlier, delayed flight taking off at our scheduled time.

The next day, the ground staff told us a flight crew did not show up and wrote an offical form stating this. My initial claim for compensation was denied until I followed up with the form showing they lied to the passengers and the FAA reports. At least they tried to "make it right" six weeks later with a small voucher after keeping people overnight and denying hotel stays.

Carol February 20, 2013 at 12:50 am

The "no picture" policy is there for safety concerns at which I am not at liberty to really get into & all or most airlines have the same policy. As a United employee, & a flt attendant, I am sorry this happened to you. I will not disparage my fellow coworkers as I was not a witness to this incident but I would like to say that mergers are stressfull & very confusing not just for the customers but also for the employees. We are currently merging 2 huge operations with completely different procedures & cultures. Things are changing rapidly within the company. While this policy is not new, to those of us who are employed in this industry, the changes we re encountering DAILY in our jobs are new & in some cases life altering. I make no excuses for her & how she treated you. I just ask for your understanding that she may have known of this policy but not understood it or how to inform you in a more appropriate manner.

Jake T. February 20, 2013 at 01:12 am

@Carol - given the countless instances of photographs being taken on-board (with crew, of meals, seats, etc) on United-operated flights that continue to this day, it is hard to see where this "no-picture" policy is being strictly enforced and why. You seem very convinced that all airlines have this policy in effect (with countless stories, posts, etc that would indicate otherwise) - could you please point out where these policies are located? And perhaps you could explain why this policy wasn't enforced on-board the inaugural 787 flight of United Airlines?

SOLTATIO February 20, 2013 at 01:16 am

I'm a tad worried about moving to North America if this is the kind of customer service I can expect from FA's in NA after living in Asia for 4 years and experiencing the best. Please update us when you hear from United.

Kevin February 20, 2013 at 01:24 am

I think the words: "safety-first professionals" should be considered a taboo, just like the word "terrorist".

Jackie C. February 20, 2013 at 01:24 am

@Carol - are we talking about the same airline which is inviting passengers to share their "United experience" with photos on instagram?

Kathleen February 20, 2013 at 01:32 am got a new reader out of the deal! Happy to be introduced to your blog today for the first time!

Brent February 20, 2013 at 01:39 am

Need to book a domestic flight tomorrow. Guess it won't be on United.

Kamal February 20, 2013 at 02:15 am


This sad incident reminds me of a 2010 Bollywood movie called "My name is Khan". (and I am not a terrorist). Worth watching...

As a non-westerner who travels a great deal, you get used to discrimination by a small minority of people in power. It's not limited to a particular airline or country or culture (though USA is more sensitive). Post 9-11, there's no point in arguing or explaining. Just observe and complain later.

Imagine the same incident with a non-white passenger. If I even mention the wrong words like terrorist or bomb, regardless of the context, i'll end up on a no-fly list or worse.

Best to keep quiet...

kevin mcpherson February 20, 2013 at 02:22 am

Thanks for the tip!! I will not be flying United as it's obvious that the flight crew has been infiltrated by TSA morons!! Flight attendant had lied or why would she hide? IF she was in the right she would have stood her ground!! And why wasn't he allowed to show anyone his phone photo section to prove he had stopped? Bunch of clowns on this particular flight.Hope you publish Captains name so we can avoid any of his flights(just in case we have no other options but to fly this airline in the future)

Sherry February 20, 2013 at 02:39 am

I am a Ex-Con, United Flight attendant. Over the years, I have seen plenty of flight attendants with control issues. But its still rare to remove passengers. Personally I have only done it once. There may be more to this story. Airlines need legal grounds for removal, a Fed Air Reg violation. By far the most common violation, FAR 121.575- "A certificate holder may not allow any customer to board if that customer appears to be intoxicated." 2nd most common, FAR 121.580 - No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crew member in the performance of the crew member's duties. Usually one leads to another

Thanks all for your comments. I am traveling in Yerevan, but I will take some time to respond in greater detail later today.

@Sherry: I had no alcohol and what I said to the FA I wrote above. I can only surmise she deemed me talking to her as "intimidating" though I cannot see why--my tone was conversational and not at all threatening. But the reason I was thrown off the flight--according the captain and GS agent--was not that I threatened or intimidated a FA or used the word "terrorist", it was that I continued to take pictures after the FA told me to stop. And that simply wasn't the case.

Please don't imply that I must have been drinking/tipsy, because I had only had water all day. In fact, I have a picture of my PDB--seltzer water with lime.

gavinmac February 20, 2013 at 03:00 am

Reading your version of events, United is mostly to blame. you share some of the blame though. She told you to stop taking pictures, and right or wrong, you should have just stopped and let the matter go. Instead, you call her back over to argue with her and try to give her your business card, which kind of sounds like a DYKWIA moment/threat. "I'm a blogger, I write about United on the internet, and I'm annoyed with you." You should have just let it go.

Did they offload your bag and further delay the flight over this, or did you not have a checked bag and do you think they knew that? Maybe checked bags make you less likely to get thrown off planes. I don't know.

MakingSomeContrails February 20, 2013 at 03:11 am

Just a few weeks ago, I popped up in to the cockpit of my 777 for our transpac flight and chatted briefly with the pilots. They saw my iPhone in my hand and asked if I wanted to take a picture. All three of them quickly posed for the shot and I snapped it. It was a great shot....OF THE FLIGHT DECK nonetheless! :)

I dislike this whole "we have to be the eyes of security for the skies" attitude. While I agree that employees need to watch for suspicious behavior, the fact that FAs will be buried in a People magazine as passengers hover in the first class galley makes me believe that this policy of them being responsible for aviation security sure comes at their discretion.

Dale February 20, 2013 at 03:33 am

For future reference in order to guard against a he said she said situation may I suggest that you go to the Spy Shop on 14032 Beach Boulevard in Westminster and look into getting either a small audio tape recorder or a small audio/video recorder to have handy to document things should an untoward incident happen in the future.

Last May I had Jury Duty in Santa Ana (I didn't get on a case) and afterwards I took a couple pictures of the courthouse from the public sidewalk. Before I knew it I was intercepted by two Orange County Sheriff Deputies and was told that I couldn't take pictures of the courthouse and I had to delete the pictures and they saw to it that I did so. They took my ID and did some sort of background check and no doubt a report was made. Then I was allowed to depart. That incident was on a Wednesday late afternoon. First thing Friday morning a call came from someone in the Orange Police Department representing Homeland Security and I was questioned about the incident. I asked if I broke any laws and the officer couldn't cite any laws I broke. I felt I did not handle the incident well but I was in a bad spot and I was not fully aware of my rights. I did not think to get the officer's badge number else there would have possibly been a lawsuit. But with a recorder and documentation of future incidents I would have some recourse.

visitor February 20, 2013 at 03:38 am

Wow - just wow. A bit entitled with the business card shtick but that's no excuse for the crew's behavior. A couple of points made by other posters should be restated. 1) The section in Hemispheres cited by the FA is in English, what if you were Turkish and were not able to speak/read English? Is it in Turkish too? Is the no photo policy in the Contract of Carriage? I didn't see it in a quick search; 2) UA's Instagram page. Whoa Nelly. If the no pictures policy is enforced as described above, this UA marketing adventure is in for a world of pain; 3) Terrorist = bad, Bomb = bad [don't talk about UA's website]. What else = bad? Can I watch Airplane on my iPad? I've watched The Hurt Locker and The Kingdom on flights through the airline's own IFE, does that make me a threat if my volume is too loud and the FA hears these bad words?; 4) Is it a crime if the pilot "has to" call the police because you didn't disembark? (or didn't disembark fast enough?); and 5) What's with the so-called security issues with the photos? Here is a simple Google search for "United Airlines cockpit" What else could someone find out from another picture?

John k February 20, 2013 at 03:47 am

A common sense from ALL parties involved could've prevented this fiasco.

HikerT February 20, 2013 at 03:54 am

The terrorists win again. :(

Anna Poon February 20, 2013 at 03:56 am

I feel so sorry for what had happened. I work for United & I'm speaking for myself as an outsider with no reference to my company. I love my job and i was a retired police officer with years of criminal investigation experience. Though we should not judge but demeanor of someone is also a factor of suspicion. I always take pictures for passengers like couple, family onboard that will leave them a great memory of traveling as well as our airlines. In your situation, perhaps someone got paranoid. If I was there, I would have handled in a different way. But as a crew member and a small potato, we can only do so much. I did work with thousands of crew, many have the basic requirement for the job with no other life experience or other professional experience. As to someone lie, I believe most people lie when they know that they may have to be responsible for a matter. I've met passenger lie to accuse me. Thanks to other passengers who back me up. Otherwise, I could have lost my job as well. I guess if there's a better communication skill on that situation, matter shouldn't be that bad. However, this's a good scenery to share though I felt sorry for the delay of your trips.

asdfas February 20, 2013 at 04:08 am

This is my judgment based solely on your story:

First, I think the photo rule is stupid.

Second, The FA was wrong to incorrectly enforce the 'photo policy' if you indeed only took one photo of the seatback in front of you and no more pictures.

Third, sorry but you were at least partially wrong:

By demanding the FA to return, hang up your coat, and oh by the way boasting of your travel blog job and that you 'knew' people in Chicago, the implication to her was probably "Ok, this guy thinks he's gonna do whatever he wants because he's such a big shot and that the safety rules don't apply to him, and he thinks I shouldn't try to assert my authority on him even on issues of safety."

She may have been incorrect in her assertion that you took multiple photos, but she may not have been purposely lying, but rather really believed you weren't compliant and took more than one picture. I guess only a polygraph would help...

Lastly, I do think the use of the word 'terrorist' was just enough 'ammo' for her to easily get you booted.

Is that absurd?

From your point of view (which is rational) of course. You aren't a terrorist, and taking iphone photos openly is clearly not terrorist behavior (or shouldn't be thought of as terrorist behavior in my opinion).

I don't think using that word was bad. It was how you used it.

Again, the implication again was "ignore your training, and don't worry if I follow rules. I'm not a terrorist because I just told you and oh by the way I'm a travel writer bigshot blogger who knows UA executives"

The photo "rule" in my opinion is stupid.

However, your implied (express?) challenge to her authority on safety issues at the beginning of a long flight followed up with that language makes it a nobrainer for the pilot.

The pilot has hundreds of people on the flight who just want to get somewhere safely.

He was probably not at all worried that you were a terrorist. He was at least 50% worried that you did disobey the FA with the photos, and then 100% worried that the dynamic between you and the FA was really bad, and that this had a significant chance of deteriorating inflight and that safety could then be a real issue.

I think the pilot has zero blame here. He does have to back up the flight attendants, and he knows them. If they say you were taking photos and not following safety instructions, what is he supposed to do. He doesn't know you. He does not have time to be a referee. He has others to think about. He really didn't even have to talk to you, and you shouldn't interpret his bad eye contact as rudeness. He is a pilot, not a public speaker. (Now if this is a recurring theme with the FA or pilot, then maybe something needs to be done about the FA or pilot later. But on the plane, I think he has to side with the FA in this type of thing.

So overall, you are justified in your complaint about the stupid photo rule and the bad choices/"lying" by the FA in 'enforcing' the rule, but you do share some blame for getting booted by at least implicitly challenging the FA in issues of safety, and lastly I think the pilot was probably right.

PapaLima February 20, 2013 at 04:22 am

A) You definitely come off entitled. I reckon you don't mean to, but you do. 1K status, Global Services, whatever- when a crew member is dealing with a situation like that, they aren't going to give a rip about someone's status, and in fact flaunting it or trying to drag it out as some kind of "proof" of... something, I dunno, isn't going to do any good.

I mean, what's the implication? "I'm a 1K, so you should be more reluctant to throw me off the plane because of possible security issues than you should be to throw a guy in the last row of economy off"? That's ludicrous, pure and simple.

B) the FA screwed up. Pure and simple. I wouldn't say it's a big "she lied" kind of situation; she just said something to someone about you making her uncomfortable and then it got out of control really quick.

Something to remember- there are a ton of crew that are still very, very, very traumatized by 9/11. Whether anyone thinks it's reasonable or not, it's a fact. Those crew members often were friends with the crew killed on those flights.

Here's a dirty little secret from the airline industry: There's a significant percentage of crew who will not fly on 9/11. They will bid lines that miss that day, and if they can't dodge it by trading out of trips or dropping them, they'll call in sick. I know, because my ex-wife used to do that along with several of her FA friends.

Again, it's one of those things that whether we think it's reasonable or not, it's a fact of life. Those folks are continually on guard and once there's a possible issue, boom, forget it- off the plane you go.

C) you screwed up. You didn't need to go and reassure her. You just needed to quit taking pictures. That's it. Nobody's going to be impressed that you're a blogger. Nobody really cares. But running your mouth got you booted, pure and simple.

D) There's tons of blame. Who cares? It's not a federal case, and it's not some big outrage. Going to "the media" or trying to stir up a bunch of hatred isn't going to do anything. Most people hearing this story are going to assume that either you had it coming, or maybe you didn't but they aren't going to care.

The best thing to do at this point is STFU, work it out with UAL, and hope that they don't flag you onto the no-fly list.

Sherry February 20, 2013 at 04:28 am

It is just not simple to remove a passenger.
Half the passengers are still talking on the phone after take off, and nobody ever pays any attention to the fasten seat belt sign. You don't see flight attendants getting passengers removed for those things, even though both are actual FAR violations. The photo thing is just a policy. A policy, by the way I never see enforced. But, the authority to remove a customer belongs solely to the Captain, Far 91.3 " the pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft"

In 23 years, I have never seen a pilot make that decision hastily, or based on the opinion of a single flight attendant.

@Sherry: Well, the captain had no desire to hear what I had to say and my interaction was only with the one FA (other than a greeting from the purser when she handed me the menu). He just wanted to get the plane out. As I stated in my post, I don't begrudge the captain's call after the FA lied to him--I only begrudge the rude manner in which he addressed me.

@PapaLima: With respect, I think you are way off. I mentioned my 1K status here--and not to the crew--to show that I am not just a one-off traveler who had a bad time. Rather, I have spent a great deal of my LIFE the last decade with United. Over 700K miles on United alone.

And you really think I tried to "impress" the FA by giving her my business card? I wanted to explain why I had taken a picture of my seat--that is all. BTW, she most certainly did lie when she said I continued to take pictures.

And your last line--a threat--is not appreciated. The insinuation that I should be put on UA's "no-fly list" because of this incident represents the jejune paranoia that so sadly characterizes the mindset of far too many in this country.

Monica February 20, 2013 at 04:49 am

I don't see how everyone is missing the fact that this gentlemen and all passengers are CUSTOMERS of the the airlines. In any other industry if you received such a level of "customer service" most people would never patronize the company again. I know we are limited in our choices, but it seems a statement should be made, and the only way to do so is with the dollars you spend. I'd suggest spending them elsewhere.

hello February 20, 2013 at 04:58 am

i once had an argument with a FT over the last row, they were insistant that they needed it for rest. However, the gate agent had already assigned me in that empty row so just for spite the purser came over and insisted that two seats be reserved for the crew. After that, the FT made a complaint to mgn and the row magically became revenue, and the FT never again had that row empty as mgn ensured that pass were always sat there. FT thing they have lots of power and security is a REAL CONCERN, however powerhungy FT sometimes do themselves no favors.

Randy February 20, 2013 at 05:01 am

As a former station manager with 19 daily flights (small, but not tiny,) for an undisclosed airline, and at another time in a job associated with United, it was interesting to read Matt's story. The flight attendant asked him to stop photographing which he did after just one shot.

Trouble began when he tried to explain himself as they were trying to dispatch the aircraft, and he mentioned the word, "terrorist." Both drew attention to himself.

From everything I have read, the Flight Attendant lied that Matt ignored her directive and continued to take pictures, but not simply putting away your camera and keeping a lower profile until the flight was in the air (and taking photos when that flight attendant was around.)

As a mileage runner myself, and taking more than my share of photos on airlines around the world, its pathetic of the airline to complain about taking photos onboard in this iPhone age. Drawing attention to yourself and mentioning post-9/11 codewords just before departure was not bright though.

In all honesty, 1K's, despite being good customers, can also be the most pushy. An airline needs to balance the needs of a passenger, with safety concerns, and the operational (on time) efficiencies of an airline. It is not always a balance that is handled well.

africanoracle February 20, 2013 at 05:06 am

you committed the CARDiNAL sin, you said the T word......

Md February 20, 2013 at 05:40 am

Two words that might have a say....union...and....getting laid. If either would impact the situation...idk

Kelvin February 20, 2013 at 05:56 am

It's really sad that some people think just saying the word terrorist in a non threatening way should be grounds for being thrown off a plane. Comment #74 and #88 are spot on regarding this issue.

I almost expect this kind of illogical poor service from United, but I can't imagine this could ever happen on Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Asiana or a long list of other foreign carriers. This story re-emphases what most people who travel internationally have long ago realized: don't fly a U.S. carrier when foreign airlines are available on the same route.

PapaLima states in comment #141 "there are a ton of crew that are still very, very, very traumatized by 9/11". These crew members who are too traumatized to effectively preform their job to standards, should be moved to reservations or ground staff since having these "very, very, very traumatized people" on a flight and responsible for passenger safety seems like a much bigger risk than someone taking a picture of their seat.

Matthew, I would dump United and forget about their status levels. You should be able to get another airline to match your status, and besides with the right credit cards giving lounge access, free checked bags, priority security entry and the ability to earn enough miles that you can book your flights in business or coach, elite status isn't really that useful anymore. I have the United Club Card which earns 50% bonus miles for every dollar spent, plus numerous other perks, so I'm able to rack up lots miles, and since the majority of my flights are international, I rarely have to use United at all. All of my United miles go to booking first and business class tickets on ANA, Asiana, Thai, Lufthansa and Swiss Air.

John k February 20, 2013 at 06:47 am

How interesting. Papalimas last line wasn't a threat but saying lets just move on. But you perceived it as a threat. Yes, what paranoia state if mindset we all live in...

Take a step back and look this as a whole instead of just looking it at it from your point of view. Having said that, god luck with the outcome.

Deri Pocock February 20, 2013 at 06:52 am

Don't forget the success of United Breaks Guitars. With staff like that, perhaps one day you can write United Goes Broke.

Brad February 20, 2013 at 07:03 am

"Do you know who I am? I'm a blogger!"

I would have booted you off the flight too. Not a terrorist, indeed.

Peter de jäger February 20, 2013 at 07:21 am

Strongly suggest that all those with twitter and FB accounts link to this article.

Johanna February 20, 2013 at 07:30 am

Based on my experience with United, they definitely aren't "the friendky skies of United". After being a loyal customer for many years, I now find an alternate carrier for my flights.

Thom February 20, 2013 at 07:33 am

I believe it was George Carlin who outlined on one of his records that there are "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." There are also at least that many words you can't say on an airplane, the "T" word being one of them.

That said, this was NOT handled correctly.

billw February 20, 2013 at 07:38 am

You could have shown them your iPhone as proof that you only took one photo. Also, a voice recording of all those conversations would be good to have for a lawsuit.

chris February 20, 2013 at 07:53 am

Personally, I think there is more to the story than what you are stating. There are two sides to every story. And the fact that your vocabulary and choice of ignorant words by repeating yourself and calling crew a liar, makes you seem more of a liar yourself.

chris February 20, 2013 at 08:01 am

Papalima Did not say you should be on no fly list LOL he simply stated he hopes they don't flag you. Perhaps your misinformation is what got you kicked off?

Andrew February 20, 2013 at 08:04 am

I don't know why you're withholding their names. They don't deserve it. I would publish the whole story with names and all.

Not taking aides February 20, 2013 at 08:14 am

I think the FA lying (let's all admit, we're taking your word for it though) is inexcusable.

I think you should have done what I've read other bloggers write: they informed the crew who they are and that they would like to take some pictures...may I please? Best to be proactive.

I get saying that you're a blogger to explain why you took the picture. But just sit down and shut up and don't push it. That's your second mistake. Your first was using the word "terrorist" when you of all people know how rashly airlines react to that word, or a t-shirt, or a whatever.

Making this into a "the FA's are going on a power trip" is a whole different (but related) topic. I've been questioned by law enforcement for not immediately following a ridiculous order...the point is, we frequent travelers know the game: follow all crew member dictates and shut up while doing is.

You should have said 'sorry' and sat down.

The FA should be fired, you should either make this all about trying to effect a change and not about how you were "wronged" or or defamed or besmearched or whatever, the pilot did his job by backing his crew.

I like the blog for the most part...and could also care less about your status! :)

AAExplat February 20, 2013 at 08:18 am

I can't believe the number of folks here trying to extol the virtues of this FA...there is no - zero - justification fo kicking someone off a flight for taking a picture of a seatback nor for using the word "terrorist" in the manner Matthew did. Also, the circumstantial evidence indicates clearly that she was an out of control person on a powertrip. On another blog, ther person in row 17 whom she also reprimanded rudel tells hus story in detail, and based on that account, there can be no doubt in my mind that Matthew is in the right here. To the other pax, the FA said that it was an FAA rule not t take pictures (a lie) and she screamed throug the E+ cabin to find the person wh took the pic. If hat doesn't sound bat#hit crazy, then I don't know what does. Link to other blog with account from eyewitnesses:

Axclr8 February 20, 2013 at 08:38 am

WHAO - the comments here are incredible - I suggest to all to try to fly on Singapore Airlines, Air Asiana ... amongst the best airlines in the world - despite being a loyal Delta Million Miler - if I lived in Asia - I would be on SA most of the time - case in point - travelling in Economy from Newark to Singapore - long flight - but fortunately got an Exit Row seat - I still remember to THIS day how well I was treated - in ECONOMY - my point is - American and some European carriers (like Air France!) have no idea what customer CARE is about!! This kind of stuff can and should go Viral! I WILL NEVER FLY UNITED AIRLINES after seeing this kind of behaviour / treatment to an ELITE passenger. I don't care about those above who say that you came accros with an ENTITLED attitude. BALONY! You were JUST trying to resolve a matter AFTER you saw that another passenger had ALREADY been told not to take photos but was not treated like DIRT the way you were. Either way - Most American based carriers do not know how to treat passengers - not all - there are some great people out there but it is NOT an easy job dealing with passengers - but ususally the Business Class passengers are more easy to take care off than the ones in ECONOMY. Enjoy and don't take this treatment from UA!

Axclr8 February 20, 2013 at 08:38 am

WHAO - the comments here are incredible - I suggest to all to try to fly on Singapore Airlines, Air Asiana ... amongst the best airlines in the world - despite being a loyal Delta Million Miler - if I lived in Asia - I would be on SA most of the time - case in point - travelling in Economy from Newark to Singapore - long flight - but fortunately got an Exit Row seat - I still remember to THIS day how well I was treated - in ECONOMY - my point is - American and some European carriers (like Air France!) have no idea what customer CARE is about!! This kind of stuff can and should go Viral! I WILL NEVER FLY UNITED AIRLINES after seeing this kind of behaviour / treatment to an ELITE passenger. I don't care about those above who say that you came accros with an ENTITLED attitude. BALONY! You were JUST trying to resolve a matter AFTER you saw that another passenger had ALREADY been told not to take photos but was not treated like DIRT the way you were. Either way - Most American based carriers do not know how to treat passengers - not all - there are some great people out there but it is NOT an easy job dealing with passengers - but ususally the Business Class passengers are more easy to take care off than the ones in ECONOMY. Enjoy and don't take this treatment from UA!

Flinn February 20, 2013 at 08:51 am

I would be interested to know the approximate age of the FA. You are young. In my experience, many older FA's have a bias against younger male passengers travelling up front for reasons they probably don't even understand. They often give lesser service to such passengers, and jump at any opportunity to shut off the alcohol or come down on such a passenger for minor infractions, such as standing near the galley, which are overlooked with older/female passengers.

Lance Manyon February 20, 2013 at 08:55 am

Ha - this is the best post ever. Classic Matthew. I would have thrown you off the flight too. "But I'm not a terrorist, I'm a blogger!" Even worse. GET OFF MY PLANE.

Now go put your big boy pants on, Matthew, stop your insufferable sniveling, and get over it.

larry February 20, 2013 at 08:57 am

In a nutshell, you have Nyron, who should have been an english teacher rather than a flight attendant serving the public, and you have Walnutartisan, who understands how to handle a customer in a semi-delicate situation.

Having retired from the airline industry, you have employees who are predisposed to making issues and those who know how to calm situations. Think of it this way.... In one hand, we carry a squirt bottle full of water. In the other a squirt bottle full of gas. A professional always uses the water to douse potentially damaging situations. The self-important english teacher uses the bottle full of gas to squirt it on the situation and further inflame the fire.

Walnutartisan, I commend you. Nyron, please do the public a favor and become a parking meter enforcer as you have no business serving the public.

ShawnD February 20, 2013 at 09:02 am

I find it really sad that there are people with the attitude of sit down shut up and take it in a situation like this. Do you have any self respect or do you just lay down and let life happen to you. This is the same situation as what is happening with TSA and happens in other situations where small people are given more power than they deserve or can handle. When you are not treated with respect by a an individual or corporation you should not sit down and shut up or it only gets worse. The fact that flight attendants and TSA agents have almost no accountability now is why things like this happen and it's getting worse. What if this was some family who couldn't afford to buy new tickets or missed their vacation?

tracey February 20, 2013 at 09:10 am

Ok - so this crew is not comfortable with you on their flight (terrorist concerns?). . . but after pulling you off this plane the airline works to put the "terrorist" or problem flyer on another flight?? I assume they deemed you were not a flight risk (so it would follow that you should have stayed on the original flight) or If they were truly concerned about you then this is just plain alarming for passengers on the flights you were subsequently booked on. ! Just seems like muscle flexing to me - sad!

Lively February 20, 2013 at 09:23 am

Matthew-Keep us updated with any UA further actions. I read your blog everyday and I appreciate the pictures you take of various airline products.

Andre February 20, 2013 at 09:25 am

Cannot believe so many folks are siding off with United on this. The fact that he mentioned he was a 1K only meant it was not his first time on a plane, and probably (I don’t know the author) all the previous times he has been to a plane, there were no problems whatsoever. To me being booted off a plane is only acceptable if a very serious offense or behavior occurs and I don’t think this applies in this case. Why did the FA did not request to see the pictures he took, and if that was the case, to delete it? My wife and I sometimes take pictures at the airplane, the pictures we take are not much different than the one shown by the blogger. I do not consider myself a threat and do not think I am entitled to be thrown off the planes I fly because of it. Once at JFK, I took a picture of my daughter and I was immediately approached by one of the security officers — “let me see that photo and then delete it immediately.” Only then I realized that behind her was a portion of a security checkpoint. I responded with “sorry, to clarify, I was taking a picture of my daughter and not the security checkpoint. Here’s the picture.” I showed her the picture and she said “delete that right now.” I said “OK” She responded with “it’s a security policy but has nothing to do with security.” I did not fully understand that comment but nevertheless I deleted it and she said “you better not restore that photo.” I wasn't kicked off the airport, deprived of flying or embarrassed in front of fellow passengers… To #141 PapaLima: If 9/11 is the reason behind it, then maybe the FAs should kick off all arab looking passengers off the planes not to make them “uncomfortable” then…

Eric February 20, 2013 at 09:40 am

You screwed up. You didn't need to go and reassure her. You just needed to quit taking pictures and be quiet. You said the magic word which got booted off the plane.

Bill Hawkins February 20, 2013 at 09:41 am

Another victory for the Ministry of Fear and Permanent War.

Be afraid, always, because 9-11.

[the careers of hundreds of thousands now depend on keeping the Fear alive]

Smisek got a big fat bonus for destroying Continental Airlines. Mission Accomplished! (I'm a CO million miler, now totally avoid this POS corporate playtoy)

PLEASE consider updating this post and NAMING both the flight attendant and the pilot. I've never thought that individuals who do such immoral, disrespectful, and even libelous things should be able to hide anonymously behind titles or a corporate shield. United will claim up and down all day long that this was not representative behavior of their staff and ask your and the public's forgiveness. But someone should be held to account for incidents like this. We should not trust these matters to be handled "internally" b/c they usually aren't. I would name those suckers all day long. Let them explain themselves and offer you a apology IF one of these apologists' excuses for their behavior is indeed on point. I've seen way too many instances of FAs letting their egos get the best of them and downright abusing this whole "national security" line. No power should be unchecked, and no decision unappealable. It would not have taken long to quickly investigate (look at your phone to see of there were other photos besides the one, check the website on your biz card with a smartphone to validate your profession as a travel writer, have the captain or Global Services rep quickly speak with the other passengers around you to verify or refute the FA's claims, etc.). And when it was quickly and obviously discovered that the FA was lying and now embarrassed, this lying further to cover it up, SHE should have been kicked off the flight. I agree with an earlier commenter that someone with that type of behavior and character and a willingness to lie repeatedly on duty to save her own butt is much more of a serious threat to everyone's safety and security. And I've never bought the apologist lines about FAs being busy and overworked and having a bad day... We all work and most of us work hard at what we do. Business class fliers are rarely spoiled little rich kids; they're usually here b/c they bust their tails to be successful in their own jobs, which includes sucking it up when the job gets tough and putting on a game face. You are, after all, the one actually BEING PAID to be there, while the customer is the one paying. If you are volunteering, then you can complain about being stressed or a "bad day" being an excuse. But even those aren't justifications or excuses for unethical behavior like this on the employees' part. I say name them, shame them, and keep publicizing it until they have the guts to step forward and either explain themselves sufficiently (not that "I was frustrated" or "we wanted to take off on time" crap) or apologize profusely. You were calm, followed the rules, and were FAR more polite than 95% of us would have ever been in that situation. Name the jerks!! ;-)

Bruce February 20, 2013 at 10:15 am

We've become a nation of cowards and idiots. There was no reason to remove this passenger. None at all. Saying magic words is not an excuse.

Still, if he really felt that he had to have a conversation with the flight attendant about photography, he should have waited until the flight was in the air for its 10-hour flight to Istanbul. No way to deplane him then, huh? :)

Alan February 20, 2013 at 10:22 am

There's really 2 things at play here, and why this post has generated a record number of comments (and thanks for posting it, Matthew!): (1) None of us want to get kicked off a plane. (2) The bigger picture of our erosion of our rights and dignities in the post 9/11 security state.

Because of (1) we're tempted to scrutinize everything Matthew did or said. I've little interest in doing so, to me it's similar to making an issue of what a victim of crime might of been wearing wearing. While I would no more use the word "terrorist" on a plane than I would use the word "bomb", we actually have no evidence this played any part in the FA's reaction.

(2) is much more important. When a citizen explains himself and insists on an explanation from authorities, and then we see the authorities use this as an excuse to esailate and retaliate, we should never insist the citizen should have been meeker. Having read Matthew for several years and dealt with him professionally, I have absolutely no doubt he was polite and respectful. Was he cocky in showing his card and mentioning his profession? Since when??!? Those very actions have greased wheels and opened doors in the past with United, and those of us who contract Matthew to secure reward travel on our behalf are grateful that he does so.

I understand that terrorists love to target airplanes. Almost all travelers are willing to deal with some inconvenience to lessen the risk. But we must trust that the people in authority know what they're doing. Isreal has been dealing with this stuff for decades and I'll bet dollars to donuts that Matthew would not have been kicked off an El Al flight for taking a picture of his screen, nor threatened with arrest for wanting a conversation.

My greatest sense of mystery is why Matthew is so loyal to United, which I've always found to be a substandard airline based in a contintent that has mostly substandard airlines, all engaged in a race to the bottom to just survive and to secure short-term shareholder return. But this case provides an interesting test of just how much a dedicated customer means to the people in charge, and I will be following this story with great interest.

Patrick February 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

You share at most of the blame. Right or wrong the FA asked you to stop taking photos. Appropriately you did and at that point the incident was over.

At that point you escalated the incident by again speaking to the FA even though unnecessary and did it using a very, very big buzzword that as a frequent flier you should have known not to use. Innocent or not it is one of the words when flying we warn our children to never use, just like "bomb". If you had no desire to take more pictures then saying anything else was just.... not a good decision. If you did want to take additional pictures then you should have waited until takeoff was complete and instead of justifying why you did it before, introduced yourself and asked if you could take pictures for your travel blog.

It's a real bummer to read this story... I've flown over 25,000 miles on United this year already, and these 25,000 have been the most unpleasant I've had in all 880,000 of them. Canceled flights due to mechanical issues, rude flight attendants acting completely inappropriately, ground staff unprofessionalism, etc. I'm definitely going to stick with United until I get my million miler status, but after that, I'm really not certain where I'll end up taking my air travel business.

Aparecium February 20, 2013 at 10:40 am

I find it utterly sad that people are blowing the 'terrorist' word-use out of proportion. Dumbledore said it best: "Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."

And if you can be thrown off a plane for saying 'terrorist,' then definitely don't say 'hi' to your friend 'jack' while on the plane...

Joe February 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

Honestly, I am surprised that you are questioning your loyalty to United. If this happened to me, I would never fly them again.

Nun February 20, 2013 at 10:47 am

"I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn't think I was terrorist."

No matter how you said it, even with the most innocent intent, that statement is condescending.

toomanybooks February 20, 2013 at 10:55 am

I think you should take them to Small Claims Court, at least on the extra $200+ ticket you had to buy. Not sure your chances, but it will cost them something at least in staff/attorney fees and annoyance. You'll get more blog material from it. And you might effect some change.

Presenting a business card is not that impressive to me; anyone can get a business card printed with anything.

Agree with the posts that you should never utter words like "terrorist" or "bomb" in airports or on planes.

FA was still a jackass of course.

Santastico February 20, 2013 at 10:56 am

Unfortunately once you step inside an airport you have no rights anymore. Even if you sneeze the wrong way you are seen as a potential threat. I avoid travelling by plane nowadays. It is so stressful that I don’t think it is worth anymore. Sure, I have to travel for work and for leisure but think twice before doing so. I have many times going through security where I had to take a full breath and count to 3 to stay calm and not say what I wanted to say. They treat you like you are a piece of garbage. Once in the plane, same rules apply. Pilots, FAs, in ground personnel they all got this sense of they are above us all and they can make your life miserable if they decide to do so. For almost no reason. Once a friend of mine was in the plane and his seat did not work. He could not recline his seat. The coach class was full and he asked if the FA could accommodate him in business class. She said no way. He replied saying he had paid for the seat and that include reclining and he was not getting that. That is all he said. Once the plane landed, FA asked the passengers to remain seated and security stepped in the plane and escorted my friend out. Everyone was shocked. Once outside other passengers started to voice themselves saying he had done nothing wrong, he did not say any insults, etc… After more than 2 hours held by security in the airport my friend was given an option to sign a paper saying he assumed he was wrong and the case would be closed or if he denied he would be place on the “no fly list” and his life would be a nightmare. Welcome to the new world!!!!! People in airports and planes now have the power to make your life miserable forever.

Antonio February 20, 2013 at 11:26 am

My first flight with United several years ago it was a very unpleasant experience, the crew was rude and I said I will never fly with them again. Now with the merge with Continental it's not that I have much of a choice. But being kick out of a plane with no explanation and just because "you are no flying this flight" and plus the threat of calling the police it's just not fair at all. This makes me think about families and friends who travel together and like to take videos/pics in the plane for memories of the trip, and now they are not allowed to do that anymore...."stupid". I def want to know what United will respond about this, if they ever do it, they probably will support the crew, but at least I think you deserve an apology from them and some sort of compensation.

Common Citizen February 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

Appalled is what I am, but I would never use the prohibited words in any conversation with the crew; or for that matter with my co-travelers on a plane for fear that it might be overheard by the crew with consequences beyond my control. Yes, many crew members are jumpy about certain words. Perhaps that is what they are trained to be.

Many people come to work under different levels of pre-acquired stress levels or under the influence of medications. It behooves us to be polite in the face of rudeness to diffuse the situation. Flashing a business card does not prove anything; it is not a Govt. issued credential. Even if it were, the airline's rules - non-rational as they may be - trump other aspects.

Whereas handling abuse differently is a personal choice, I do applaud the ones who stick up for their rights and demand civil behavior by the crew, which ultimately benefits the airline and the weary travelers. For that, I am grateful that you have elevated the issue and plan to follow it up to get a just resolution. Good luck.

PK February 20, 2013 at 11:36 am

You know the joke about assholes and opinions... so here's mine:

I'm reminded of a similar story about a stewardess who had a meltdown and yelled at a guy for asking for orange juice and then later getting him formally written up and threatening his flying status. It sounds very similar to this story except that because her behavior was so erratic and there were dozens of witnesses, the captain had to take the passengers' side. There are a number of sociopaths in the office and the air. You encountered one. Here's how they think:

They want to "get even" with "jerks" in their lives even as they are jerks themselves. This gives them a warped viewpoint of life. In combination with that, they love getting the upper hand. They like to think of themselves as victims of bullies, but they dream of, and rationalize, being bullies. So they wait and watch for an opportunity and you provided her with one.

She found you violating The Rules. This gives her an opportunity to Put You In Your Place, serf. You complied but then had the nerve to Talk To Her. You came across as a nice guy, but one who doesn't Respect Her As Your Superior. You also made a faux paux and said terrorist. So you were both uppity and weak. You're the limp gazelle and she's the hyena.

So she lies to the captain and gets you thrown off. She no doubt secretly giggled as you were dragged away. That's why she hid. She didn't want to explain herself but also she worried she'd be smirking the whole time.

If you want to beat them, follow the rules. That's all they have to get you on. Do NOT explain yourself (that only gives them ammo) (Oh, I said ammo! I would get thrown off if I said that on an airplane!) Anyways, give them nothing.

Here's something else to ponder: Unlike the other flight where Miss Orange Juice went bonkers, no other passengers rose to your defense. Sadly, sociopaths count on that. When they go after the gazelle, the other gazelles scatter. You also wound up with a jerk for a pilot. Bad luck II. If I had been on the plane, knowing what I know, I would have backed you up and then jerk pilot would have been in a bind: He can't throw me off simply for providing information on a situation. You might have still had to leave, but at least he and the stewardess would have lost face. And that would have made it worth it, yes?

So folks, when you see a sociopath bully, don't sit idle and gawk with your mouth open. Say something. Act. It's funny that many have made this about him saying the word "terrorist" yet people's cowardice in the situation helped the stewardess to bully him. Isn't that similar to how the terrorists took over the planes that crashed into the WTC? That passengers didn't act?

John Montgomery February 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

Wow...what an awful story

I also diasagree with posters here saying this was a DYKWIA incident, imho. That term is traditionally used to reflect arrogance by the complainer, based upon their status. It's a derogatory statement because someone is trying to pull a power trip.

In this case, Matthew was trying to explain politely (from his account) why he was taking photos. As in...I'm doing this for my blog for a report on the trip...just wanting to let you know I'm not causing you trouble. That's not the essence of DYKWIA.

Using the terrorist word wasn't the smartest thing to do, because the world is filled with idiots like the FA who have let that horrible event in our history impact their behavior beyond a reasonable point. Matthew wasn't joking, making light...just saying that he wasn't causing problems or doing something sinister.

Anyway...holy overreaction Batman (from the FA).

ptahcha February 20, 2013 at 11:46 am

IMO, this is a case of 2 wrongs do not make it right. FA was probably having a bad day, grouchy because she had to commute to EWR instead of her normal LGA/JFK routine. She was enforcing the little-known no photography rule that is in place, perhaps should have been delivered in a more customer-friendly way, particularly when the passenger is in business class.

Matt, on the other hand, may have add fuel to the flame, not because of the photo taking, but by handing over the business card and mentioned that he knows people in Chicago. If he stops at he's taking picture for the blog, there would have been no issues. The fact that he says people in HQ is reading his blog, there's an implication of DYKWIA, intentional or not.

Moreover, there's a lot of interpretation on the crew's whereabouts and lack of eye contact. The FA may be simply preparing for the flight. Also, the captain lack of eye contact is one way to reduce confrontation, which, believe it or not, is fairly common in Asia. In fact, if the captain stared at the passenger and ordered him to get off the plane, the situation may have played out differently with someone who is not as professional or calm.

I'm not justifying that the crew was right - yes the FA misconstrued the facts. Nonetheless, if they believe that you may be a PITA or someone who may not comply with crewmember instructions, you get taken off the plane. I witness a similar situation on a different flight, where 2 Asian monks would not respond to the sole FA (it was a CRJ flight) and the FO because they were women. Combining with some seating issues, the captain (who is a man) threatened to take them off the plane, citing the fact that they would not comply with crewmember instructions in an emergency. They finally acknowledged that they would respond to the FA, but only in an emergency.

JB February 20, 2013 at 11:59 am

I've enjoyed reading your blog and I hope this doesn't leave a lingering bad taste in your mouth. The whole situation is unfortunate. If nothing else, I expect most of us reading the comments that have been posted have learned a thing or two. So thanks for that. And keep blogging. Please.

PLEASE consider updating this post and NAMING both the flight attendant and the pilot. I've never thought that individuals who do such immoral, disrespectful, and even libelous things should be able to hide anonymously behind titles or a corporate shield. United will claim up and down all day long that this was not representative behavior of their staff and ask your and the public's forgiveness. But someone should be held to account for incidents like this. We should not trust these matters to be handled "internally" b/c they usually aren't. I would name those suckers all day long. Let them explain themselves and offer you a apology IF one of these apologists' excuses for their behavior is indeed on point. I've seen way too many instances of FAs letting their egos get the best of them and downright abusing this whole "national security" line. No power should be unchecked, and no decision unappealable. It would not have taken long to quickly investigate (look at your phone to see of there were other photos besides the one, check the website on your biz card with a smartphone to validate your profession as a travel writer, have the captain or Global Services rep quickly speak with the other passengers around you to verify or refute the FA's claims, etc.). And when it was quickly and obviously discovered that the FA was lying and now embarrassed, this lying further to cover it up, SHE should have been kicked off the flight. I agree with an earlier commenter that someone with that type of behavior and character and a willingness to lie repeatedly on duty to save her own butt is much more of a serious threat to everyone's safety and security. And I've never bought the apologist lines about FAs being busy and overworked and having a bad day... We all work and most of us work hard at what we do. Business class fliers are rarely spoiled little rich kids; they're usually here b/c they bust their tails to be successful in their own jobs, which includes sucking it up when the job gets tough and putting on a game face. You are, after all, the one actually BEING PAID to be there, while the customer is the one paying. If you are volunteering, then you can complain about being stressed or a "bad day" being an excuse. But even those aren't justifications or excuses for unethical behavior like this on the employees' part. I say name them, shame them, and keep publicizing it until they have the guts to step forward and either explain themselves sufficiently (not that "I was frustrated" or "we wanted to take off on time" crap) or apologize profusely. You were calm, followed the rules, and were FAR more polite than 95% of us would have ever been in that situation. Name the jerks!! ;-)

JS February 20, 2013 at 01:22 pm

You state word for word exactly what each person said to you. How is this possible unless you recorded the communications back and forth? Please explain.

jack February 20, 2013 at 01:38 pm

That one word was your problem. What does pulling out a business card that anybody could print on a home computer prove? "See it says right on there, I am NOT a terrorist!" Of course if you were actually Muslim and in Arab garb, CAIR would file your lawsuit and you would be national news by now.

Ryan February 20, 2013 at 02:15 pm

"Even though the 9/11 attacks were over a decade ago..."

You were probably too young to fully comprehend the events of 9/11. And perhaps, you are still too young. Certain words have no place on airplanes.

Andrew February 20, 2013 at 02:16 pm

Seriously, I would sue if for no other reason than to get the FA's deposition. She slandered you - it's a tort.

What bothers me about these comments is it shows what sheep we've become. "Keep your head down, do t Rick the boat, avoid bad people on power trips, they'll put you on the no fly list if you stick up for yourself"'s all just so sad.

How anyone can defend United here (unless you think Matthew is lying) is just dumbfounding.

Sam February 20, 2013 at 02:21 pm

I am very sorry to hear about your experience with United. As a Captain with 28 years I have empathy for you getting on the wrong side of a Flight Attendant. Your experience, while rare, does not surprise me. I have spent many hours deadheading, pass riding, and riding as a paying passenger. Most of my experiences were good but there were times when that one outlier Flight Attendant (F/A), or Captain for that matter, was an embarrassment. Being a fellow employee I could only watch; embarrassed for my airline.

It is unfortunate that the confluence of events produced the worst outcome for your travel day. The trajectory of events could have been changed had another F/A, a proactive Captain, or, a fellow passenger spoke up on your behalf.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely and in the case of a F/A having a bad day, combining their perception that they can order you to do something, and if you don’t comply you’re in violation of the law, reasonable or not, things can go really badly.

It appears that you complied and did nothing wrong. You ended up on the bad side of the F/A that day. I have been on their bad side too. They couldn’t kick me off because I was flying the plane. I didn’t eat the crew meal that day!

If it makes you feel any better I've know Captains to remove F/A's before the flight too, so it's not just passengers.

Isn't always that ten percent that screw it up?

Again I am sorry to hear of your experience with my airline.

I recently went to Boeing's Museum of Flight in Seattle. As I was touring some of the old planes and looking at the exhibits of how flying was luxurious and posh, it reminds me of how horrible of an experience it can be now. What makes it a bad experience is that airlines have lost their focus on what customers expect. In the days of an overly enthusiastic TSA and the fact that flying is really the only viable alternative, the airlines are lazy when it comes to truly giving customers a good experience--we just accept the poor experience, like we accept the TSA's dumb rules.

This is a severe example of how badly the experience gets. Neither the attendant or the captain considered your long-standing "VIP" status with United and omitted your pleas. Imagine if you were sent away from XYZ retail store, because you took a photo of a product and they escorted you out? It would be all over the news of how poorly you were treated, yet with commercial aviation, this sort of treatment is acceptable. This just gives me another reason to keep off of United's planes.

huntersfo February 20, 2013 at 02:30 pm

It disappoints me that most people commenting here that have a problem with Matthew's behavior totally ignore the point of the post which was that the FA lied. Whether or not you like the fact that Matthew used the word "terrorist" or took a picture is beside the point. The FA lied and that is completely unacceptable.

While there are plenty of rude and entitled FTers out there, I can't imagine that Matthew isn't one of the most courteous and pleasant passengers any cabin crew could hope to have on their flight. Accusations of him being entitled are ridiculous.

I understand that crew are responsible for safety, but i'm getting very tired of some crews that choose to pretend that they are not in a customer service job! Yes, safety is your #1 priority, but that does not have to get in the way of providing decent or even excellent customer service. There are plenty of UA cabin crew that prove they can provide great customer service without compromising safety. Jeff keeps talking about "leading airline" but you have to have leading customer service as well. Smiling does not compromise safety! Saying "would you like" instead of "ya wanna" does not compromise safety. For every FA that I hear complain about PAX saying "gimme a" there's another FA that says "ya wanna" to me in first class.

Passengers do need to be more courteous to crews, but crews have to understand that they get paid to be friendly, and passengers pay to have friendly service. How would you like it if you went to a restaurant and the food tasted awful and you complained and the chef tells you "I'm primarily here for your safety and that food wont give you food poisoning, so I did my job." Its true that not giving you food poisoning is the #1 priority of the chef but they also need to make it taste good.

FA lying is getting out of control. Because there doesn't seem to be any consequences for it or any way of getting caught, it only encourages the behavior. This needs to stop, but if a customer service focus was emphasized from management and enforced perhaps FAs wouldn't feel so comfortable about lying.

I do want to stress that there are plenty of crews out there that provide excellent safety AND excellent service. Please don't think i'm complaining about you. The ex-Pan Am crews especially come to mind. I appreciate everything you do and encourage you to keep it up. Thank you for your safety AND your service!

I hope Matthew can get enough witnesses in this incident to force United to recognize that there is a problem here and at the very least have a talk with the crew in question. I find it ridiculous that anyone comments here saying that they were worried about safety, given that they put Matthew on the next flight out!

Matthew seems like a smart guy, I'm sure that next time the argument will happen after he lands...

Max February 20, 2013 at 02:35 pm

You were on a legacy CONTINENTAL plane with a legacy CONTINENTAL crew.

EWR > IST is a CO-staffed route with CO equipment. The unions are still negotiating a joint contract. Therefore, there is absolutely no way that legacy United staff kicked you off of that aircraft.

Get it right next time so that you don't slander and rant irresponsibly again.

UAL Captain February 20, 2013 at 02:36 pm

I am a United captain.

Interesting story and I am sure that your perspective is the only one. A couple of things come to mind that you don't get. The captain is responsible for the safety of the the flight and ALL of the the passengers on board. He also has a responsibility to operate the plane professionally and on time ( passengers actually get angry if we aren't on time). When a FA comes up front with an issue, I as the captain, ask this question...Are you comfortable with this situation? I don't want to go into the air with an unresolved situation that can escalate, and I am sorry but when I say unresolved, I mean is the crew comfortable with this person. If the answer is no then they are off. Details at that point are unimportant. Couple that with it being time to close the door and get going and you have an easy solution. Remove the source.

Here are also a couple of tips when traveling. Don't use words or joke about guns bombs terrorists and the like, they will get you negative attention every time. Don't use fowl or vulgar language when discussing why you can't put your bag above your seat or whatever last straw is nagging you. That is a deal breaker when deciding what to do. Don't joke about drunk pilots. You won't get thrown off the plane but in many cases that plane will not be going while the crew get off and go get tested to prove their innocence.

@Max: Thanks for your comment, but you are incorrect here. EWR-IST is operated by a legacy UA 767-300 retrofitted in a two-cabin config (the former "ghetto birds"). Trust me, I fly enough to know the difference between a UA and CO staff (for one, their uniforms are very different). And this was a PMUA crew--I didn't want to speculate so I didn't specify the base, but I would have guessed Chicago based on the accents of the FAs.

Andrew February 20, 2013 at 02:48 pm

"I am a United captain. Interesting story and I am sure that your perspective is the only one."

Passive aggressive and self-important much?

Tracy February 20, 2013 at 02:50 pm

I also am an ex-con United employee. There are a few good reasons for the no photo rule. I've had numerous medical emergencies where people pull out their cameras and start filming. A little privacy please especially if we are exposing a woman's breast to use the defib. The rule also pertains to us as crew members. Do you really want us taking pictures of you when you've had a couple of drinks took ambien then take off your close and start masturbating in your seat in business first when everyone else is asleep. Yes this did happen. My second thought after we got him to put his close on was "why didn't I YouTube that". No I didn't make a big deal of it or call the police because no other passenger saw it. Why embarrass the man? I'm sorry this happened to you. The policy is you can take pics of yourself and friends on the plane. I don't know why this Fa felt threatened. Obviously communication is not her forte. Come fly with me it's always a fun time. I will tell you though. Don't be sick when you board. I don't take pukers.

UpgrdReader February 20, 2013 at 03:03 pm

I agree, shame on UA. But, quite frankly, you acted like a DYKWIA. Have you seen the photo on the masthead of your blog? It speaks volumes about what I think is your attitude.

I had no idea you are only 26, but as an experienced traveler and blogger you really should know better. Don't say the "T" word. You know the authority game.

You state that you only took one picture, but we all know you intended to take more. FA knew it too, especially once you handed your "business card" saying you are a blogger. (Read: entitled to take photos.)

FA knows your 1K status by the manifest and they could care less if you are a blogger or Wendy Perrin, UA has a media team to decide who is 'media' and can authorize photos. Photo issue is a big one, all of us take photos. Is UA going to go to every blog and FT post and ask for takedowns? It doesn't surprise me they invite instagram photos too. The good of your story is that UA will likely clarify their photo policies.

All that said, UA was wrong. This story only highlights the serious customer service problems United has, and CO has surprisingly only made them worse.

Kara February 20, 2013 at 03:12 pm

They were all rude to you, sure, but as someone with nearly 1 million flight miles under your belt you should've known better than to say terrorist on a plane. I fly once or twice a year and I know that! Most airports they say repeatedly over the loud speaker not to even JOKE about it. It might be ridiculous but it's not a secret.

Steve February 20, 2013 at 03:33 pm

Interesting to read both the story and comments. I wonder if the "no picture" policy is something that's recently been reiterated to staff.

I had a United ground crew employee try to wrest control of my cell phone after he became highly agitated that I was filming a police action that was occurring in a terminal (not on an aircraft) at IAD. He stated that filming in the airport was against United policy/airport rules (despite me being aware of

After he tried to grab the phone, I asked the police to please weigh in, and they confirmed I had the right to film in the terminal. I spoke to a manager on duty about the issue, showed him the video that had the employee harassing me, but despite having a chat with the employee, the employee REFUSED to apologize for his actions.

When writing to corporate, United simply provided a cut and paste response apologizing that "you did not feel as though you were treated with dignity and respect" even though the employee physically grabbed my property. Though I've asked for an apology directly from the employee, United appears to not be responding. Good luck with a formal response to your issue.

FJFV February 20, 2013 at 04:14 pm

I was actually on this exact flight in the BusinessFirst cabin of UA904 (sitting on the aisle in one of the first few rows right by the galley) and witnessed most of the incident. Just to confirm, the passenger never seemed to act unruly and actually remained very level headed throughout the entire ordeal. The flight attendant darted behind my field of vision into another part of the BF cabin, came right back up and went to the other flight attendants. She said something to the effect of "There is a customer in the back of the cabin taking pictures of us while we work." She then disappeared for a while (presumably to go talk to the captain?) and I actually didn't think much of it. There were several FlyerTalk/Milepoint members on the flight (I saw by their luggage tags) and I actually just assumed it was a member of that group documenting for a trip report. I'm actually shocked to read what ultimately transpired and see the actual photo. Amusingly, I took the exact same photo from my seat showing the flight map / flight path from EWR-IST, uploaded it to social media and was not thrown off the plane for doing so. The gentleman sitting next to me in BF did the exact same thing, in fact.

The event seemed so innocuous that I really just moved on without thinking twice. This is really just bizarre to me and while I obviously wasn't a part of the private conversations, I can assure you there really was no ruckus or disturbance to the BF cabin beyond the initial outburst by the FA. Weird escalation.

snic February 20, 2013 at 04:38 pm

UAL Captain and Tracy, it's nice to hear your input as UA employees. However, please note that Matthew doesn't have an issue with the captain's actions in this case (other than that he felt the captain was rude and cowardly by not looking him in the eye) and he certainly wasn't taking pictures of other passengers. Therefore your comments do not address the absurdity of having a FA falsely accuse him of continuing to take pictures.

Enough is really enough with the ridiculous security-related excuses for mistreating passengers. You might say that your lives are on the line every day, but you know what? We passengers are flying too and equally at risk - and most of us could really not care less if someone snaps a few photos.

In fact, I've been invited to the flight deck of a UA 747 (pre-flight) to take pictures of my daughter sitting in a pilot's chair. Why the double standard? Either taking pictures is dangerous and needs to be banned completely, or it's not dangerous and you folks need to back off.

William February 20, 2013 at 05:40 pm

I appreciate the perspective of the captain here and his comments make a lot of sense. As others have pointed out, the fact is that the FA lied when s/he reported that Matthew was taking photos of the cabin crew. (This was reported to be the case by other passengers).

I would argue that lying flight attendants are a greater threat to the safety of the passengers than a guy taking a photo of the video display. Let's not forget this incident.

I don't blame the captain. I blame the FA. The person should be punished and reprimanded and Matthew should be given an apology by UA.

nsx at February 20, 2013 at 05:56 pm

PK's comment 184 was fascinating:

"They want to "get even" with "jerks" in their lives even as they are jerks themselves."

That reminds me of the tiny minority of people who take it upon themselves to enforce the speed limit by driving 55 mph in the left lane. They tell themselves that it's their good deed for the day when it's actually about exerting power over others in perhaps the only way available to them in their lives. Kind of pathetic when you think about it.

It's too bad that we'll never know the true reason behind the FA's reaction. It's possible that the FA doesn't even know.

All that said, I think firing would be far too severe a penalty, representing a financial loss to the FA of hundreds of thousands of dollars. These jobs are irreplaceable. A warning, sure, but not firing.

I just thought of one possible explanation based on the reported statement that "There is a customer in the back of the cabin taking pictures of us while we work." What if this particular FA had been reprimanded recently based on a passenger video of her behavior which she felt was clipped to remove exculpatory context? That would make her very sensitive to passengers' use of camera phones. If this were the case then the "I'm a blogger" (therefore I'm likely to capture and post your worst in-flight moments) comment is what set the FA off.

HMPS February 20, 2013 at 06:10 pm

This is absolutely astounding. We see a lot of photos on Trip Reports on Ft. I think the FA was having a real poor day, though that is the worst excuse ! Perhaps she took out her frustrations or wrath re the second pax who had words with her and she just either misidentify you or thought you were "easier" to throw out !

I would expect US to knock on your doors with basketful of goodies including a few systemwide upgrades.

One question to you : WHy did you not offer your camera to GS rep or th ecaptain to show you STOPPED after one photo that showed no person as a part of it ?

Amber February 20, 2013 at 06:11 pm

I'm so sorry this has happened to you. You did consider every possible conclusion within this scenario, & you are correct that the FA should be held accountable for her actions. I work for another airline & was privy to pictures on Twitter of our seats & other areas of the plane when a customer was excited or there was something wrong, so I do not understand UA's stand on taking photos. You clearly did not violate anything within their statement. I hope this will be resolved for you soon & congratulations on your Million Miler status, that is a lot of miles to fly, especially when you are so young!

Louis February 20, 2013 at 06:12 pm

In addition to the word "terrorist" you accused the FA of lying, which probably did nothing but aggravate the situation. I can't imagine that she knew her accusation was false. I agree, the use of the word terrorist was probably what got you thrown off the flight, but you should also have characterized her statement as a misunderstanding and offered to let her inspect your iPhone to see that you only took the one single picture and stopped after her warning.

Lauren February 20, 2013 at 06:13 pm

Now I'm going to rock the boat here, and say that although it wasn't handled in the most professional way, I believe the FA was simply doing her job.  We live in a post 9-11 world of tight safety regulations, and situations that would be dealt with leniently on the ground take on a much higher significance onboard an aircraft.  

As a member of cabin crew myself, there are safety policies that seem silly to passengers but still have to be upheld. I know many of you regard us merely as 'flying waitresses' but as our prime concern is safety.  If we have the slightest safety concern onboard an aircraft it is our duty to report it, regardless of whether a passenger is a frequent flyer or not.  Taking photographs may seem innocent enough, and 99% of the time it is. However if someone from a terrorist organisation was that way inclined, taking photographs of aircraft seats and equipment could be used to note, for example, potential stowages to hide bombs or materials with which to create explosives.  FAs have a lot to do while boarding and she may have not realised you had only taken one photo, and that it was just your screen, and the fact you even mentioned the word 'terrorist' wouldn't have helped your cause either.  

Of course this seems fantastical and melodramatic, but if you were an FA and it just so happened someone was taking photographs on your flight to be used for not so innocent purposes which resulted in a terrorist attack, you would kick yourself for not having dealt with the situation appropriately.  Once you're in the air, that's it, you're stuck.

Fnarf February 20, 2013 at 06:16 pm

The United captain says "Don't use fowl or vulgar language".

"Excuse me, ma'am, can you help me get these damn guinea hens in the overhead?"

Dan February 20, 2013 at 06:34 pm

Thank you for posting. It redoubles my determination to extend my wonderful 5 year long stretch avoiding that miserable airline.

PK February 20, 2013 at 06:36 pm

OK, I wonder if someone else noticed this: "Don't joke about drunk pilots. You won't get thrown off the plane but in many cases that plane will not be going while the crew get off and go get tested to prove their innocence."

So it appears that passengers have their own nasty little games, if they were so inclined, they could play:

"Pardon me. But your co-worker over there who told me to stop taking pictures seemed a bit slurred. I think I saw her drinking beer before boarding. Could you talk to the captain about it?"

Welcome to post 9-11 America folks!

Ben Hughes February 20, 2013 at 06:37 pm

It's astonishing how many commenters here are using "we live in a post 9/11 world" as a substitute for substantive argument. As if mere trigger words (even when preceded by "not") legitimately might cause when happened here. This line of thinking just begs to be challenged with reductio ad absurdums. Really sloppy critical thinking, folks.

Relatedly, many are conflating issues. The issue here is not about whether the photo policy is good or bad (I happen to strongly believe it's bad), or even how that policy should be made known to passengers. You can make good arguments on either side for that, but it's tangential. The critical issue, and the issue that the author correct honed in on before commenters went off track, was the flight attendant flat-out lied to the captain and that the passenger was kicked off the flight based on factually incorrect information delivered by a flight attendant with colossally sloppy contextual awareness.

Chris February 20, 2013 at 06:46 pm

Let's run through the various scenerios and try to find out what the problem is:

SCENARIO 1 1. Passenger takes photo of seat. 2. Flight attendant tells passenger to stop. 3. Passenger stops. 4. Passenger removed from airplane for failing to stop taking photos.

SCENARIO 2 1. Passenger takes photo of seat. 2. Flight attendant tells passenger to stop. 3. Passenger stops. 4. Passenger explains his actions. Flight attendant is intimaded by this action. 5. Passenger removed from airplane for failing to stop taking photos.

SCENARIO 3 1. Pasenger takes photo of seat. 2. Flight attendant tells passenger to stop. 3. Passenger stops. 4. Passenger explains his actions. Flight attendant is intimidated by passenger's use of the word "terrorist." 5. Passenger removed from airplane for failing to stop taking photos.

In any of these three scenarios, the fault lies solely with the flight attendant, because the concluding step never follows from the earlier ones. This is the "lie." It is prima facie the problem. Scenario 1 is actually the best-case scenario, because it only involves a lie.

Scenario 2 adds another step to the lie. In step 4, the flight attendant is intimidated or otherwise angered by a passenger explaining his actions. This causes the lie, but is itself a greater fault on the flight attendant. If a flight attendant is intimidated by a reasonable explanation presented reasonably, there is something else wrong.

Scenario 3 is the worst of all. The flight attendant reacted to the mere mention of a word, and lied to protect herself. Although the rights of free expression do not apply to aircraft, it is easy to see the chilling effect of allowing individual words to set off such a severe reaction.

But it all comes down to the lie. The passenger's behavior is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT after he stops taking the photos. He is removed because the flight attendant claimed that he did not comply. Do not make this more complicated than that. The passenger complied. The flight attendant had the passenger removed from the airplane for failing to comply. End of story.

Michael February 20, 2013 at 06:57 pm


Petur Workman February 20, 2013 at 07:02 pm

Thanks for this well written account. These employees were clearly wrong and did not care about customer service. I hope you are justly compensated.

Paul February 20, 2013 at 07:04 pm

Whether right or wrong, you never have anything but a pleasant conversation with the flight crew before the aircraft takes off. Document everything and complain once at your destination.

As you noted, what is done is done and nothing you do from this point on will change your situation, albeit, make it worse. Now, the issue is no longer a FA disagreement, but the Captain removed you from the flight. If they give you anything, even the time of day, they undermine their pilot which is not going to happen.

Hate to say it, but you should have stopped taking the pictures (like you did), apologize, and not mention the subject again..........

Mike D February 20, 2013 at 07:29 pm

That's why I only take pictures after the wheels are up.

Tom February 20, 2013 at 07:31 pm

I do feel sorry that this happened. I have to admit though, I want my crew to be vigilant and when someone references "not being a terrorist" for behavior that has corrected, I think it gives them every right to make that decision. I know it was just a slip of a poor word choice, but in these times it strikes me that they had to err on the side of caution.

Mike February 20, 2013 at 07:31 pm

Story should be titled petty confrontation that you elevated at one point and then confrontation got further elevated and you ended on losing end. Are you angry now because you feel that you were in the right or just angry that you were on the short end of the confrontation?

I would be pretty annoyed if some passenger was arguing with a FA over taking photos and continuing this petty discussion by offering business cards etc. In my opiniopn it was immature of you to continue your discussion over something so trivial. "Sit down and shut up" would have been my thought. Also anyone with any experience should know that you don't use the word "terrorist" on a flight. I would be bothered by any passenger arguing with a FA using that word. At minimum . That was just thoughtless at best. Whether it was unreasonable to get kicked off is not so clear. You were definitely causing a stir And I have seen plenty of jack__es doing stupid things holding up flights. If the FA had lied, which we don't really know (for example, the Captain could have stated it imprecisely) then you have your argument. But you were also part of the problem by escalating the whole initial confrontation. It would be interesting at a trial as one sided stories are never the real picturs. Everyone has a one sided story to tell. .... Makes an interesting blog story.

Travis Swanson February 20, 2013 at 07:35 pm

Huh, I'm a flight attendant. Taking pictures aren't allowed on-board the plane? Should have lost my job by now. Haha! If this truly is policy, flight attendants should be trained on it, and passengers should be informed. I say let people take pictures! I know I do when I'm up in Business or First. In 6 1/2 years I've only had one passenger kicked off the plane and that was because he was intoxicated, and an FAA guy pointed him out to me. Would have loved to have sit next to you to see how this truly inspired. - If it went down like you said it did, that's pretty jacked up. Looking forward to the response from United.

Voice of Reason February 20, 2013 at 07:38 pm

I side with the subsidiary United crew on this one, hands down.

First, young lawyers who attended non-prestigious law schools often have a pathological need to "prove" themselves and "win" every argument, no matter how trivial. And they also tend to be very socially awkward.

Second, in his "chat" with the flight attendant, Matt admitted he has the means, contacts, and motive to portray the flight and its crew in an unfavorable light and to jeopardize their flying careers. That's a threat regardless of the thoughtless "terrorist" remark.

Andrew February 20, 2013 at 07:45 pm

I was on this flight in row one. So I heard the earlier parts of the FAs discussion on the photo takers before I lost interest and watched a movie or something.

There was one mitigating circumstance. The FA in question was a huge busybody. The kind of person who tells everyone "I'm going to 4!" when they press a button in a elevator. She was pretty shot out of a canon and I remember being surprised the other FAs where ready to toss her out of the door.

But she was more flabbergasted and excitable than angry. Whatever you said to her changed the situation to a much more serious one and it became "this guy's potentially nuts and needs to go." You think you explained to be polite. But actually you were insulted that she thought you were a jerk and you wanted to show her that you are a nice guy. She was fine, you had the problem being told that you can't follow rules. You broke the rules, you should have taken her scolding and shut up. That's it.

If an FA has an issue with me for any reason, and all of those reasons have been a mystery to me and other passengers, I apologize with a 3-4 word standard clause and get back to my life. I have no interest in arguing with a potential wacky person or someone who just may be having a really bad day. Particularly when they have 100% of the power in the situation. Your role after breaking the rules is being the passenger who knows his place.

Paulo February 20, 2013 at 08:05 pm

If United feels free to deal with a 1K customer this way, when UA ought to have their long record profile... I cannot imagine how they deal with other passengers.

Disgusting and appalling.

NeverLookBack February 20, 2013 at 08:13 pm

I used to have elite status on United, but I let it lapse because the flight experience on the airline is so consistently horrible. Tired old flight crews on tired old aircraft treating passengers badly as they sit in overpriced seats.

I'm lucky to live near a hub airport where new competitors provide a viable alternative to United. Indeed, once you start flying other airlines, the contrast becomes even more stark, because you then realize how truly abysmal the United flight experience really is.

All of which is to say... not at all surprised that this happened to you. United Airlines is sad, and should be avoided.

kevin February 20, 2013 at 08:20 pm

As a united flight attendant, I have to say that there is such a disconnect between crew members and passengers that 'chasm' would be a better word to describe that distance. In the ultimate scheme of things, should the guy have been kicked off the flight? No. However, too many passengers just don't know how to follow rules--NONE OF WHICH FLIGHT ATTENDANTS WRITE AND MUST ENFORCE!!! Do you think that we like confronting customers to turn this or that off after the 26th time??? Write your congressman and tell him/her that you want it changed! But, until that time, we can't give you permission to pee when the seat belt sign is on or to try to discern and describe for you what UNITED REALLY MEANT about its photography policy. Aside from companies paying for most of the elite passengers tickets anyway, I don't understand why more people of means don't just fly NetJets or something, or just move to Asia where the nice Asian people pamper you the way it should be? We have so much to deal with from even before you board until after the last person has deplaned. As human beings, we tend to remember the god-awful things that happen to us, hardly ever the good ones. When was the last time any of you wrote the company and thanked an airline representative for nice service, or going the extra mile. Yet, here many of you are, in your executive jobs and with business cards, calling for the head of someone with a middle-class job which might not even be around for her in a few years with this economy. Could she have handled the situation differently, yes. But, as others have pointed out, more than the blogger was taking pictures. Yet, HE was the only one thrown off. Poor angel of god that he is, apparently. Most of us work hard. Yet, none of it gets recognized by management, or by customers who only want to write when they feel that service has been lousy, instead of the other way around. Many have left the airlines because of the low pay and the attitudes of 97% of the posters here. Perhaps, that flight attendant will think about it as well--I know that I am. Almost free tickets on constantly full flights aren't worth the sense of entitlement that passengers pack in their rollerboards that we have to work like magicians to stow!

zasdfasd February 20, 2013 at 08:31 pm

scenario 1 pax wouldn't get booted

Ben Hughes February 20, 2013 at 08:34 pm

Chris's comment above is perfectly on-point. Some others seem off-track, either wading in ad-homimens concerning the author's disposition or sense of entitlement, or a reading comprehension fail concerning the sequence of events (unfortunately not helped by the poor subject choice for this article).

But let's say the photo thing didn't happen and instead it was just the trigger word that started this. Setting aside the absurdity of the conclusions the FA would have drawn from merely mentioning the word (even if proceeded by "not"), folks forget that safety is part a set of nuanced trade-offs. We don't have speed limits of 1mph because there are consequences (in this case, foreseeable and visible). The fact that consequences are hidden and unintended to not make them any less consequences. The most extreme and provocative example of a trade-off here is some research done by economists suggesting more people have died after 9/11 solely from substituting from flying into driving (which is significantly less safe) than actually died on 9/11 itself. You can disagree with the estimation of the variables, but the fundamental logic of safety trade-offs is unavoidable.

As such, if this were a smaller domestic flight, I would argue that the slight margin being pushed in favor of even just this passenger driving a car after being kicked off the flight is a bigger ding to safety than keeping him on the plane. But of course it's "out of sight, out of mind" to the flight attendants, even if they could reason this far.

So folks engaged in this kind of "categorical safety" reasoning are ending their argument too soon. It is necessary but not sufficient to claim that there is a safety/risk issue with a trigger word (that estimation is an entirely other debate, but let's say for the sake of argument it is a minute safety concern). To complete the argument, such defenders would have to consider the chain of consequences occurring in the other direction (for example, people avoiding United, costs to the airline) and argue convincingly that avoiding the expected probability-adjusted security risks (minutely small) outweigh the unintended consequences/costs (slightly less minutely small, I would argue). People can't even get to stage 1 of this line of reasoning because thinking in terms of trade-offs seems very unnatural.

Elizabeth February 20, 2013 at 08:40 pm

Perhaps this was the same flight attendant who lied to the captain about me several years back. I had purchased a seat for my son who had turned 2 years old just a few days before the flight. Boarding was delayed 3 hours for mechanical reasons and then there was a lengthy (>1 hr) delay at the gate once on board. It was now past 10 pm and my son was beyond tired but not crying or making any fuss. I allowed him to curl up in my lap to try to sleep...which worked. the FA informed me that he needed to be buckled. I complied, he was buckled into his seat but his head was laying in my lap. She told me that he needed to be sitting up. I said as soon as we pull away from the gate I will make sure he is upright. She disappeared and then a few minutes later the pilot made an announcement that there was a passenger on board "I believe it is our youngest passenger." Who is refusing to cooperate with the flight crew and that the plane would not move until the passenger cooperates or we get the airport police on board to remove him and his mother". The flight attendant stood over me and glared. I positioned my son upright and she then went over and made a call on the plane's phone. The plane still did not move for over 30 minutes during which my son cried and fussed the whole time. I am sure all of the surrounding passengers appreciated that. I did not fly United for many years after that episode.

kevin February 20, 2013 at 08:42 pm

By the way, the issue would've never escalated to a 'the flight attendant lied' or 'flight attendant's word vs customer's word' if he would've simply said, 'You got it!' Again, too many times customers want to take our their frustrations with the company on us. If we had our way, there'd be no baggage fees. That way, we wouldn't have to try and make room for YOURS or you get upset with US that we have to check them at the gate. We wish that all of the planes had internet, and that you wouldn't have to pay. We're sorry that you have to pay for meals now and liquor if you don't give us one of the many chits that united gives YOU for your loyalty. Sorry that the U.S. has age discrimination laws so that all of your flight attendants don't look like Asian geisha girls where they have to quit at a certain age or reach a certain weight--kind of like how the U.S. industry was in the early part of last century! Moral of the story...take your issues with whatever policies that you have with the airlines to people who can actually do something about it (Congress, airline management, etc.) instead of picking on the lowly customer service agents/flight attendants that have to enforce them or pay penalties. Yes. How many of you even knew/know that the FAA can fine us, sometimes thousands of dollars for not enforcing their regulations? But, since we make so much $$$ as it is, just keep calling for us to get fired.

Dan February 20, 2013 at 08:52 pm

A while ago a musician, David Carroll, had his guitars broken by United and couldn't get any remediation. He wrote a song "United Breaks Guitars", made a video which went viral on YouTube, then a couple more videos. And wrote a book telling the backstory behind making the videos and the ordeal with United customer service.

Maybe you should get David Carroll write you a song and to make a video, or do similar to what he did. Be fun to see "United Flight Attendents Lie"

I doubt United would like to become the focus of another social media blow up again.

It's an outrage that the FA got a bug up her ass about taking a harmless photo on a plane. Unfortunately the use of the t-word probably ruined the situation, but the FA's initial behaviour was out of line. Why not try filling out the complaint at ?

PK February 20, 2013 at 09:32 pm

There's no shortage of praise and criticism on the forum but perhaps this word of (hopefully useful) advice: Read the policy and find a way to use the rules to your advantage.

Rather than talk to Miss Crazy, you should have (and continue to have the option if you don't make a ruckus over this), to ask for permission. The policy says that UNAUTHORIZED pictures are strictly prohibited.

What about authorized pictures?

Go through the contact list of the airlines and find the public relations arm. Explain to them what you do and that many passengers want to take pictures and the policy needs to be clearer. Then... ask for permission in writing with a defined set of limits (such as not ok to photograph the stewardess, other people without asking, etc.) Get the letter and carry it with you.

Then when Miss Bossypants runs down the aisle towards you, calmly wait for her to finish and then say, "Listen, I have a letter authorizing me to take photos. May I get it out?" Instant stifle. She'll then have to shuffle her way to the back muffled. In addition, she'll think twice before picking a fight with you!

steve February 20, 2013 at 10:08 pm

RE: Elizabeth's awful experience. That's just out of line in this increasingly bizarre world of ours. People just don't know to use common sense. RE: Kevin flight attendant. You're right,there does seem at times a divide between crew and pax, but really it's more than that, general societal behavior has collapsed. I'd like to see an airline which truly has clean airplanes, good food, and professional, service- friendly FAs. Equally the airline would require gentlemen/boys in suit and tie, and laced shoes/loafers; ladies/girls in dresses, white gloves,hat and heels/flats or pumps. Um, also no backpacks or carry-on luggage, save for purse and/or laptop, or carry-on food or drinks, save for formula. The airline's onboard service afterall will handle that. Seriously. Oh, and to make money, no award seats, just paying passengers. What's not to like? I'm not being flippant at all. I mean I've been sick of seeing shabby demeanor and attire from flip flops (safety?) to butt-crack-showing gangsta baby pants on 'men'. It could be called RetroAir or SelectAir. The big challenge would to find enough people willing to support said airline and then teach some of those how to dress and real manners. I mean, how many people in their 70s and 90s fly who recall the days of decorum. This could be an interesting experiment in the 21st century world gone to the dawgs. It takes two to make for a pleasant flight, pax and crew. Still, NetJets sounds nice, and probably is one of the few alternatives to avoid the Greyhound of the skies.

AirlineEmployee February 20, 2013 at 11:10 pm

To Kevin, As an long-time airline employee myself (not United) I'm generally pro-employee but you really sound so angry in your post. Believe me I've encountered my share of passengers who are total jerks (ridiculous demands, arguing moot issues, totally obnoxious) but this story sounds plausible, albeit he should have avoided the use of the "wrong" word "terrorist" while trying to explain. But really, is this a reason to over-react on the part of the FA, put on her PowerTrip stance, go to the Captain and get the passenger kicked off immediately ? Because we have to have zero-tolerance for stupid mistakes ?? I truly feel that some employees don't want to get in trouble or be written up for wrong things so they immediately turn it on the customer, embellish the facts. I personally would have quietly leaned into the guy and diplomatically told him what the airline's position is on the matter and that as long as he (the passenger) was perfectly clear about it from this point on, we are all good to go. She could have at least tried that. His mistake was not to answer initially (he may have come off as aloof or sarcastic) and then he brings it up again (which does appear as wanting to have the last word) - so, I can understand her annoyance but alittle bit of patience and explanation on her part would have avoided this awkward situation for everyone.

Michael February 20, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I have had numerous problems with American carriers,,,,I now fly Turkish Airlines for all my international flights,,,,, they want my business and treat me like a person)))))

GeeEmm February 20, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I tweeted this story, changing the title to "Thrown Off a @United Airlines Flight because a flight attendant lied."

Harold E. Hartman, III February 20, 2013 at 11:18 pm

While the Captain ultimately has discretion over who flies and who doesn't, this situation is borderline obscene because of the FA's conduct. You should consider filing a complaint with the US DOT:

You should also see if the policy that appears in the Hemispheres magazine regarding your photography also appears in the Contract of Carriage, to strengthen your claim with United.

gomike February 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm

You said the word terrorist on an airplane. Why not ask to get added to the no fly list? Some people just don't know when to stop talking.

kevin February 20, 2013 at 11:57 pm

@Airline Employee. It's not about being 'angry'. It's about being frustrated. Personally, I wish that before every passenger boards an aircraft, s/he would have to read, sign and consent to everything that the FAA, TSA and said airline's rules state. Likewise, I wish that every passenger were made aware of the thousands of rules that were made supposedly for their safety and comfort. Wouldn't this make it easier on everyone? I mean, printing it in the Hemispheres magazine in small print obviously isn't doing it, now is it? Who reads the darn thing, anyway? I can't tell you how many times we have to repeat the menu options on international flights or run down the list of drinks we have onboard because very few people take the time to read even after our announcements (which no one listens to) direct customers where to find information. Right there in that same Hemispheres magazine is united's one alcoholic beverage at a time rule. I can't tell you how many customers have gotten upset with me, this year alone, when I tell them that I can't give them two red wines/two beers/two minis at the same time only to be told, "Well you're the only one enforcing it!" If I had a united ghost rider onboard and handed two drinks to the same person at the same time, guess who would be in trouble? Even though it's united's policy that economy customers not cross the curtain to use the first/business class toilets, regardless of how close it is or that people are 'inconvenienced' for having to walk to the back of the plane (despite airline status), am I the bad person for re-directing them? Or, should I just make the real First Class customer wait for the economy customer(despite airline status) do #2??? Which one should I do? Many times, the lowly, bottom-of-the-totem-pole employee is caught in between management/government (policy) and customer (expectations). It's not a great place to be, I tell you. Where does the onus lie? On whom does it lie? But 9 times out of 10, the repercussions fall onto the employee- worker, in this case, the flight attendant. If a customer doesn't like that I didn't serve two drinks and writes a letter about my attitude what not, I STILL have to explain how I could have handled the situation differently! Really? I would LOVE to give three, four, five drinks at a time! But, that's not the policy. Would customers have us overlook policy, or tailor it to fit each individual situation? The same thing with the customer that moves into Economy Plus without paying for it. Should we ask them to move back, since other customers have paid extra for it. Or, should we risk that customer being embarrassed for having to move back? Do we just let it slide, even though the person who paid for the seat gives us a mouthful about how the other person just 'moseyed' up there? Now, guess which one is company policy? Can you see how the flight attendant can't win for losing? The only thing that I'm trying to point out is that much of what customers describe as 'power trips' by flight attendants are many times just enforcing (or at least asking--because we still see people texting under their coats, getting up while the seat belt side is on, crossing the curtains to use the nearest toilet, etc.)what either the government or the airline has asked us to. Personally, I would've handled the situation differently. At the same time, I bring up the fact again, that the blogger was not the only one taking pictures. Yet, he was the only one removed. And if this 'same flight attendant' that other people saw policing the aisle didn't try to get those others off of the plane, what did the blogger do that he found himself getting other accommodations to Istanbul while they stayed with their original itineraries? I say, just do away with all of the darn rules. Oh, wait! That would mean that the other half of people would then start complaining and taking to social media and calling for flight attendants' heads while calling their local TV station for cable news network, all the while extolling how the service on every country's airlines except for American ones are far superior. #flightattendantscan'twinforlosing#

AirlineEmployee February 21, 2013 at 12:01 am

What's next, a SWAT team and trauma counselors for the crew and passengers on the flight?
Zero tolerance has gone too far. Of course certain "scary" words should be avoided but this is ridiculous. Zero tolerance = zero intelligence and common sense. My brother's name is Jack, guess I better not say "HI JACK" when he comes into the airport to see me.

Flight Attendant February 21, 2013 at 12:16 am

You put your foot in your mouth with your sense of entitlement and stupidity- suffer the consequences. You were about to go up 30,000+ in a tin can with hundreds of other's not just about you and your self-indulgent and douchey blog.

kevin February 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

@steve#236...LOL! Spot on, man! :-) If customers REALLY knew what one of OUR days was like. Just read, again, about 97% of the replies on here. The venom spewing forth! This is what WE deal with. But, the 3% is what keeps us going. When they see an unruly passenger and say things like, "I don't know how you can do your job! I'd go crazy!" or "I saw what happened. If you need a letter, here's my card. Let me know." It makes a world of difference. Just imagine if we went to your place of work and just disobeyed all of the decorum and rules set by your management/company? And then we told you, "Well, that's a stupid policy!" I guess then, that would be okay? But, you know what? It won't be long before Turkish, Asiana, Emirates, etc. flight attendants talk in the galley about you, too--if they already don't ('Oh, Lord! More Westerners/Americans tapping their glasses for a re-fill! Why don't they go back to the American carriers???) Believe it or not, and I know it's a stretch for some of you, working international flights, people do tell us that they like our service compared with home-country airlines. It's all relative.

AirlineEmployee February 21, 2013 at 12:36 am

@Kevin, My apologies, you are right about all of these scenarios. Though I am not a FA, I work full-time at a ticket counter and can totally attest to dealing with extremely obnoxious and/or annoying passengers. I totally hear you about having to repeat things ad-nauseam because no one seems to be listening. I've asked passengers if they are checking a bag, they answer "no", we go through the whole check-in and then they snottily say "you didn't take my bag !!" while they point to the refrigerator size thing they have with them (hiding it behind the ticket counter where I couldn't see it in the first place).

How about the ones that just stare a hole through our heads? You know, the passengers you ask a simple question to (who understand English perfectly). "May I see your ID please?"......answer: "who me" ?? I would love to answer "no, the guy behind you" but that would only cause me to be talking to my supervisor at the end of the day for being snarky. We just have to put up with it and repeat and repeat and repeat, all the while with a big fat smile on our faces.

For those of you who think we are "burnt out" or can't take the heat need to get out of the kitchen, etc., walk a mile in my shoes. Besides, even the best cooks get burned in the kitchen from time to time. I've am still learning not to "react" to quickly to stupid / dumb remarks and questions. I can't always hold that smile that they want me to but I just (fake it) apologize repeatedly throughout the day. Sad but true.

Marisa Roth February 21, 2013 at 12:53 am

Outrageous! Were are our rights?

kevin February 21, 2013 at 12:54 am

And, lastly, because this thread can go on ad nauseum about united's 'surly' flight attendants, how would you like it if someone came to your job, specifically, your office, and just totally disregarded your place of business' protocol and 'rules of the road'? What if we just parked where your designate spot was because it was closer or we didn't want to walk as far? What if we told you that your rules were 'stupid' and asked you, in turn, 'why do I have to do this or that'? And many of us have flight attendant friends that work at other (foreign) carriers. Trust me: they talk about Western/American passengers, as well. What you see as another airline 'pampering you', that's not how it's described in those carrier's galley areas either. They can spot many of our customers from a mile away! Again, the flight attendant could've, perhaps, handled this better. I mean, she's already been tarred and feathered on this blog! But, many of you have NO IDEA how flying has changed for us as well in the last 5 years, yet alone since 9/11! We are constantly being asked to do more with less. We get our galleys late, but when you step onboard, you still want and expect for your jackets to be hanged and pre-departure drinks served. We understand! We understand when we don't have your first choice of meal. We even understand when you get your complimentary upgrade to first, but when you get there, there's no more space for your bag to accompany you to your new seat. But, try and understand how this industry has changed for us as well. And, for too many, leaving is not an option due to financial concerns, lost pensions, and paychecks that are in excess of 10-20% less than what they were just a few years ago. Again, how many of you, regardless of airline, have taken a moment to just thank one of your crews? Sent a letter in after you've gotten better than average service, compared to your standards, of course? While about 97% of the people on here are complaining about United, its flight attendants, its policies and its service, that 3% on here that were at least willing to give the flight attendant a modicum of the benefit of the doubt--after all, only one photography rulebreaker was asked to leave--are what make the difference for many of us! Oftentimes, other customers see how we're treated and threatened with being 'written up.' Yet, someone can see the same picture but with a different result and have told us, "I saw what happened. Here's my card. Use it if you need to." Or, we'll hear, "I don't know how you guys do it! I would lose my job if I had to deal with some of these people!" Again, if you had to tell someone at your job to do a task over and over, what would happen to that person? But, at our job, it's okay to blatantly disregard rules/authority (that we didn't write), and then want to scalp our heads? Welcome to flying in 2013! Safe travels, everyone! And just remember, you catch more flies with honey...Make a list of rules that you don't like, get fellow travelers on board with you. And, take these concerns to the FAA, the TSA and the airlines. For the talkers on phones, you may get your wish soon. People organized. For those that don't want to hear the yelling and screaming into cell phones, you get organized, too. You want to use your electronic devices while taxiing, get organized. If you want to take a picture of your television monitor before takeoff, after landing, etc., get organized. :-)

Laches February 21, 2013 at 01:14 am

I can't believe the number of people siding with the FA here. First there is the patently silly idea that a single, innocuous use of the word "terrorist" is legitimate grounds for removal from a flight in the name of passenger safety. (Yeah, I'm sure that's prevented countless hijackings and saved untold numbers of innocent lives, flight attendants identifying terrorists by noticing that they actually used the word "terrorist", then having them removed from the flight.)

But that issue aside, the FA lied. Regardless of whether you think he should have known better than to use the word "terrorist" or that he's being a princess or a primadonna, there is simply no excuse for the FA to make fraudulent claims about his behavior to get him off the plane. None.

If that happened to me, I would expect to be heavily compensated.

Andrew February 21, 2013 at 01:27 am

I read through the comments and I want to respond to the FAs and other airline employees complaining about passengers. First, we get it: safety is your #1 priority. And the .00000000001% when that skill is necessary, we're sure you will do a great job. Until then, customer service is your job too. Paraphrasing here but "having to be the go-between management and passengers is hard....." IS.YOUR.JOB. You think dealing with difficult people is unique to ONLY your job, please. Try dealing with people dying from cancer, or stupid judges, or criminal who want to kill you, or parents who think their idiot kids are geniuses, or burning buildings, or working on an assembly line everyday for fifty years, or ANY OTHER JOB!! Don't like it, quit. There are plenty of people (roughly 8.2% of population, btw) that would love to have your job. It's not that hard.

Now, I fly quite (not in mileage but certainly in segments) but this hiding behind safety nonsense has got to stop. For every 4 great crews I see, there is always 1 one that is just lazy. Totally *&%$ lazy. If you are considering leaving the job because the "free travel" isn't worth it anymore then you never should have taken the job in the first place.

Bargal February 21, 2013 at 01:28 am

Talk about a sense of entitlement. You think you're so much better than regular passengers because of your extensive travel. We all pay our fares, whether we fly 600 miles or 950,000.

I would also have demanded you get off the plane, the moment you mouthed off about terrorists.

Laches February 21, 2013 at 01:34 am


"By the way, the issue would've never escalated to a 'the flight attendant lied' or 'flight attendant's word vs customer's word' if he would've simply said, 'You got it!'"

--But we do understand and acknowledge that it was the FA who escalated the issue here, yes? The FA was the one who decided to manufacture a phony safety concern about his harmless use of the word "terrorist" and lie to the captain about his behavior to get him kicked off the flight.

Whatever your feelings about passenger-flight crew relations are, the FA's behavior here was inexcusable. If it were merely a case of the FA overreacting because she had already spent a day dealing with a bunch of self-entitled pricks, that would be understandable. But false accusations of passenger misconduct are not.

Andrew February 21, 2013 at 01:43 am

How long until the entire crew are robots? 15 years?

That will be cool. Then, ladies and gentlemen, you will have all the time in the world to read your People magazine.

BFrankley February 21, 2013 at 01:57 am

Matthew, After reading your post and the comments by the intellectually challenged United defenders, I've never felt so good about being a former 1K. I'm impressed it only took you three days to calm down and relate your experiences with the lying FA and the gutless Captain. I'm glad I wasn't in your shoes or I'm sure I would have left the plane in handcuffs. Please show no mercy in your fight for reparations.

UnF@!*ing believable United. Seriously!

DP February 21, 2013 at 02:22 am

"Taking photos is against FAA laws" - sheesh - I really should bring a current copy of the FAR/AIM book on every trip, so when I encounter this kind of ridiculous phrase from a power-tripping FA I can pull it out and say "Please show me this law."

Joelfreak February 21, 2013 at 03:11 am

I have met Matthew in person, and dealt with him in business, and he is one of the last people I would think that would pull a DYKWIA. Basically what we are looking at here is a situation where he was setup to fail. Nothing could have been done to 'defuse' the situation once the FA decided to enforce this rule. As to some of the people posting here about using the word 'terrorist' on an airplane, I would say that any feelings you have about that word are just that...your feelings. I UNDERSTAND why you have those feelings, but just like everything else in life, the way you feel and interpret things is NOT the only way, and thus unless someone says "I am a terrorist, and I will take this plane down", you MUST use good judgement in deciding if there is an ACTUAL threat. If you feel that you cannot do that, you are in the wrong profession. For the FA's posting about how horrible their job is, again, you are not in the right profession. I have flown with MANY FA's who LOVE their job, even today, in this environment. If you don't like it any more, see about moving elsewhere in the company, or look for different employment. Taking pictures of a plane, or a TSA checkpoint, or a bridge in NYC (all places where photography is claimed to be illegal post 9/11) is NOT going to help anyone make bombs or the like, all its going to do is add stress to EVERYONES life. The reason this country is great is because of the freedom of expression and the freedom of people to live their lives as long as it doesn't infringe upon the freedoms of others. Don't give into the drumbeat of constant fear, as all it will do is cost you your happiness. Sorry for the rambling, but I felt the need to respond, as many people seem to think Matthew is to blame, when people on a power trip need to be checked, and that didn't seem to happen here.

Thank you Joelfreak.

Viktor February 21, 2013 at 04:02 am

Maybe it's because I'm Swiss but I really have no understanding for the many comments defending this FA. I mean, come on, if I would like to get photos to copy the plane as someone suggested, I will do using a high-res spy camera without sound or flash, so what's the point here? And does anybody really believe that the word terrorist is a threat on its own, particularly in this scenario? If I really was a terrorist, would I really bring it up in such a way? I feel compelled to greet the crew of my next flight with a friendly smile and a "hi, i'm not a terrorist, where's my seat?" and see what happens ;-)

Dear Americans, you all shoud get back to earth again please, and lose the fear, life's much more fun without it!

Michael Dillon February 21, 2013 at 04:19 am

You were at fault. You are not dealing with highly trained professionals on a flight. The FAs are just one notch up from store clerks and waitresses. They do get a bit of training but most of it is safety related, not about assessing passengers' character.

Here are the three mistakes that you made.

One you interrupted the FA during flight preparations with something that was entirely unrelated to the prep. Yes, ask for pillows, ask for coats to be hung, but no small talk and no business cards. The FAs are busy and since it is rather common for people to be bumped from flights for unruly behavior or drunkenness you can be sure that they are on the lookout for possible unruly passengers and are strictly under orders to report everything up the chain of command an let the decision be made up there.

Secondly, you used the word terrorist. This word paints a picture in people's minds and it is not a pretty picture. To many people on an airline it is a horrifying and emotionally difficult experience to even think of terrorist possibilities. You thrust this negative and harrowing mental image onto the FA. This is like disciplining your your young daughter by telling her she is a "bad girl". When she reaches puberty and learns what "bad girl" means, she will likely take a job as a stripper, start drinking and taking drugs, and leave home because it makes it harder to earn a living as a prostitute living at home. Even though you are a non-fiction writer you still need to become aware of the power of words and the imagery that they create in our minds.

And thirdly, you failed to differentiate yourself from the other guy. After becoming aware that someone else was being told to not take pictures you should have turned off your phone entirely (not airplane mode) and checked out the in flight magazine articles. Most likely the FA did not consciously lie about you, she just got two strangers mixed up. This happens all the time with people who are not trained to be observant. I believe it first came to the attention of the psychological community when an Australian woman was raped and described her rapist to a police artist. The picture was published, the person matching it found, and he was positively identified in person by the woman. The only problem was that he had an ironclad alibi. He was on a daily television show (I believe a live game show) which the woman watched every day. She confused herself and convinced herself that this familiar face was the rapist because the incident happened at the time it was on. But there were millions of TV viewers plus studio audience and crew who could vouch for the arrested man's whereabouts on the live TV show at that time.

I'm not saying that other crew members were not wrong as well, but in this case you painted yourself into a corner by getting the FA confused.

Neil; February 21, 2013 at 04:20 am


Seriously, he was ejected because of taking photos, not because of the "T word". The fact that he took one photo and ceased activity means that he is NOT in the wrong.

While it is common sense not to use the word "terrorist" on board or in an airport (I certainly wouldn't), this doesn't mean that it is logical or justified. 1000 years ago it was common sense that you could fall off the face of the earth. We seriously need to stop being so precious about this word and take our power back.

Crash February 21, 2013 at 04:20 am

The world of robots should first annihilate these liars, starting with ones at United.

athenabkk February 21, 2013 at 04:26 am

THis type of situation is not new. Here is a link to a similar story from 2009:

Dan Williams February 21, 2013 at 04:35 am

Obviously flying 950,000 miles on and keeping a blog advocating an airline is just exactly the sort of tricky deception that terrorists would do to throw people off their trail!! This was clearly a close call for United and all the people above defending United's actions are quite sensible! Think of the children!

Regional FA February 21, 2013 at 04:36 am

I am a flight attendant for a regional airline, but we do some international flying. We fly low to the ground and people love taking pictures. Sure, they shouldn't do it during takeoff and landing, but they do anyway, and Lo and behold the plane still flies.

This kind of flight attendant behavior is essentially inexcusable and is a textbook definition of power trip. I have flown with senior mamas like this before and they act like they own the plane and the passengers on board. It's unfair to the people who fly, who have already dealt with a colossal amount of bullshit from check-in to security to waiting to gate to boarding.

Now I am fully familiar with Douchey Business Man who thinks he is the most important passenger on earth, which is always super cute and adorable like a toddler. And yes these people are among the most irritating and entitled people on earth but, you know, oh well. But this situation seems like a reasonable person trying to explain themselves to a completely irrational nutcase.

Flight attendants absolutely have a sense of power that is often unchecked and it is awful for our passengers. Yeah, I'm sure this woman has been though as much bullshit as every other airline employee these days but she's in the wrong and she needs to learn a lesson. And this lesson needs to be pushed out to other flight attendants too.

At our airline we were getting into some real knock-down drag-out fights over the stupid electronics-off policy. Fight attendants were going to the police any time they had to ask somebody 3 or more times to power down. We had a long sit-down during recurrent training that, hey, do your job but don't freak out so much. Get some common sense, use the judgment that we hired you to use, and pick your battles. Basically: learn to drop it and don't be a bitch.

I have no doubt that this woman will be punished and then have all her punishment washed away by the Union (and I'm a union rep and I know that's just how the shitty system works). But at least she'll get it in her head to lighten up and think twice.

And everybody ... Come on my planes and take all the pictures you want. There is no federal rule about this and frankly I could give a crap. And you can say "terrorist" all day long if you want. As long as you don't say, "I am a terrorist." We are not the thought/word police, we are flight attendants. We get you in your seat and serve you a drink and in case something goes wrong we save your life. But Jesus we need to lighten up as a profession.

dba7dba February 21, 2013 at 04:39 am

I believe it's time for the FA to start wearing mini mike/video-camera (like some cops are now) the moment they start interacting with passengers.

theNegotiator February 21, 2013 at 04:41 am

Assuming your story is 100% true, you didn't get thrown off a flight for taking against-policy pictures. In zooming out you might consider airlines in general have multiple no-tolerance policies. Perhaps that airline had a two strikes policy. You are the FA and part of your pre-flight duties is to report anomalies to the captain.

That would include you and the flytard who was arguing with the FA after he upset her. She then turns in her report.

"Two passengers taking pictures, one of them argued with me (look I'm almost crying I'm upset) the other said one of the red flag words 'Terrorist'."

Now the captain is upset. Maybe other captains have been demoted, fired, put on extended leave of absence without pay for lack of reporting anomalies among passengers.

In this great age of the whistle-blower - who wants to gamble their career and retirement on a poorly reported story. The captain gets his story straight with the FA, they all mis-remembered you wouldn't stop taking pictures. No one addresses the topic of the word you said.

The Captain later makes a report reviewed by a risk assessment team whom then gives him an accommodation for "appropriate action to eliminate on board crises" or some such thing and at his next review he gets a raise or promotion.

I have a simple TMI rule that I've found supports me and my clients that I teach it too:

Tell people only if they need to know and if you aren't sure, they don't need to know. So a FA would need to know things like your seat number, food preferences and any challenges you might have before or during the flight. She doesn't need to know you AREN'T a terrorist.

I could think of some analogies but I suspect you get the point. I acknowledge this is only my "story" but in telling my story I hope to inspire both the reflex to have greater perspective and the benefit of managing your own information.

Mike Gamaroff February 21, 2013 at 04:41 am

This article focuses purely on the lie of the FA but to be clear, you were sarcastic and petty to say: "I am not a terrorist". That is a provocative and unnecessary statement aimed at testing the patience of the FA who has to deal with belligerent passengers every day. It's no doubt that this is what had annoyed her sufficiently to lie about your picture taking.

Not saying she was right to lie, but at least take more responsibility for your actions and stop defending that poor choice of words so early in your confrontation with the FA.

Sumit February 21, 2013 at 04:47 am

Well, reminds me of the movie Meet the Parents where Focker is pissed on plane and utters the 'B' word and it taken off the plane straight into FBI hands.

I guess nowadays people are paranoid of the 'B' word and the 'T' word on a plane. I for one believe had he not dropped the 'T' word all would have been fine!

That said UA is a pathetic airlines... this incident doesn't change anything.

Regional FA February 21, 2013 at 05:04 am

Oh and one more thing: there is no "red-flag word" list. There is no "banned word" list. There is no "never say this on a plane" list. Again: I am a flight attendant. I know this.

There IS, however, a rule to keep your ears and eyes open for security threats and to USE YOUR JUDGMENT in determining those threats. The threshold for some people is lower than others. Apparently this flight attendants threshold is the mere mention of the word. Mine is not that severe.

"Code words" and other crap people are saying on here is just wrong and factually untrue. Now, common sense would dictate that you not walk on a plane and try to push your luck saying stupid things. But I do not for the life of me consider this conversation to be in any way shape or form a threat.

Matthew, you seem remarkably calm and reasonable about this. I would be absolutely livid and losing my ever-loving shit, probably because I know -- from first-hand facts and experience -- that this woman is 100% in the wrong.

Anon February 21, 2013 at 05:24 am

Good luck United to enforce this dumbe No Photo and No Video policy when Google Glass ( becomes commodity.

gif February 21, 2013 at 05:27 am

"I'm not a terrorist" "here is my business card"

lolwat...and you have almost a million miles?

John Bonn February 21, 2013 at 05:46 am

Can someone explain to me the irrationality of using the word "terrorist" on board a plane? Considering that the one person that would NEVER use that word would be an actual terrorist / attacker, they would hardly be that stupid nor would they think in their own mind that they were one.

When you consider what happened on that fateful day on the 11th of September, the word "terrorism" (and we can particularly thanks Mr. George W. Bush and American media for it's prevelance) is so associated with that event and the airline industry, that hearing it onboard a plane should not be taken as that unusual. It undoubtedly plays on the minds of people who are considering the flight ahead, so why is it unusual to hear it.

The context of a word is so important. When someone says "I am not a terrorist" why should an FA's immediate reaction be that they ARE one or that at the very least some action should be carried out. What if a person was suspicious of another person being a potential terrorist or attacker and brought this to the attention of an FA, if they used the word "Terrorist" in a sentence would they to be repimanded and removed, while being thanked for their vigilance as they were booted off the craft.

The FA in this story seem to behave extremely erratically, maybe it wasn't a good day for her or maybe you she needs to in fact see the world and not be so afraid.

asdfasfd February 21, 2013 at 05:58 am

@ #264 Union rep FA

If this would be washed away by the union, and you know that and she knows that....

why would it be a wake up call? why should she care? why should any unionized FA care?

anon February 21, 2013 at 06:14 am

can everyone, specifically the melodramatic over-reactive americans please take a step back for a second. Absolutely noone in the world underestimates the trauma and lasting effect that 9/11 had and (rightfully) will continue to have on flight staff and general public. But this case, and numerous other less significant cases that happen daily, underline that people need to first and foremost adopt a COMMON SENSE approach. This is not at the expense of safer than sorry. This is merely thinking rationally and not buying into the american fear mongering that focuses on the one in a million situation. Please, you are not the only country to experience terrorist activity nor are you the latest one, so just cop on. You dont see any of these other countries acting so hysterically on such a continuous basis. This story clearly illustrates the PREPOSTEROUS mentality of flight staff which is without logic or reason.

( I particularly found the UA staff members comments above hilarious (which tried to justify the FA's actions))

t00l February 21, 2013 at 06:17 am

Cool. So a "T" word is like the name of Voldemort in Harry Potter books? You Americans are so awesome and rational.

Lee February 21, 2013 at 06:25 am

Why on earth did you say you weren't a terrorist, that's the stupidest thing you've ever said. If you kept your mouth shut your trip would've been smooth. It was a good thing Captain have you removed from flight. Anyone who says the word bomb or terroist at the airport or on the plane they be sorry for not saying any of those two words. Why do we have so many stupid people who makes any stupid comments about terrorist or bomb in a sentence. Example one of the passenger on Ryanair was questioned at the airport asking if he's carrying anything and he said " I'm not carrying a bomb with me if that's what you were thinking" now how stupid can that be. People are so ignorant when using one of those two words seriously.

Kamal February 21, 2013 at 06:32 am

Thank you, RegionalFA, for the common sense and great attitude. Unfortunately this is rare nowadays. Common sense has long departed. Flying used to be fun, where each person you interacted with was helpful and improved your experience. Nowadays flying is stressful where each interaction is there to make your experience worse; from check-in that wants to catch you for being 1 kilo over, to security that seizes your umbrella for being a weapon, to boarding gate staff to on-board staff, etc...

How do we get back to making flying a fun experience again?

NickB February 21, 2013 at 06:50 am

What fascinates me here is the comments as much as than the story itself.

On the use of the word "entitlement", the blog author was entitled to travel, that is for sure. Paid for ticket, passed security, followed all stated policy including the one about taking photographs for personal journey record that did not include other passengers or staff. Absolutely entitled to fly.

What is common to most comment systems is the sense of entitlement of commenters to air their personal opinions that are not based on the facts stated, rely on making up circumstances that don't exist, and then use their own speculation and interpretation to attack the character of the original author without any actual knowledge of the character of the author.

On the story itself, I think given the supporting evidence from others on the flight, we see here a massive over-reaction from a crew member that was not corrected by the captain. Eye witness accounts show her behaviour to be far more erratic and concerning than the passenger. The fact that airlines know so much about passengers prior to flight yet in circumstances where it might actually be useful to apply it they fail, suggests a systemic failure of the security process. That we should rely on crew to listen for "forbidden" words makes a mockery of security, rather than giving it any sense of robustness.

cak February 21, 2013 at 06:54 am

I think you could have handled this better, and need to understand that people have to make time sensitive decisions.

joe February 21, 2013 at 06:59 am

You were told to follow an instruction. You did, and the issue ended.

The second issue, that got you booted, was that you wanted to argue with the FA about following an instruction.

You baited her into a confrontation by getting her to come over and take your coat. Then, you started name dropping that corporate office knew about your blog and jawboning about not being a terrorist, and flashing a business card.

Your escalation and confrontation is what got you booted. She neither knows, nor cares about who you are. She gave you an instruction. After following it, you confront and threaten her.

Should she wait til you do that again, at 36000 feet after a few cocktails?

@joe, No, actually I wanted to pacify her concern because in all my 1M+ miles of flying I have never seen a FA become so agitated about taking a picture of an airline seat. I thought by explaining why I was taking pictures, it would calm her down and help her understand why.

If only you were there, you wouldn't be hurling accusations at my direction.

And to be clear--it was not even a valid instruction. I followed it--I took no more pictures after she told me to stop--but as others have attested to, she was making up her own rules. And the UA photo policy, which is not even legally binding, permits photos for "personal events", which this was--my trip to Istanbul.

That along with her erratic actions made her much more of a threat than me.

Take United to small-claims. It doesn't cost you a penny, you will win by default (let's be serious, United isn't gonna defend themselves in small-claims for the sum of a few hundred dollars), and you can probably tack on the extra cost of delays in some way so you might get out on top of what you paid extra.

Tony February 21, 2013 at 07:08 am

Bla bla, get of your high horses! Just the fact you go on about your status gives me an idea of how you have talked to the FA and thankfully she got you off the flight!

Just listen to yourself Tony. I wasn't even rude to the FA--on my word of honor--but think of the thousands of passengers each day who are rude to FAs, pilots, and airline ground staff. Should they all be forbidden from flying? And I don't see where status plays into this. If you read what I wrote, I never mentioned my status to the FA or the pilot onboard.

Jeff February 21, 2013 at 07:13 am

There was a danger on that aircraft-- the captain. How a company can put a boy in charge of a plane like that, who hasn't matured enough to be able to speak for himself, or feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the plane is beyond me.

Immediately threatening a non-hostile passenger with violence? And to get the police involved? (which is the same thing).

That guy's so passive, what's he going to do if, god forbid, the autopilot goes off? (Let alone how he would react in an emergency situation-- call someone for help?)

You're lucky. That flight didn't go down, but it's piloted by someone who will panic in a tough situation. It's only a matter of time.

@Matthew, I'm sorry you had that incident, thanks for describing it in detail. I'm curious -- did the notion of confronting you and the FA ever come up in conversation with the captain or GS rep? I mean: get you and FA together, ask some basic questions, and gauge the reactions of both?

@Jakub: No, sadly. We were at departure time and everyone just wanted to get the flight out. The captain had no desire to hear what I had to say and there was nothing or no one who could convince him to reconsider.

pbhj February 21, 2013 at 07:30 am

Re comment #25 FWIW:

"unauthorized [...] recording of airline personnel, aircraft equipment or procedures is always prohibited"

So, he was in breach of the regulation quoted contrary to your claim. Also a picture of a seat is not a "personal event" it has no person in it.

Franklin February 21, 2013 at 07:35 am

You shouldn't have used the word terrorist. Once you said that, it was over. That's like saying bomb.

david February 21, 2013 at 07:36 am

Well, you made the mistake of using the "t" word. Is it unfortunate? Yes. Are the actions by the captain understandable? Yes (based on the information he was probably given). You were going to Istanbul where security concerns are already going to be high. You should have been quiet after complying with the FA and not said any more. If she was uncomfortable by your conversation, then she has the responsibility to raise that concern to the captain.

Put away your axe and be smarter in the future.

AlanB February 21, 2013 at 07:47 am

I'm disappointed so many people judge you as acting entitled when it sounds like all you did was provide some context to the situation. Unless you sneered at the FA attendant when saying you're a blogger who writes about Untied all the time and flies them enough to have earned your status, what you said is just an explanation.

Can harried flight attendants who are regularly abused by passengers lose sight that not every passenger offering such an explanation is a pompous blowhard? Absolutely. But that doesn't make it right.

it sounds like this was a case of escalating misperceptions and maybe bad timing. I'd be interested to learn what the FA would have done if you had waited until say meal service to offer your explanation. Ask the Captain to turn the plane around?

Luuk February 21, 2013 at 07:49 am

It's may also be a good idea to report your story here: . Made by a passenger who also had a bad experience flying Untied.

Confused February 21, 2013 at 07:54 am

The author posted UA policy which clearly it states no still photo of their equipment... NEWS FLASH that seat in that picture that he took is their equipment.. AND blatantly violates it again by posting a picture of their policy online SMH.

Im confused. Why is it in this country when we do wrong we feel that we can somehow justify our wrong doing by the outcome of the situation. Why couldn't he just apologize and left it alone. Well, He could have but he chose not to. NOOOOOOOO he calls the FA back over then uses the T word never-the-less.

Look I feel for the guy but i suspect now he will think twice before doing that again. Other bloggers have said more than one FA on the flight was enforcing that rule so its not really like this one FA was a Power trip.

I see it all the time on flights and it make me so sick that people think they can treat and say whatever they like to FAs.

carlcarlson February 21, 2013 at 07:55 am

Hey bud, saying the word 'terrorist' on a plane is essentially saying 'bomb'. Not that I assume you acted of appeared to be a terrorist, but if someone using that word on a plane makes someone else uncomfortable, then lying is the least of everyone's problem.

Jacob February 21, 2013 at 07:57 am

Terrible. This is why I simply avoid US airlines, and fly with Asian/Middle Eastern airlines only.

@Confused: UA's photo policy is very vague and not legally enforceable, so you are incorrect here.

@carlcarlson: My question to you is why? Are there really taboo words that cannot be uttered? Did I not go through TSA screening earlier in the day?

joe February 21, 2013 at 08:01 am

@matthew The FA doesnt need to be pacified by you. All she needs from you is cooperation. She asked for your cooperation, stop taking photos. You did cooperate.

that should have been the end of it.

Maybe it is in hindsight, but if she was already agitated, why did you think that continuing to challenge her on your point about why you were taking photos would be the smart thing to do?

Regarding "personal events", I guess take united to court, and they will argue, and probably win, that you are a professional, taking pictures for profit, and that what you were doing is not permitted as per policy.

Once again though, bottom line is it was your after the fact confrontation that got you in trouble, not the original photo.

Try arguing with united that you have a right to argue with one of their FA's what is and isn't a valid instruction on one of their planes.

You wont win that one either.

Terry Wrist February 21, 2013 at 08:02 am

Looks like I won't be flying UA. Will get thrown off just for saying my name :-D

simon kerry February 21, 2013 at 08:02 am

Your a muppet for flying United in the First place.

Jeff February 21, 2013 at 08:12 am

I have been a flight attendant for many years. Duiring those years I have come acrossed many sick and crazy people as flight attendants who certainly dont deserve to be working. In many instances management knows everything about these people and do nothing. I too worked for Continental now United for many years. All I can say is they are going under. I am very sorry for the circus you went through. If you dont hear from the airline with a decent explantion, try basing them for the next year or two, that will make them change their mind fast.

Greg February 21, 2013 at 08:25 am

I do hope you will sue -- I can't see any reason why an airplane cabin would not be considered a space where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, and therefore trying to prohibit photography would be a violation of constitutionally protected rights.

AAExplat February 21, 2013 at 08:36 am

@ Kevin. Do us all a favor and please quit your job. Funny you should be talking about entitlement while you complain about your job and the remuneration and benefits that come with it in the face of overwhelming free market evidence that you are still overpaid for what you do. Don't believe me? Ask the 44,000 folks who recently applied for 100 FA positions at DL. That's a ratio of 440:1. There are nearly 500 folks that would kill to take your job if you should no longer want it. That is what is putting downward pressure on your pay and benefits....not management.

Let's see how you'd do in a cold hard world where there is no union to protect you from the forces of the free markets. In most non-union service businesses, individuals with your attitude would never even pass their probationary period. I know you wouldn't if you worked for me.

I totally get that you FAs deal with lots of rude and entitled passengers. And I also get that it can be extremely frustrating. But that is part of your job, just as much as it is part of a job for a customer service representative in any other industry. Using the behavior of others as an excuse to engage in the same behavior seems like a lame excuse. So somebody robbing your house makes it OK for you to rob your neighbor's?

And before you pull the security card, allow me to say that your main day to day function is service, not security. The sooner you get that into your head, the better.

Most of you whiny FAs have NO CLUE what real life is like these days for the large majority of workers who don't have unions represent them. Amazingly, unions are self-destructing at awe inspiring pace by pissing off the very folks that pay their members' salaries...their customers aka the general asking for outlandish pay and work rules requirements while the customers they serve couldn't dream of similar terms. That's why unions are losing public support even among traditionally supportive pockets of the population (ie democrats).

But I don't blame you for being an outlier...the reality is that most people in this country these days feel entitled to the good life and have abdicated responsibility for their own actions in the process. You are just part of this movement.

RobertSF February 21, 2013 at 08:48 am

This just backs up why I quit flying United over three years ago. I used to hold a 1K status and the service at SF just got so bad on so many occasions that I switched to Virgin America and have been pretty happy since. The morale at this company has continued to just get worse from what I've heard and this story just backs up my perception.

Cam February 21, 2013 at 08:55 am

Post number #224 may know or maybe the FA who booted you off your flight!. As for FA Ron post #27, Seriously.....if your colleague lost a fellow crew member, family, friend etc on UA92 on 9/11....we all extend to her our sympathies. I also suggest she has not come to terms with her loss either. I'm fairly certain UA has employee assistance programs to help employees with various issues. Secondly..perhaps the effects of 9/11 are taking it's toll on this FA...she has trust issues with passengers?, feels threatened while at work?. Perhaps she had a bad day at home, or at the airport, or...and this may very well be the cause..she is a senior FA still on reserve..was hoping not to be called out to work and and not at all pleased to be going to Istanbul!.

Sorry for your bad day with UA...I still have no idea why people fly UA..

Tom February 21, 2013 at 08:58 am

I appreciated you sharing this incident. You right there have treated you like a cattle. United you suck. I have never and will never fly with you. Airliners like you are not welcomed. Shame on you ! I hope apologies to this passenger !

Mark W February 21, 2013 at 09:07 am

Anyone apologizing for the airline's actions in this comment section is unworthy of US citizenship. 9/11 was no excuse and remains no excuse for the curtailing of our basic rights and freedoms in this country, and whether or not you have a choice to fly, no one should be subjected to the paranoid schizophrenic treatment that this man received on this plane. It's RIDICULOUS. And to even suggest that using some scary trigger word warrants absolutely any and all egregious behavior on the part of authority figures is to say that the rule of law is irrelevant in our country because you're afraid.

Get a grip and grow a spine and be Americans again, you cowards.

Nick February 21, 2013 at 09:31 am

Flying is no longer a luxury. We are at the mercy of the airlines to get us from A to B and they can do nearly anything they want without too much fear of being fired or suspended.
In my opinion, your use of the word terrorist gave them carte blanche. They probably have some staff policy that states something similar to 'use of the word terrorist in any fashion is grounds for deplaning a passenger'. The FA probably mentioned this to the captain and he had to do what he had to do.
But lesson learned. Next time you want to take a photo, wait until the plane leaves the ground.

Sean February 21, 2013 at 09:47 am


Nope. As a passenger on this flight, I can assure you that this was a pmUA crew.

Isabelle February 21, 2013 at 09:48 am

I am a F/A myself (in Europe) and the only time I will ask people to stop taking photos is if I actually see them with their camera or phone aiming at me. That is invasion of privacy and I am in my right to say no to a random person taking my picture! It still amazes me the amount of passengers who try to photograph or video F/A at work, however they do not post their own photos or real names themselves.

Foxbat February 21, 2013 at 09:56 am

This is why so many non US citizens hate US Carriers. I fly over 100 times a year and take photographs on BA, Etihad, Cathay Pacific and Emirates and sometimes even the FA take the photo for me so whats the issue. this paranoia over the T work etc is so stupid, I lived in the Middle East for over 6 years and felt safer flying there than in the US despite its overzealous security.

You guys need to stop this siege mentality and get out and about.

I know about terrorism as i am trained in anti terrorism and come from a country which suffered it for much longer than the US.

PK February 21, 2013 at 09:56 am

Viktor from Switzerland says: "Dear Americans, you all shoud get back to earth again please, and lose the fear, life's much more fun without it!"

Sali, Victor!

Indeed, along with "terrorist" and "bomb" other words Americans cannot say at airports or on planes are "American freedom" or "First Amendment" or "America is a getting better!" (The last one especially since it's so laughably false.)

I almost got a job in Switzerland and I wish I hadn't given up. What a great country. Mandatory firearms ownership for the men. Smart women and the women are a lot nicer (at least in the countryside!) And they're polite. And have national pride.

Here's the thing: With American citizens being treated like dirt in the air and in security after 9-11, it's hard to sympathize or feel bad about 9-11 anymore. Ok? I think they should have just rebuilt the twin towers, put up a nice memorial in the square, and moved on. Instead, we're now a bunch of fascist, ineffective crybabies that took 10 years to put 2 memorial holes in the ground.

Dusty February 21, 2013 at 09:57 am

This whole situation could have been avoided Matthew if you had simply put the camera away and wrote a letter to United after your trip. Escalating the situation by attempting to explain your actions to the flight attendant and using words like "terrorist". Strike 2. (Be thankful you were not sitting next to a air marshal when you made that comment after taking pictures or your day would have been even more interesting! They make ZERO exceptions for comments like that.) The final nail in your coffin, was calling the flight attendant a liar to the Captain. Strike 3. Had you been a little more humble and apologetic in the situation, things would have turned out differently... Hopefully you can chalk it up to experience and move on from it with a valuable lesson learned and no doubt a couple of free tickets from United to boot.

Dusty, are you a FAM? I think a FAM would have backed me up. I happen to know a couple of them too! :)

Soloist February 21, 2013 at 10:02 am

Oh my goodness Matthew, I am so sorry to hear this happened. You definitely should not let this rest, you should publicise it as much as possible and escalate it until you get a proper apology.

Something similar happened to me recently on an Air Canada flight; I was stretching at the back of an airplane and an FA went absolutely hysterical, even badmouthing me to her colleagues. In addition to being embarrassing, it made me very afraid for my safety - precisely because I knew that if it ever came down to my word against hers, I would be in deep trouble however "right" I was on the facts.

The only comment I would make (and others have made this already) is that you may have been better off taking note of the FA's name and then making a complaint (and escalating and publicising it as you are doing now) immediately upon landing. While you are inside the aircraft, as a passenger you have very little power and are actually in a very vulnerable position. That power balance shifts back in your favour the moment you land and get off the plane.

And I agree - their no photo policy is contradictory and impractical (aside from not taking pictures of other passengers), and should be clearly stated on-board if the airline wants to rely on it to eject a passenger.

Best of luck Matthew, and thanks for sharing

John February 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

Again UA. I still remember the Story "United destroy guitars" on youtube.

PK February 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

Lee says: "Why on earth did you say you weren't a terrorist, that's the stupidest thing you've ever said. If you kept your mouth shut your trip would've been smooth."

I'm sure Matt has taken an Aeroflot trip a few times in his life. One of the funny things foreigners notice is that the FA's rarely smile. The reason for this is that, during Soviet times, chit chat and smiling could get you arrested and a social more developed where smiling people were considered "stupid" for not knowing this so smiling became a synonym for stupidity.

When I grew up, the foreigners I knew liked to say about Americans is that despite anything else, they were friendly. In a free country, people feel free, literally, to express themselves.

So yeah, keep your mouth shut and your head down. Fly the friendly skies of United.

Neil February 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

After reading through this, I too am appalled. I strongly encourage every single person who had less than stellar service on this flight to complain to United, most especially the FF among you. I realize that you all will most likely receive a form letter from India, but all of the issues will be logged and may finally get someone's attention. If the FA was having a bad day, she should have stayed home and not subjected the public to her attitude. It also sounds like she should be reconsidering her line of work. As for me, based on a previous bad experience, I will not set foot on a UA plane again. The UA attitude of "we are right, you are wrong" still seems to be prevalent and confirms my decision to stay far away.

David February 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

I haven't flown United since Dave Carroll's big blow-up. Incidents like this are what convince me to keep that policy going.

You have been treated very harshly, however you shouldn't have called her back/speak to her the second time. You should have just thought nothing of it. She personally won't care that you're a blogger. She has other things on her mind, like doing her job. Why even use the T word? Everybody knows that this not an ideal thing to say in an airport/on an aircraft. That was plain stupid.

Alex B February 21, 2013 at 10:46 am


I agree with AAExplat. If you don't like your job then quit. You know who has gained the sense of entitlement since 9/11? Flight attendents. You've taken the post-9/11 security mindset to heart, and used it as an excuse to claim you're only there for safety and therefore all customer service can go out the window. The fact that passengers are required to follow your instructions does not make you police officers. Stop acting like you're doing people a favor by letting them fly with you.

Everyone has difficult aspects of their job that they don't enjoy. Waiters, train conductors, bus drivers, they all have to deal with irate and uncooperative customers. You are no different. Like I said, if you don't like it, quit.

Too many of you FA's think that beacuse of the remote risk of injury/death/hostage situation in your profession you deserve the same level of respect as our military personnel. Please. Cab drivers have more dangerous jobs than you do. Their risk of being killed in a robbery or collision is far higher than you being killed in a crash or act of terrorism.

Now most flight crew I come across are polite and professional. But when I come across an FA like you, Kevin, I go out of my way to make your flight as difficult and unpleasant as possible - short of something that will have me meeting a cop on the jetway upon arrival. And if I was in Matthew's situation, I would have very loudly voiced my concern that I smell alcohol in the cockpit/galley area and I think the crew may have been drinking. Just to cause you the inconvenience of having to get off the plane and get tested to prove your innocence.

Have a nice day. :)

Rene February 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

If the word "terrorist" had anything to do with the reason you were booted off the flight the captain should have used that in his explanation of why you were booted and probably you would have found a way to live with this. Now it turned into a lying FA which is absolutely unprofessional and should be reverted by UA in a satisfying manner.

I have been a captain myself and I have pax removed by the police on FA reports to me. The captain should ask questions when the FA reports to him/her to get a picture of the situation and to form a foundation of believe. It would be nice to know what the exact words were of the FA to the captain. The no eye contact tells me the captain was not very comfortable with the whole booting situation so I am almost certain the FA didn't use the word "terrorist" in her story to the captain since this would have been a pretty legit reason, unfortunately so, to boot someone. I would love to see the reply to this from UA.

Avi February 21, 2013 at 11:02 am

@Matthew - You have my utmost respect. You handled the situation with grace and I hope United makes it up to you. If you haven't already, I would post this on Flyertalk. There are a number of high-ranking CO/UA people who monitor the MileagePlus forum and your story would get some good exposure on there. I look forward to seeing UA's ultimate response.

Stan February 21, 2013 at 11:05 am

The FA was a bi*ch, clearly. Unbelievable there are people defending her lies. Awful.

NBC News has picked up on this. And for the record, I don't think I "joked" about terrorists.

Anon E. Mouse February 21, 2013 at 11:24 am

Yes, the FA is a power-drunk lying idiot.

But you missed one key part of YOUR resposibilites as a journo.

You knew your photo was prohibited under the rules.

You started out wrong. It may be a stupid policy, it may be short sighted, etc. but w/ almost 1M miles under your belt, you can't tell us you've never read the inflight mag?

So if you really wanted that photo, you should have contacted the airline and received permission.

James February 21, 2013 at 11:25 am

I love the clash between this story and your picture banner at the top of your blog. Be realistic and realize that banner in itself gives you an entitled look. (btw did anyone notice how the FA's butt is in the woman face on the right, and she gives her a dirty look?)

In all seriousness try to learn from this experience. It doesn't matter if the rules are silly. It doesn't matter if there are things you can't say in an airplane. The good analogy was screaming fire. Saying bomb, terrorist or whatever is just not cool if it makes anyone uncomfortable.

I hope you do not get on the no fly list. This is serious stuff. You're 26, time to take responsibility.

Sem February 21, 2013 at 11:25 am

I agree with you that the hostess was silly but:

  1. You should have shut up and not continued the conversation. I have learnt this in my old age.
  2. Turkish Airlines offer a much better service than United.

Fly Turkish next time and had you connected TK to TK you would have been protected with your connection.

John February 21, 2013 at 11:28 am

Please. I can just see how condescending he must have been to her. "Look, I'm nooooooooot a terrorist. Here's my caaaard. Hang my coat and fix me a drink. I'm a blogger, dammit."

Joelfreak February 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

The number of people who seem to be willing to go along with whatever they are told is stunning. I guess when any of you are arrested, stopped on the road, or even asked a question by police, you all just say, "Yes, sir" and follow orders? Matthew was just trying to clarify something, while getting a service he PAID for performed (getting his jacket hung up). Also, please lets not put the blame on unions. The MAJORITY of the FA's and union workers in this country are well intentioned, and the union helps them bargain collectively. unfortunately, there are some outliers, as there are in ANY collective group. Matthew, have you heard back from United yet?

Khannea Suntzu February 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

I suggest you sue them for any additional costs incurred because of this. There seems to be no mechanism as to correct form of capriciousness or prejudice. If a stewardess or flight crew doesn't like you, she can have you thrown of the plane. This is completely unacceptable. In fact - if someone CAN'T make alternate arrangements, he or she would be potentially in massive problems.

@Joelfreak: I have a phone call with United later today. Hopefully the issue will be resolved smoothly.

Jennifer S. February 21, 2013 at 11:32 am

@Professor Sabena The rainbow phenomena you describe is called the Spectre of the Broken:

Winston Legthigh February 21, 2013 at 11:33 am

I'm grateful for bloggers such as yourself. Flying (for most) isn't a pack of gum that one buys without giving much though to at a gas station on the way home from work- it's a legitimate expense. Choosing the right airline to get your money's worth by trial and error isn't realistic (again, for most). Reading about experiences like this really help narrow down the options and highlight what to avoid in order to get your money's worth. I would be glad to hear that the Flight Attendant was reprimanded, and that she uses the experience to remind herself that she chose a career in customer service. There was no excuse for her childish actions.

Again, I appreciate the blog.

John-Paul February 21, 2013 at 11:36 am

I do not understand at all the opinions of those that suggest that Matthew's actions were in any way at fault here. This is atrocious.

George February 21, 2013 at 11:36 am

Too bad this spun out of control, however I must side with the FA. The facts:

1) Your photo taking, strictly speaking, violated United's policy. Silly in your case, but still technically true. 2) After being warned about this by the FA, you effectively argued with her by stating that you were (I paraphrase, of course) "not one of those people about whom they should be worried." Use of the T-word added to the situation.

It was wrong that the FA felt she had to lie about the reason for your expulsion, but I think the facts are enough. I would not have felt entirely comfortable with someone on my flight who was un-compliant. Why did you feel compelled to make a point about your innocence with the FA? So that you'd prove you were not a bad person? Your behavior suggested that you could become belligerent later on.

PK February 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

In response to Kevin: When my wife and I flew on Austrian last September, I wrote a note to the airline praising the wonderful service and food and gave the flight number and date. When my in-laws flew on Air France and a service representative went out of his way to help, I went to the website and wrote in.

It appears now, however, that the biggest terrorists (literally) in the air appear to be disgruntled FA's ready to take out their frustrations on anyone who looks at them the wrong way. The word "terror" is appropriate because now passengers are scared of the flight crew!

The damage done by this FA and the captain who backed her up is to undermine any pity that us passengers have for these unionized employees. When you take out the frustrations on some random guy, it makes the flying public less likely to pity the random, unionized FA. Most of us can't even get angry at the Captain because he's worried about not backing up his flight crew. This means that this FA hurt the reputation of other FAs first and foremost. Good going United FA! It also means that United management has a golden opportunity here: Apologize to Matt, give him some vouchers, and cut benefits for the FAs some more while elites' anger is directed solely towards FAs.

Funny thing: even though it was considered by some to be pretentious for Matt to present his business card, mention his status and say he's a blogger, it would have behooved the FA and the captain to pause for a moment and consider that even if he was being pretentious, those things all still do count! This wasn't some random, drunk kid flying on a sub-economy ticket his mother bought for him. He's a representative of a valued customer that the airlines fight to have. It makes good business sense to at least give him a few sentences to explain himself before threatening to call the police.

Alex B February 21, 2013 at 11:41 am

Glad to see NBC picked this up. I would say I can't wait to see that FA thrown out on her arse, but as others have said, I'm sure that wonderful thing known as the union will make sure she faces zero accountability for her actions.

Paige February 21, 2013 at 11:42 am

Saying that he was not a terrorist was the big mistake. I'm not a psychologist, but there's something about guilty people giving clues that they're guilty, so just saying, "I'm not a terrorist," could be someone's guilty conscious talking. (Not saying he's guilty of anything, of course.) One time after an international flight into the US we were in customs when I realized I had an apple in my bag. Not wanting to violate the law, I asked customs where I could throw it away. They directed me to security who picked through every piece of luggage I had. I just wanted to throw away an apple.

ctsmith73 February 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

Bizarre! Sorry for your troubles, so unnecessary. Something in your post stuck out - why was it important to note that the FO was female? Do you feel like she urged the captain to give you the boot?

@ctsmith73: I think they suffered from group think.

Greg February 21, 2013 at 11:57 am

The apologists that are saying that there are good reasons for not allowing photography are completely wrong. Why can't they can't tell us what those reasons are? If there were any good reasons, then you wouldn't be able to take a camera through a security checkpoint. If taking a photo is such a problem that it justifies removing a customer from an aircraft, then cameras shouldn't ever get on the plane. Just as if Matthew was any danger to the flight whatsoever they had no business booking him on the next flight.

Voice of America February 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

UAL just posted a list of words/phrases that may not be used under any circumstances during preboarding, boarding, or deplaning. It is in Hemispheres on the back of the Sudoku page, right before the audio channel listing. It specifically states that "use of any of the prohibited words (either mouthed, whispered, spoken, typed, or used in a rousing game of charades) will result in immediate consequences, i.e. the FA may actually pay attention to you."

The "no say" list (subject to change depending on which country we are currently at war with):

Terrorist, Terrorism, Terror, Terrible, Terrier, War, Warfare, Welfare, Bomb, Bomber, Da bomb, La Bamba, Abominable, Abomination, Long bomb, Bombalicious, September, 11, 2001, Islam, Airplane, Hate, Muslim, Suicide, Ann Coulter, Threatening, "Mission accomplished" Kill, Martyr, Neoconservative, Plot, America, Koran, Mohammed, Allah, Vegetarian, Pork, Democracy, Fertilizer, "Can I please have some water?" Oklahoma City, Pentagon, Love, Palestine, Mosque, World Trade Center, Rendition, "I can't feel my legs because I'm in Economy" Water, Boarding, United, 93, Rush Limbaugh, Shoe, Middle east, Underwear, Performance enhancing drugs, Boston, Flight school, Catholic priest, Saudi Arabia, Plan, Donald Rumsfeld, Osama Bin Laden, Any name that sounds vaguely foreign or threatening, Hijab or any other vaguely arabic-sounding word that could mean bomb (or chicken wing), Photograph, Detonate, Southwest airlines, Bush, Conspiracy, "Poor service" Crappy airline, "I hate United" or George Orwell

Obey, or you better hope you look good in an orange jumpsuit.

Mark February 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Not being an American and living in the US myself, but regardless being a Million Miler on American, all this sound incredibly crazy!

I have taken pictures left and right of myself, my family, seats, etc in various flights and never had a single incident.

This FA has major issues and certainly overreacted over a simple matter.

I would not like to see her in a flight out of Orlando into any South American country, with hordes of families and kids taking pictures of their excursion group, the Mickey/Minie/Goofy had, etc,etc... she would have expelled the whole flight!

And by the way, did the legislation that stated that every flight should have an ununiformed police officer was revoked? If not, couldn't he or she be called ans resolved the issue?

By now I am sure high management at United already knows about this event. I am VERY curious to know their response and also what would the actual airport police would have to say about such an incident.

I can only feel sorry for you and for all the other passengers who are victim of this kind of mistreatment...

Steve February 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm

A solution for the future is to have the "no photos" policy included in the emergency film. It should also be stated clearly, what words should NEVER be spoken while on the airlines, like "terrorist, bomb, gun, etc". There ARE innocent passengers out there, who fly, and may accidently use these words on flights, especially young kids.

Airline travel shouldn't be a frightful, or scary experience. Worrying about the words we speak, shouldn't be hanging over our heads. These words should be posted, before passengers take their flight. The irony, is that a real terrorist would probably never use words like these.

I was told a very profound suggestion by a wonderful FA once, "You be nice to us, we'll be nice to you". Kind of goes back to the universal law of "what one sows, so shall they reap".

Andrew Tubbiolo February 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Just remember in the new security state, the crew is always right, you are always wrong. Next time I suggest you buy your ticket and not fly. That way United can resell your ticket and the crew won't have to put up with you. It's a real shame (for you) the FA did not like you. Remember they are the law everything they say is law. Just be sure to hold United, it's employees, corporate board, and share holders immune and protect them from prosecution and responsibility. Once you buy your ticket, any airline is done with you and they can do with you what they please.

Seriously, I hope you find grounds and open a suit against the FA on her person and/or United airlines. Consider this if a police officer cites a false law in interacting with you, you can sue them for operating under false color. If air crew are to be endowed with absolute power on an aircraft there needs to be a means for a passenger to prosecute them for acting like a corrupt cop. There needs to be some form of recourse to provide negative feedback for crew and airline officers, employers, and share holders from acting in the equiv of false color.

Good Luck.

"NBC News reached other passengers from that United flight 904 who corroborated Klint's story."

How about that?

Gheorghe Muresan February 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm


"Your behavior suggested that you could become belligerent later on."

Yes! Let's punish anyone and everyone who isn't belligerent, but they very well could be (but only if the conditions are just right- air temperature is 73 F, they had blueberry oatmeal for breakfast, and the moon is 3/4 full on a cloudy night in October).

Good point. We need more people like you in charge.


Johnson February 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The FA is definitely in the wrong here for lying. However, people need to see this from the bigger picture. The issue may not be about photography or the FA lying at all. It's probably the fact that Matt here was delaying the flight by arguing. From the crew's POV, he could be delaying it for some reason. Who knows? Safety is paramount and no chance should be taken. Anyone can spin off a reason for taking the photos. The crew cannot predict what can happen but can only minimise risk. Hope everyone continues to remain vigilant. A little discomfort for safety is a well needed trade off.

Mike February 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm

All the Captain had to do was to look at your camera which showed you told the truth.

GlobalFlier February 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

This is the precise reason that I avoid US airlines like a plague. Currently ANY, i seriously mean ANY airline has better customer svc that US airlines (this includes Air Canada as well). Make no mistake, security and safety is important, however, does that mean every other aspect is irrelevant? I almost get the feeling of being treated as sub-human and Airlines are doing us a favour transporting us.

As for domestic, I stick to Virgin America and if forced prefer SouthWest to those destinations Virgin doesnt fly.

Besides United, AA and Delta are no better. Different livery but same issues.

Those who dont believe me try one of these airlines: Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines (i park all my miles there now), Qatar Airways.

Lets bring bay the joy of flying, its doesnt have to be this way.

United MP Member February 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm

A business card is a weak form of ID. I can print up a collection of business cards for every occasion. I would probably encourage the airlines to provide an ID card similar to media credentials at arena events.

Gheorghe Muresan February 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm


"Your behavior suggested that you could become belligerent later on."

Yes! Let's punish anyone and everyone who isn't belligerent, but they very well could be (but only if the conditions are just right- air temperature is 73 F, they had blueberry oatmeal for breakfast, and the moon is 3/4 full on a cloudy night in October).

Good point. We need more people with that rational way of thinking in charge.

RA February 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I think the only mistake you made was mentioning the word, "terrorist." Your actions could have been extremely benign up until that point (heck, you may have even conducted CPR and saved someone's life on that flight 5 minutes prior) but the SECOND you utter words such as, "bomb" or "terrorist," it's game over. The FA now has the collateral to remove you from their aircraft and even if you are innocent and compliant, you don't stand a fighting chance.

Regardless, the points you bring up are 100% valid and true. Honestly speaking, the FA probably felt EXTREME remorse for how she reacted in this situation once it all transpired. Not only was she unethical (and knew this based on her body language), but downright lazy as well, and it was obvious to everyone. She probably saw an opportunity to make her job easier that day by having one less customer to serve, and so acted upon a knee-jerk reaction. It doesn't matter if she embellished the story to say that you continued taking pictures (even though you claimed that was a lie) because she knew she had a more compelling reason to boot you.

At the end of the day, I do hope you receive full compensation for your grievances. Completely unacceptable and it also has angered me as a UA elite myself. This company continues to trend on a downward spiral by the day, and, I hate to say this but, the pmCO people/culture are truly the ones that are tainting the airline and need to just get over it.

Thanks for submitting this to us; as a blogger, photographer and trip-reporter myself, I can understand that it takes major guts to post an unpleasant story like this, but I am sure there is a silver lining. And hey, now I have a new blog to read :)

Martin February 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm

The fact that American citizens can be so afraid of the word "Terrorist" is actually so hilarious that I expect a South Park or Family Guy episode soon. Do you really think that a "real" terrorist will actually say: "wait, no, I'm not a terrorist". This is the typical american culture at its best… and I live in San Francisco, a relatively liberal city.

Raj February 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm

This is so out of order sorry to hear what happened. This goes to show how stupid these people are and why I refuse to travel with any Airlines from the United States as a traveler myself. The staff on them are so artificial once when I flew American asked for something waited ages so I had to ask again shows how they lack communication with passengers. For me it either Virgin Atlantic, Emirates or BA anyday

FlyRandom February 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I can actually totally understand you. I can see myself responding in exactly the same way. After that first interaction, I would have had to explain myself too as I would have to interact with the FA fo the rest of my flight and don't want her to have a wrong impression of me. Even joking about terrorists is something I would have done without thinking in that situation. Obviously you don't do it during security screening, but once inside the plane the atmosphere is usually more laid-back and I can see myself saying somethong like that, when not acitvely thinking about not doing so. I wish you all the best in clearing up this situation, as it could have happened to me too, although I do try to avoid American carriers whereever possible, which is thankfully easy enough as a European.

Plane Crazy Joe February 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Matthew, I hope you read my comments!? I found the link to this report on .

I'm an avid, lifelong, aviation enthusiast / spotter / photographer - now age 63. As a Mileage Plus ( M P ) member, I've flown UA numerous times! RARELY have I had an itinerary or flight segment when UA HASN'T afflicted me with a SIGNIFICANT " service " related issue!!! However, I've endured / tolerated UA's CONTINUING crap " service " for these two reasons:

( 1 ) Whenever UA DOES afflict me ... I document all applicable details ... and later write to their Customer Relations Department; detailing my experience(s) of their latest fiasco / SNAFU. ( It's now in Houston ). UA has always compensated me for their SNAFU; issuing Travel Certificates to me, for use on future travel on UA. Presently I hold two such certificates: one for $300 and another for $100.

( 2 ) As you know, UA offers Ch 9 ATC audio. The ONLY airline that does, to my knowledge. As I'm plane crazy, it's the only IFE ( aside from the Air Map ) that I want to access when flying!

If you write to Jeff Smisek, c/o Customer Relations, point out to him the media coverage on the recent debut of their 7-LATE-7 Screamliner. For example, "Airways" magazine - and other aviation mags - had reports and CABIN PHOTOS - one of which is of HIMSELF and another of a FA! I know as I've purchased and read such mags! Furthermore, other photos of UA cabins - and MANY other global airlines - can be found on aviation enthusiasts web sites; including; and

If Uncle Scam approves the merger of AA and US, we'll have ONLY three so-called " Legacy " carriers remaining! Our flight options will be even FEWER! My rationale is: FIGHT or FLIGHT! Elevate your FEEDBACK to UA " managers "! However, I've recently booked an International MP Award Trip; flying Star Alliance partners on four of my five segments. The only one on UA will be ( I HOPE!? ) on the 7-LATE-7 - my first!!! That is, if Boeing can soon " fix " the battery related faults!? However, on THIS trip, I'm avoiding UA as much as I can!

Fianlly, I always have a Window Seat ... which allows me to aim / use my camera, as desired!

Jeff February 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

"Legacy UA flight crew". Kinda sums it all up right there, doesn't it? I miss Continental...

Jane February 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Yikes--headed to Istanbul on that flight, in business class, next month. I hope I get a different crew as I fully intend to take photos of my family AND the seats. Last year on an Ex-Con lead business class flight to Rome, pilots had my kids in the cockpit with their hats on so I could get really good photos. No one stopped us taking photos of lie-flat seats either. Could be because my 8 year old was gushing over the 'pod seats.' No deemed 'risk' there...

Jake February 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

The bottom line is, you are STUPID to show any true loyalty to any airline company. Aside from the accrual of frequent flyer miles, there is no real benefit. They are loyal to nobody, and provide customer service that is just a bit above reprehensible. Expect to be mistreated, it's the norm in this industry.

Jake February 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The bottom line is, you are STUPID to show any true loyalty to any airline company. Aside from the accrual of frequent flyer miles, there is no real benefit. They are loyal to nobody, and provide customer service that is just a bit above reprehensible. Expect to be mistreated, it's the norm in this industry.

Jake February 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The bottom line is, you are STUPID to show any true loyalty to any airline company. Aside from the accrual of frequent flyer miles, there is no real benefit. They are loyal to nobody, and provide customer service that is just a bit above reprehensible. Expect to be mistreated, it's the norm in this industry.

Felix Domestica February 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm

"Indeed, the terrorists have won when 11.5 years after the attacks U.S. citizens are scared of a camera onboard an airplane."

The Bush administration did everything in its power to reinforce the state of terror, judging that to be in its political interest. The Obama administration has not had the courage to challenge that established mindset. As a result, both administrations have been the best collaborators the terrorists could have asked for; we have done ourselves far more damage than they could ever do.

So, yes, the terrorists won. And they continue to win every time we let unreasonable fears dictate our actions.

I'm ashamed of my countrymen for having let ourselves be stampeded into this situation.

chris February 21, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Disgusting, should have flown a real airline like Singapore LOL

El February 21, 2013 at 01:00 pm

I thought this would be a no-brainer, but here's a handy rule of thumb: Things you'd be foolish to every say on any plane: "bomb", "terrorist", and "Your FA is lying!".
Strike one: You argued with the FA about a policy (picture taking) that she was clearly obligated professionally to enforce.
Strike 2) You used an inflammatory word, that she may have also been obligated to report. Strike 3.) You tried to convince the captain the FA was "lying". Ouch. When a pilot has to decide between the word of his crew and a stranger, you've set yourself up to automatically fail. If you've flown so much, shouldn't you know better?.... And you're a "writer" right? Learn some finesse with your words-- graciousness works so much better than self-righteousness.

Monica February 21, 2013 at 01:05 pm

Here's the thing about words that should be illegal/unsaid at airports/on airplanes... seven years ago my husband and I took in a dog. At the time, we decided to let him keep his name, since he knew it and responded to it and adjusting to a new family was probably going to be taxing enough on him without suddenly being called a word he didn't recognize. A few months later we needed to fly with our dog, and it was only when standing at the check-in counter with him and his kennel that we realized we might be about to have a problem. You see, his name was a word that should not be uttered in airports lest security descend upon you ("Gunn" - not as bad as "terrorist," sure, but something that could make people look at you sideways and draw lots of extra scrutiny). Now we were faced with the dilemma of lying about his name and risking him not responding should he somehow get loose before we were reunited or to try to explain this. We chose the latter, which led to a rather funny conversation with the woman at the check-in counter and soon all three of us moved on to our destination and he's flown with that name ever since without incident. What I'm getting at here is context is everything, and leaping to conclusions without context is useless to all parties involved. Given the wrong, jumpy FA, we could have been removed from any of our flights for something as innocuous as wondering how our beloved furball was doing below in the hold or discussing what supplies we needed to pick up for him when we landed. (All things we never considered when we rescued a dog named "Gunn" because we're not the paranoid sort.) Incidents like this have to treated with common sense, which seems like the very thing that was missing here.

David February 21, 2013 at 01:05 pm

@Dusty When you say "strike 2" is:

Escalating the situation by attempting to explain your actions to the flight attendant and using words like "terrorist"

...I can't help but feel a little embarrassed to be an American when this has somehow become the case.

Are we are no longer thinking individuals that can asses situations as the occur? Or are we simply attack dogs programmed by trigger words?

I would like to think the former. Since you're defending this behavior and placing the blame on Mathew, it's clear that you agree with the latter.

kevin February 21, 2013 at 01:06 pm

i am sorry you were forced off the plane. in my mind, there are still TWO United's: one made up of Continental employees and one from United. The latter are notorious for poor service AND poor attitudes.

The only thing I'd say, in the form of constructive commentary, is that you should NEVER utter the words "terrorist," or say "I am not a terrorist." Couple the ineptitude of the FA along with the fact that it was a flight to Istanbul .. and it sounds like you were simply the victim of, unfortunately, another bad United employee.

Ray Setzer February 21, 2013 at 01:06 pm

The original story was certainly interesting, but it looks like it has been eclipsed by the comment thread which has taken on a life of its own. This one little story could be used as a thesis on internet community behavior.

Its clear there are a number of posters who have interests in travel and follow one or more travel sites. These seem to be pretty much universally supportive, with occasional chiding over the use of the world 'terrorist'. An issue which is mostly just a hindsight recommendation as the posters had the benefit of knowing the outcome and the ability to take as much time as they wished to consider what may or may not be a proper response.

Then there is a minority group. The typical term for them about the internet is 'trolls'. My favorites are the ones who (we assume are trying to be scarcastic) who defend the crew for throwing you off because your a blogger. An additional section of this group is comprised of the absolute rule group, who seem to support that the writer is entirely at fault for not adhering to a narrow, and, it seems, undefined set of rules. The bureaucrats paradise where all air travel is reduced to a sitting still contest.

One additional divergence from the topic which I found interesting was the anti-union angle which cropped up from time to time. While there were a number of posts that suggested some kind of discipline or even firing should be considered, the posts that ended up containing some version of what is now the common internet anti-union rant, tended to be the most virulent.

Some posters wondered about the lack of any common sense performer on the airlines side. A liberal reading between the lines seems to suggest a FA who overreacted, and then, when the realized they had elevated the situation beyond what they may have anticipated the outcome would be, ran and hid in embarrassment when then realized the situation was out of their hands. As for the pilot, I don't know enough about air travel to make an opinion. Is the pilot still master of his domain? Or have they been reduced by a management structure to having only the authority to say no?

Even the fact that this story has been picked up by other blogs, (Such as Boing Boing) makes for an interesting subsection, detailing how, what was once an isolated event occurring to a single person, can become far bigger than the sum of its parts.

kevin February 21, 2013 at 01:09 pm

since there is another kevin here who seems to make bogus comments .. could you simply put "Kevin P." if you publish it? peace

Jon February 21, 2013 at 01:16 pm

United is clearly at fault and the few respondants here who state otherwise are either biased, or not terribly bright.

Johnson February 21, 2013 at 01:23 pm

The FA lying is definitely in the wrong and caused the whole situation. However, the actions taken are definitely not in the wrong. To the crew, Matt was delaying the flight by arguing. The crew may have seen it as a threat. He could have been delaying the flight for some reason. Who knows? Chances cannot be taken. The crew cannot predict what might happen but can take steps to minimise the risk. I hope Americans remain vigilant.

Chocks February 21, 2013 at 01:25 pm

Unfortunately your experience is becoming the norm these days. I'm a million miler flier on UAL and for the most part their cabin crews are abysmal. (The Continental influx seems to be improving things a bit however.) Obviously the FA was an idiot, and thanks to their union-based seniority system her job is safe for life no matter how bad her performance is.

The captain's hands were tied in this case - when a member of the cabin crew tells him she is "uncomfortable" with a pax he has no choice but to make them go away. If he over-ruled the FA his life would be miserable. That's probably why he had trouble looking you in the eye - he knew the FA was a flake, but there really isn't anything he could have done. I'm sure he was embarrassed.

The truly sad part of all of this is that this Napoleon-esque customer service nightmare FA continues to fly every day basically hammering UALs reputation into the ground with her surly demeanor. They can't get rid of her; it's a vicious cycle. Us business travelers are slaves to our status so it's unlikely we'll switch to another "brand" over the crappy service. We put up with it so we can upgrade or maybe we can take our family to Hawaii on points over the summer.

As far as using the word "terrorist" - probably not the best choice. It would be like going through security and telling the highly educated TSA guy "I don't have a bomb in my bag." It wouldn't go over well; these people can't discern shades of gray.

I'm going to keep up with your blog,it will be interesting to see if UAL offers any resolution. Hang in there, good luck and keep writing.

kevin February 21, 2013 at 01:27 pm

More freebies forthcoming from United for Matthew and attention to your blog! Congrats, buddy! You won! So, what's the plan for your next upgrade? Anxious to hear...

Matthew II February 21, 2013 at 01:28 pm

The sheer fact that 9/11 gave FAs more power than the domestic police force are one (of many) reasons why I just don't fly unless I have to. To the point where I drove home from Sacramento to Boston.

FAs can lie and get away with it. Their lies can have a real and severe impact on YOUR personal life (formal complaints, criminal charges)...and the best part is that they are obviously making it up as they go along.

I get yelled at once because I plugged my own headphones into the armrest so I could hear the movie...instead of paying $5 for their dumb little headsets. I apologized, took the left headphone out (the one facing the FA) and kept the right one in and continued to watch the movie.

They are all insane and I'll have absolutely nothing to do with them. EVERY single flight I've been on in recent history has had some example of a power-tripping FA breaking more rules than they were enforcing.

I do get that they work hard, deal w/ bad people etc etc. So do a lot of others in many different lines of work...stress and dealing w/ jerks is not new and does not make them unique in any way, shape, or form.

Jeremy February 21, 2013 at 01:31 pm

Interesting UA referred to restrictions in the in flight magazine! This must be clearly posted throughout the aircraft and perhaps crew can notify customers during boarding What's the point of placing this inns magazine? Are all customers expected to read it immediately upon boarding? Legally I doubt this has any validity as UA has to show that their policy was clearly posted What would have happened had you taken the picture during flight? Would they have diverted and offloaded you? I have taken photos on planes for over 30 years and its never been an issues There are blogs and reviews all over the place with pictures of everything from the seats, toilets, meals, jetways etc United must respond and explain how customers are expected to know photography is forbidden?

derek February 21, 2013 at 01:43 pm

This is an example of the completely stupid thinking that the human brain does when it is in fear mode. Worried about terrorists, the mere sound of the word terrorist makes them irrationally conclude that you have such a high chance of being a terrorist that they have to kick you off, rationalizing that they "can't take the chance." Obviously those odds didn't change because you said the word, but suddenly the logic of a 3-year-old (really I can't think of any age that thinks like this, it's so moronic and counterproductive) takes over.

In the end, saying "I'm not a terrorist" or, "I don't have a bomb" is like saying "don't think about an elephant"

Mattimus February 21, 2013 at 01:44 pm

Whether the story the FA told about you continuing to take pictures is true or not, the fact remains that you did violate United Airlines policy. You point out that in relation to the policy statement you had not violated anyone's privacy and while that is true you did violate the following section:

"Unauthorized photography or audio or video recording of airline personnel, aircraft equipment or procedures is always prohibited. Any photography (video or still) or voice or audio recording or transmission while on any United Airlines aircraft is strictly prohibited…"

You admit to having flown on United a great deal before, so one imagines this is not the first time you have noticed this policy.

Laches February 21, 2013 at 01:48 pm

Folks if you want your argument to be taken seriously, you need to at least get the facts right.

I’ve seen a number of claims that Matt violated UA’s policy by taking a picture. It is not at all clear that’s the case.

Read the policy. It is not a blanket prohibition of all photography. It says it is prohibited for “airline personnel, aircraft equipment, or procedures” but permitted for “personal events.” The rationale for this is quite obvious – photo or videos showing details about the operation of the plane or the movements of the flight crew could be used strategically by potential hijackers. Indeed, the 9/11 hijackers were known to have made multiple “dry runs” where they studied the movements of the flight crew very closely.

However, they have no concerns about passengers taking the sort of social pictures to commemorate their trip, because they are not dangerous even in if they do fall into the wrong hands.

While the video screen photographed is technically “aircraft equipment”, there is at least as strong a counterargument that the picture taken more accurately falls under the “personal events” portion of the policy.

So these assertions that Matt was in violation of anything are dubious at best.

matchosan February 21, 2013 at 01:48 pm

You said "terrorist". They need not explain further.

If another passenger heard you say that, they have a complaint for your removal. If an airline employee heard that, they will have you removed because a passenger might have heard it also. If an Air Marshall heard you say it, you still might be answering questions at Guantanamo.

Right or wrong,learn what you can and cannot do before claiming you are a professional in a certain field of work.

UAL Captain February 21, 2013 at 01:50 pm

Here is an explanation of the picture taking thing...maybe, but it is how I see it. Ever since the video function of cell phones came to life there is always the chance of footage finding its way to somewhere it really shouldn't be. Just go on you tube and look any of the millions of clips of airplanes landing or fights in the aisle. They can become legal fodder. United also has a service called "channel 9" It is live ATC feed for the flight. Many of you who fly United may notice that it is rarely available. (the first step in any emergency procedure is Channel That is because things can be misunderstood by those who don't know.

Example: I was flying a red eye to Boston and was cleared to JAMCA (jamaica) A passenger listening got concerned that we were being highjacked.

Worse example. A flight told ATC that they were "Min Fuel". A week later the FAA started and investigation as to why they were "Emergency Fuel" as reported to them by a passenger. There is a huge difference between min fuel and emergency fuel.

The no picture taking is a CYA thing. Is it harmful. by itself no. But what about the flight where different passengers got up and went to the bathroom when the seat belt sign was on. No big deal right? What was actually happening was that it was a group that was testing the resolve of the crew to see how much movement in the cabin that they could get away with. It was planned and synchronized.

L B February 21, 2013 at 01:51 pm

Why do you not publish the names of the crew, more specifically the flight attendant? It does no good for anyone to have note of this "anonymous" crew. If you want something done about it, the public should know exactly who is accountable.

JohnJ February 21, 2013 at 01:53 pm

I'd like to hear the other side of the story before I forumulate an opnion. But an earlier commentator brought up a good point/scenario...What is the Captain misunderstood or misinterpreted her concerns? Maybe she told him the truth, but for whatever reason, he came to the conculsion that Matthew "continued taking pictures after being told to stop.

Seems plausible I guess, given that he was probably in a rush and might have misheard something. For this reason, please do not post any names yet...would hate to see the FA get publicly shamed over a misunderstanding between her and the pilot.

But as for Matthew's DYKWIA actions, I agree. The business card and status mention were tacky.

I seem to remember an older blog post of his (Guess it was prior to 2012 because it's not in the archives) where he had a last minute seat change or something and he actually went to his original seat to inquire as to who the passenger was and how/why he got the seat instead. Turned out it was an airline mechanic or something. That level of ignorance (approaching an innocent passenger following an issue with the airline) doesn't gain him any favors in my book and affects any benefit of the doubt I may be willing to give him.

ZL February 21, 2013 at 02:01 pm

This is ridiculous; to say that you cannot say "I'm not a terrorist," aboard an airplane is absolutely absurd. I'm SURE that had you asked all of the 9/11 hijackers if they were terrorists, they would have said so, right?

People who are terrorists are going to go out of their way to disguise themselves as non-terrorists.... they certainly arent going to use that word. If I were you, I would use every single media outlet that you have and get this story everywhere. Airlines cannot abuse their passengers any longer; we are passengers, not prisoners.

There is no common sense. There is only fear, misinformation and stupidity. I don't know if any of the Majors have security consultants who develop security rules and regs, but if they do, they surely are morons.

Paul February 21, 2013 at 02:03 pm

The author did a number of things wrong and would do best to just learn from this and move on.

1) If you read the paragraph from the magazine that was posted (which I'm hoping the author learned their lesson and took while not on an aircraft), the author was in direct violation of the policy. The picture taken was not recording personal events.

2) Just because someone else is also doing something wrong (taking pictures) doesn't make it right.

3) Never say the word terrorist on a plane under any circumstances, regardless of the context (this was probably the author's worst offense).

4) By the author offering a business card to the flight attendant, it was made very apparent that the author was breaking the rules posted from the magazine. The author might have well just said "Here is my business card that proves I didn't take the picture for recording of personal events, I'm going to blog about it! I'm in direct violation of United policy. Furthermore, since I'm a blogger, there is a really good chance I'm going to take another picture once we're in the air since that is my job."

5) Flying is a privilege, not a right. The reality is that flight crews have short fuses given the climate of heightened security and don't really need to justify their actions with respect to security. If a crew member feels uncomfortable with a passenger, that is all the justification that is needed.

tri February 21, 2013 at 02:04 pm

@MATT re NBC News... hope the FA get what she deserves. I cant fault the captain, he's in a no win situation, however the FA needs to be grounded.

Erik February 21, 2013 at 02:09 pm

You were not kicked out of the plane because you took pictures, you got kicked out of the plane because of your ridiculously inflated sense of entitlement.

John February 21, 2013 at 02:10 pm

Just imagine if you will that you are on that same flight. You are nervous about flying since 9/11, but you are working though it. As you are getting settled, you hear the FA talking to a passenger. In all the noise that is associated with luggage being jammed into overhead compartments, people talking, etc., you hear the T word. You weren't paying attention to what preceded that, so you decide to ask the FA what that conversation was about. A third passenger overhears and gets nervous. This is a flight attendant's nightmare: a bunch of nervous passengers sparked by one person's stupid comment.

Mark W February 21, 2013 at 02:13 pm

Arguing not only that there are "magic" words that shouldn't be uttered in American society, but that the overreaction to those words is utterly justified, outs you as a simpleton who should not be allowed to vote or hold a job in any critical industry. You are a morally bereft, cognitively damaged automaton who would be better suited to life in one of any number of banana republics. Get your groupthink out of my United States.

Jack Molesworth February 21, 2013 at 02:18 pm

The blog author definitely sounds like one of those annoying entitled types. "I'm not a kettle flyer, I've almost got 1 million miles." Well, good for you, Corky. All that shows is that you're dumb enough to get on a plane way too often. If you've flown that much, you should know you never ever say anything about terrorists or bombs. As much as the trolley dolley and pilot sound like jerks, I gotta say there's nothing funnier than seeing an entitled jerkwad who thinks his many hours crammed into an airline seat somehow make him superior than anyone else being given the business.

Positive Thinker February 21, 2013 at 02:19 pm

Everyone now knows how to get bumped to a later flight without having to pay any fees.

drew February 21, 2013 at 02:26 pm

Perhaps they made a mistake threw the wrong passenger off the plane?

"Meanwhile, another passenger was taking pictures behind the curtain and the FA ran over to him and demanded that he stop as well. This passenger had a lively discussion with the FA, though I did not hear the resolution."

Is "lively discussion" another way to say argument?

Daniel Forero February 21, 2013 at 02:27 pm

During the preflight activities, on a palne departing from Chicago to Denver, I became atracted by the beautiful profile of an african american FA, so I decided to take some pictures of her from my seat. Apparently, she was not aware of it. Suddendly, the male FA came, telling me that photographing flight crew mabers was prohibited. He did it in a polite way so, end of business. I still keep her pictures.

nobody important February 21, 2013 at 02:30 pm

Yet another disturbing example of airlines attempting to fight yesterday's battle today. Forget the cabin, forget the passengers- the next event likely will involve either an item shipped as cargo- and subject to far, far less screening than your belongings... or hand-held SAM from Libya, Syria, Egypt, or somewhere else in the world where checks and balances (and inventory control) have severely broken down. (Reference: the printer ink caper, and the SA-7s fired at Israeli airliners).

You can photograph a cabin, contents, and crew five ways till Sunday, and it just. doesn't. matter.

So, if FrannieFlightAttendant really, really wants to make air travel safer by reducing the threat of malicious interference with commercial flight, might I suggest she put her bony a$$ on the apron and start screening cargo, or lobby for more IR deflectors on commercial aircaft.

Wade February 21, 2013 at 02:31 pm

If this went down as described (FA questioning Matthew and apparently rudely confronting other passengers regarding taking photos) and I had witnessed it I would likely have asked for her name after the flight to make a complaint to United.

Matthew - if you actually said "I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist" in response to an FA question, here is a little constructive criticism - you are a fu*king jerk.

James February 21, 2013 at 02:32 pm

For all you security fetishists that think UA's actions were justifiable all I have to say is you have let the terrorists win.

When basic human decency (like not lying) is considered secondary to security theater that most people know is ineffective then you've accepted a narrative where anything can be done to you on the thinnest of grounds. I'd rather not fly an American carrier than be treated like some criminal even though I've done nothing wrong.

Even when you win, you lose February 21, 2013 at 02:40 pm

The question for the airline should be: was it really worth the bad publicity? The FA just shot her boss (the airline) in the foot and made her own life much more unpleasant because now that the media has wind of it, they have to start making statements and looking into it.

Threat assessment is ULTIMATELY important, but BS always comes out in the end. Now as things settle down, there was no threat present, but there is a mess to clean up. Air travel is becoming more and more unpopular, not because of terrorist threat, but because of poor customer experiences. By all means, do your best to keep us safe. We will appreciate it. However, this was not a case of attempting to keep the passengers safe. Not by a long shot. The FA got her way in the short term, but only in the short term...and only for the FA, not United or the United brand.

People, I never mentioned my status onboard the aircraft.

David February 21, 2013 at 02:48 pm

United Breaks Guitars comes to mind, will companies ever learn that the actions of their employees can have broad brand damaging repercussions?

MrJM February 21, 2013 at 02:53 pm

"I am extremely loyal to United Airlines, fly them often and almost exclusively"

I believe I've identified your problem.

-- MrJM

Steve R February 21, 2013 at 02:55 pm


Even if you recounted this incident exactly as occurred, which is rarely the case in these types of encounters (there are always three sides), it seems as though you should have known better than to argue with a crew member after you million miles.

Yes - that legacy FA probably should not be working there, but this just seems like a case of needing to use a little more common sense and maturity.

Mitch February 21, 2013 at 03:09 pm

Wait. So you were thrown off the flight as a security risk and then allowed to re-book and take another flight, no questions asked.

That does not inspire confidence in United or their security procedures.

kg February 21, 2013 at 03:13 pm

You did violate their stated policy- and youve posted a picture right above their policy to prove you violated it. It says clearly that unauthorized pictures of aircraft equipment are ALWAYS prohibited.

You shouldn't have argued and should have understood how crazy worried people get on planes.

And when you spoke to the captain, using the word LIED so many times definitely didn't help move them toward your view or create sympathy. They work for the same employer. They are more likely to defend each other than side with a stranger. It's funny that you never offered to show them your phone that that you only took one picture. Or offer to show that you were deleting the image and meant no harm.

Your side of the story seems to show that you weren't interested in showing that you wouldn't do it again, but you were interested in showing them why you thought you should be able to continue to take images.

Sometimes people just don't want trouble, especially on a long haul flight, and if they can get rid of any risks, they will.

Brad M February 21, 2013 at 03:14 pm

Just leaving a note here that I read this and it yet reinforces my disdain for Untied.

I flew United exclusively in my youth as my father was a 1M+ mile flyer for work. I flew off of his FF miles when I was between 4-19 years old. As a kid, I thought United was the bees knees, just a great carrier. As I have gotten older, I have found the FA staff, especially on regional flights from LA to Seattle, to be contemptuous of the passengers. Extremely rude, unforgiving, and inflexible. On a flight from LA to Seattle there were approximately 7 of on the flight and we were all herded to the back of the plane and not allowed to spread out, crammed together seat by seat when 85% of the plane was empty. In this situation, it wasn't that they would not allow us to move, it was their hostility to the sheer notion of the idea. I don't care that it was the last regional flight on that route of the day, that it was later, that they may have been tired, the entire FA crew were complete assholes. This solidified my disdain for United FAs as much as United FAs appear to disdain the passengers.

There was a time when flying was fun, just the airplane part of it all. That time has gone, especially from United and other legacy carriers at the domestic level.

I hope UA will reach a good resolution with you. Don't let them push you around or threaten your mileage status, etc.

Dave February 21, 2013 at 03:15 pm

I only read about 1/3rd of the replies: Lots to digest. I am sorry if this was already discussed but one thing I keep coming back to about this event is that if you were such a "threat", and you were asked to leave the airplane, then why were you allowed to rebook and get on another United flight without a risk assessment by TSA or the police. You resumed (or should I say start (part two)) and simply carried on... Would you not be a threat to any United flight on that day, including your carry on or checked baggage? And regarding taking pictures, video's, etc... their policy or policing or enforcement of this is utterly rubbage and I would say they don't have a clue what can be found on today's internet. How many video's are on YouTube and passngers (aviation geeks like us) are sitting at the gate in the captain's chair and learning from whom, yes.. the Captain! There is a good YouTube video showing a great interation between the captain and passenger of a soon to depart Hawaiian flight. I can't even guess the number of thousands, hundreds of thousands of inflight pictures which are on the internet, notably at in the Trip Reports.

Avi February 21, 2013 at 03:16 pm

You cannot pay me to fly United... my advice - fly American. They treat their frequent flyers much much nicer.

Melissa February 21, 2013 at 03:22 pm

In solidarity (well, protest, at least), I'll be boycotting United Airlines when I fly DEN > DCA next month. Sorry to hear about the mess.

spaceflyer February 21, 2013 at 03:31 pm

Long-time UA flyer here (more than 30 years) and I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly with UAL FAs. I've also watched on EVERY flight as people take all kinds of pictures of everything: themselves, their kids, their spouses, out the window, the food, the floor, etc. This bullshit about a "Rule" is just that: bullshit.

The offending FA could handled it better. If she can't do her job graciously (and please don't whine about how "Hard" it is with the merger, etc. I'm a CEO, I know what "hard" is in business), then she shouldn't be in a position to pretend to serve the public.

She didn't need to get her thong in a bunch over the word "terrorist", either. How many moms have been escorted off as they describe their kids misbehaving as "little terrorists" (Yes, I have heard this on flights and have never seen the FA Language Nazis come down the aisle and escort them off.)

As UAL and Continental merge, the service gets worse, the "benefits" for being a frequent flyer (and this translates into major dollars from us FFs), get less. If my home city weren't a United hub, I'd be all over Delta or ANYBODY but United.

There's so much wrong with the situation OP described that all I can think of (as a UAL flier) is: here we go again.

Tim February 21, 2013 at 03:31 pm

It's funny how so many people here comment that in effect you should put up with how you get treated by airlines (and businesses in general).... heheheheheeheh.... This is ridiculous and you sound like SHEEP! You should know and stand up for your rights, after all you ARE the ones keeping the company in business. But I guess you're already "broken-in" quite nicely ;)

I, for one, am disgusted with UA's treatment, period... And def will avoid them in the future :))) ... I do fly a bit too :)

Linda February 21, 2013 at 03:41 pm

First and foremost to the original author of this article. I am glad you published this and I think you did the right thing. You are the airline's customer. This was a passenger airline. If photography is banned and it is this critical then they need to put up signage next to the no smoking indicators as well. I had no idea it was banned and if I thought something was cool, I would snap aaway.

The main reason I am commenting though was to the FA that used this forumm to comment how sucky their jobs were, how crappy it was to be trapped in a plane with these demanding people that they were providing a fabulous experience. It is your job to provide customer service. Security and safety, yes. But the sense of entitlement is coming more from you because you could be at risk by flying. Yes you could. Every job has risks. Teachers, in light of Sandy Hook, then should not have to teach. They are at risk. So just being there and making sure your kid does not get killed is now enough. I am sorry to be harsh and cruel. You get paid to do your job. Your job involves seeing to the comfort and well being of your passengers in a industry that seems to thrive on declining performance. As an economist, I might suggest that you start looking long term. People will find another answer and until then, simply another airline.

While there are always multiple sides to every story I find the way you were treated by the crew members deplorable. I am constantly amazed at HOW people think they can speak to/treat people – particularly when those people are paying customers (and this goes for most service industries nowadays). Please do update us on the outcome when you receive a response from United.

@Regional FA you can serve me a drink and save my life anytime – you clearly enjoy what you do and I found your comments refreshing – so thanks for that!

Kristin Mallory February 21, 2013 at 03:47 pm

We live in a zero-tolerance society and this happens every day in schools across the US.

As long as we continue to allow governments and their robotniks to bully us into believing that humor is wrong and authority is made infallible by terrorism, these stories will only get worse.

In the point of view of the FA, flight rules have been violated. Strict rules in airlines allow the discretion of FA's on certain matter, such as in this case. The FA is accused of having lied, but I have to hear what the FA has to say first before I judge.

Ian February 21, 2013 at 03:52 pm

The days when loyalty as a customer are worth anything to a large corporation are long gone. In a way it's a bit quaint that this event made you "question your loyalty" to United. They have so many people flying every day that one makes little difference, the satisfaction of a single customer makes little difference to the grinding machinery of they daily flight operations. You were an anomaly, not because you took pictures, but because you engaged them in a two way conversation. That isn't how it is supposed to work in the manual. Once an instruction is given, it is followed, additional discussion no matter how reasonable or justified is a red flag. Once identified as an anomaly, you were removed from the system so the gears could grind on.

Sure they have to pretend they care, and yes, negative publicity could have an effect, but as far as justice or loyalty go, they are just antiquated concepts that don't benefit the business model.

Alex B February 21, 2013 at 03:55 pm

Funny, when I saw this discussed in another forum and they mentioned him using the "t-word", I thought they meant he had called the flight attendent a tw*t.

Wouldn't have been totally out of line, IMO.

Deb G. February 21, 2013 at 03:57 pm

@Matthew I've noticed that quite a few commenters here haven't really bothered to read what you wrote...or are, perhaps, unable to understand it. Sad, really.

Leon321 February 21, 2013 at 04:05 pm

you flew united which has merged with the even worse customer service company continental (notoriously bad service) ... and bad attitudes are contagious

Daphne February 21, 2013 at 04:05 pm

Between grabby-handed TSA and rude flight staff, I have to say that I have substantially cut down the amount of flying I do in the last 5-7 years. The last time I went through TSA, I was blatantly groped. The flight staff (Southwest) were beyond rude. It was a miserable experience. Where I used to love flying and visiting new places, I now dread flying, and often choose lengthy car-trips over flying anywhere. The airline industry is killing itself.

Nick February 21, 2013 at 04:25 pm

I fly non-american airlines as much as possible just because of incidents like this.

Axclr8 February 21, 2013 at 04:26 pm

I posted this story ( on United Facebook page ( and it was GONE shortly after that! LOL!!

Kevin February 21, 2013 at 04:26 pm

Typical United.

Daniel February 21, 2013 at 04:29 pm

You were bothering the FA unnecessarily during prep and made the dumb move of saying "terrorist" in earshot of other passengers on a flight to the middle east. A seasoned traveler should know better.

Put yourself in the FAs shoes and think about how wonderful it's going to be handling a cabin-full of paranoid passengers during a 10-hour flight and with you as a probable "high maintenance" passenger who has no common sense when it comes to what comes out of his mouth.

I expect to see a post from you next week complaining how you had to go through a cavity search after joking about bombs and cocaine with U.S. Customs and Immigration.

Montego February 21, 2013 at 04:29 pm

This is unacceptable. But again, this is an American airline. Don't take any offense, but American airlines are globally well-known as BS. I have done this before on an AA flight, and after a heated argument with the FO, I was allowed back on the flight. If you do this on any other airline? No problem.

Matthew... how are your art skills? This is a lot safer!

Adam February 21, 2013 at 04:44 pm

On a recent flight to South America from the United States for my honeymoon, my wife and I were waiting at an American Airlines gate to speak with an attendent about getting seats together. Joking with my wife I said, "Maybe we should drop the "honeymoon" bomb to the agent when she arrives," meaning that we should mention we're on our honeymoon to add extra incentive if it were needed. My wife, a level headed woman, quickly chastised me for saying the word "bomb" and it was at that moment that I realized the level of Orwellian distopia that pervades air travel in America.

Imagine the scenario that you're pulled over by the police and you tell them, "I was not speeding" and, by saying the word "speeding" you were immediately issued a ticket for it. Yelling "bomb!" or "terrorist!" on a plane is one thing, calmly explaining "I am not a terrorist" is another.

To the flight attendants and captains who have responded that the actions presented in this blog were appropriate--I'm at a loss. Had the terrorists of 9/11 preempted their attack by saying "We're not terrorists, no one be alarmed" then you'd have a point...but come on. Get real and start using common sense.

Matthew... how are your art skills? This is a lot safer!

Dave February 21, 2013 at 04:46 pm

I hope you get some feedback from the internal queries that are sure to happen as part of this process and can let us know their response.

I have also been the victim of very unhappy/frustrated/righteous FAs and tend to sit down and avoid them. You seem to have been trying to 'make nice' with this one by explaining yourself (and perhaps opening the door to a more complete review by taking personal pictures).

I am sorry that didn't go well. People are what make up an organization and it is incumbent upon the organization to understand what happened and how this can be prevented. Blaming the customer - which seems to be what a few real people and some other sock puppets are doing in 10% of the comments - seems pointless. It is a serious problem to have to rebook your flights in the context of a busy work schedule.

Let us know how it works out.

rob February 21, 2013 at 04:47 pm

1 - the whole thing was stupid because there is no security to be gained by preventing pictures of seats. 2 - The captain had no choice, as others have said, if his crew said they were not comfortable with you. You either back your crew of you have to get a new crew. If I were the Captain I would probably ask for a replacement. As a leader I can put up with mistakes but not lies. 3 - Your status as a FF is absolutely relevant even if you didn't identify. There are problems on flights every day, very very very few of them originate with Frequent Flyers.
4 - People need to get over the words thing. Ive never once heard of a terrorist self identifying except when they are telling you they are taking over the plane. 5 - Photography is not a crime.

I hope United makes this right. I hope they take appropriate action in response to a person in a position of trust (FA) violating that trust.

HM February 21, 2013 at 04:50 pm

Even back in the 70's passengers were not allowed to say the words "hijack" or "bomb" without being thrown off an aircraft. Now add the word terrorist to the list. Am I forgetting anything else? Maybe 911 also? You may as well have said, "I'm not a terrorist with a bomb who wants to hijack this aircraft." I think United will stand behind the flight attendant's and the pilot's decision. Crew members are really not asked to make judgment calls in these situations. Instead they follow a very simple procedure. But I HATE this happened to you!

Tom February 21, 2013 at 04:53 pm

Don't fly United. They're the worst. Second only to Delta, but at least Delta has better flight attendants. They just have a horrible ticket "purchasing" experience where you can literally pay for a seat you don't get. Anyway, yea...United ruined Continental. I was a long time Continental fan but, ever since United merged, it's gone to crap.

Like someone else said here, United really doesn't care because one person doesn't make a difference. However, the fact of the matter is that more than one person realizes that United is terrible. I'm just glad that the message has been spread to more casual travelers who may have not yet had the lovely experience.

Airlines, the cable company, and cell phone carriers all have us by the nuts here. They are the only industries that can treat their customers like crap and get away with it. I think it's about time that begins to stop. Thank you for being brave enough to share your experience. I'm shocked, but I wish I could say that I was as shocked as I should be.

WhiskeyBravo February 21, 2013 at 05:00 pm

@Jack Molesworth - Your post made me laugh, but I will never say HI to you in an airport or on an aircraft..... for obvious reasons.

Tony February 21, 2013 at 05:04 pm

Perhaps some of the snotty FAs and other airline employees who have felt the need to blame the customers for their crappy lives in this thread need to find other jobs.

If dealing with customers just gets your panties all in a wad, don't be in a customer service-oriented job! No shame in that. Just buck up and quit blaming other people when your life isn't want you wanted it to be.

Good luck, Matthew. No excuse for the FA lying about you.

John February 21, 2013 at 05:04 pm

I am a flight attendant for United Airlines and while reading your story and taking your side from what I read, there is always two sides to every story.

During our pre-flight briefing with the Captain, nine out of ten times he will tell his crew if anyone is on-board that makes us uncomfortable and we feel threatened, he will have them removed. I commend him for that. It would not sit well with a crew if they reported a passenger's threatening behavior and he/she (Captain) not have a spine to back them up and have them removed.

Keep in mind, there is a protocol for having a customer removed. From what I'm reading, I do not see where the protocol was met. For security reasons, I won't elaborate any further of such protocol.

I'm sorry for what happened to you if it happened the way you say it happened. Someone else said it earlier, please don't flaunt your frequent flyer status or "do you know who I am attitude" to a Flight Attendant.....If you fly that much, you should know the policy. Again, I'm sorry for how you were treated if this went down the way you say. My job is to ensure you have a safe comfortable flight...not because you have an elite status, but because I truly care.

Noel February 21, 2013 at 05:05 pm

I hate United Airlines. I have personally been on several (purposefully) oversold flights where I've had to wait a 3/4 a day or more to catch the next flight. The worst was a poor woman next to me who was going to miss her mother's funeral because the flight was overbooked and there was no room for her on the plane. If I hadn't have already been told there wasn't enough room for me too, I would have given her my seat. She was DESTROYED by United. She sat for hours, hunched over, wimpering and crying. She had zero recourse.

United is a profit hungry company who has frequently and intentionally put greed ahead of customers needs. I only fly them if it is my absolute last resort.

Craig H. February 21, 2013 at 05:05 pm

Out the Captain, publish his name. He was responsible for making a shitty decision and should be held accountable.

Isaac February 21, 2013 at 05:15 pm

First rule of Terrorist training "Say your not a Terrorist."

Angelika February 21, 2013 at 05:15 pm

I am so tired to hear complains about the bad customers, the terrible day the FA 's are having, etc., etc. Simple solution that will benefit everybody- live customer service, this field is definitely not for you. Go and do something else ( if capable) where you will not be traumatized all the time over everything, and stop terrorizing  ( oops, that word again:)) the customers. Matthew, remain calm and pay back!   

Buford February 21, 2013 at 05:16 pm

I'm really sorry this happened, and I'm pseudo-infuriated (by proxy). However, I think a big part of the blame here is your own. I think the right thing to do would have been to stay on the plan and let them call 'the police'. As you said, the situation devolved into a lopsided 'he-said, she-said' situation, so perhaps security could have play the role of the impartial 3rd party to make sense of the lies and impacts here...?

Sure, it would have inconvenienced the remaining passengers for a bit, but winning the fight there-and-then might actually have saved them from a similar 'no recourse' booting in the future.

Everyone should read the amazing book, "The Authoritarians," written by a University of Manitoba professor. It can be downloaded for free here:

This book taught me that the vast bulk of authoritarians are not the assholes pushing the rest of us around; they are the folks who welcome the power-hungry who seek to control us.

Read "The Authoritarians." After the first chapter, it reads like a novel, and you will find lots of opportunity to view the world around you in new and useful ways.

Will February 21, 2013 at 05:17 pm

I don't fly anymore. The hassle of it all is just too much. I'm disabled (Left Below the Knee Amputee) and going through airport screening is horrible. Last time I flew they made me take my prosthesis off, run it through the X-Ray, hop through the metal detector, then they had to swab my prosthesis for explosive residue, and then pat me down like a criminal. It was humiliating.

I use Amtrak to go on long trips now. Much more relaxed than flying. Also more leg room and nicer staff. If they ever start doing the trains like they do flying I'll quit using them also.

Ian B February 21, 2013 at 05:19 pm

Omg. The idea that taking pictures denotes some kind of threat is insane. In this day and age when people take pictures of EVERYTHING, constantly, it’s insanity that this is even an issue. If the security of a flight and the lives of hundreds of passengers rest upon some dimwitted, uneducated, underpaid and overworked airline employee “catching” someone taking a snapshot, then I’m afraid all is lost. The idea that the mention of a few simple words or someone taking a couple of snaps marks someone as a threat shows that the industry (airline and security) is at a loss regarding real security and how to protect from true threats and all that they are capable of coming up with is window-dressing and that truly is a concern.

Dane T. February 21, 2013 at 05:19 pm

Fair or not, with you being a million mile flyer and all, you ought to know not to fuck with a flight crew in this post 9/11 world. Did you really utter the word terrorist? Here's a hint: avoid the words "bomb" and "hijack" as well. Dumb ass.

Cathay Pilot February 21, 2013 at 05:21 pm

You sound like a self-entitled douche

Charles Bronson February 21, 2013 at 05:22 pm

Look, everybody knows terrorists all say, "I am not a terrorist." This is a clear case of you communicating you are actually a terrorist.

Only non-terrorists will claim to be terrorists. Air waitresses are highly trained experts in terrorism and have been trained to sniff people like you out.

Case closed.

Linda February 21, 2013 at 05:22 pm

Matt, I'm very sorry this happened to you. As we can see, travel can be stressful! But, we, as readers, have to remember there are always two sides to every story. We're only hearing Matt's side. In addition, why do so many people go right to their blogs or tweets to badmouth others or companies when things don't go their way? I suppose everyone has a reason as to why they do it - maybe it's hard to reach someone and blogging makes things get done faster. But, couldn't you have tried to resolve it with United before blogging about it? You even say in your article that you haven't contacted them yet, but will send them a copy of your story. Plus, come on, using that word on a plane to an FA?! Even my 12 yo knows not to do that. Sure, she may have lied and didn't want to say in front of you and other passengers the real reason. Who knows. Again, two sides to every story. But, I guess the question is: what exactly do you want from United? A better explanation? An apology? I guess that's my question. What do you want from them?

Stanly February 21, 2013 at 05:22 pm

This is amusing - I am an experienced flier who is also an aviation buff and photographer. Only time I ever have been "chastised" for using a camera on board was on an FR flight out of TRP in Norway - seemingly taking a digital photograph of a DC-3 could interfere with the electronics on the aircraft! The flight being Fr, I concurred with the T girl.

BTW, I thought the T word meant Trolley Dolly!

Benjamin February 21, 2013 at 05:24 pm

I can only imagine that the FA wanted to feel important once in her life. Bringing you on a silver plate to the captain as a safety threat was certainly the highlight of her life! I have noticed this phenomenon several times. People want to be noticed and have sometimes unrational ways to do so.

There are a ton of comments regarding the use of the word terrorist, but I think we're missing a critical point. The Captain did not say he was being tossed off because someone heard the word terrorist, but because the FA lied about his activity. If someone saying "terrorist" gets them booted, then say that's why they got booted. I have no problem with honesty, even if it's ugly. The issue is not security, it's integrity and this FA, apparently, has none. I would have informed the Captain that I was leaving voluntarily because I was not comfortable with his flight crew (if she'd lie about that, what else?), and would be informing his boss of the same.

paul February 21, 2013 at 05:27 pm

should say alot when you said legacy united!!! they are the worst!! i have been a continental airlines employee for over 24yrs and since this merger it has been hell!!!

mograph February 21, 2013 at 05:31 pm

I think the FA told the whole story, truthfully, but when it went up the chain, corporate realized they didn't want a blogger (or just you) on the flight. The captain's not wanting to look you in the eye told me that this directive came from higher up. I wouldn't be so hard on the FA.

D. N. Knisely February 21, 2013 at 05:33 pm

I knew without reading the details that it must be a Continental-operated flight. Yup...

The difference in experience vs. the United flights is stark. I've always wondered exactly why that is. Are the Continental crews just extremely pissed off and taking it out on passengers? Was that always the Continental culture? Does it reflect New York/New Jersey social behavior? No idea. But United has got to knock it off and FAST. I always try to avoid Continental segments whenever possible. Sad to return to the bad old days before the old United "got it."

Keisar Betancourt February 21, 2013 at 05:35 pm

What this illustrates to me is that it doesn't matter how good, or loyal, a customer you are, big business, and by extention Capitalism, just doesn't care about you. There are other customers to fill your shoes.

This applies to government and society as well. As long as you keep your head down and aren't noticed, you'll be fine. What a sick, sad world we live in where these are considered the authorities and the "right" things to do.

D. N. Knisely February 21, 2013 at 05:36 pm

I knew without reading the details that it must be a Continental-operated flight. Yup...

The difference in experience vs. the United flights is stark. I've always wondered exactly why that is. Are the Continental crews just extremely pissed off and taking it out on passengers? Was that always the Continental culture? Does it reflect New York/New Jersey social behavior? No idea. But United has got to knock it off and FAST. I always try to avoid Continental segments whenever possible. Sad to return to the bad old days before the old United "got it."

Wow! I'm surprised you like United. We have flown them a couple times and I am not lying when I say that we have had a problem EVERYTIME! We refuse to fly them now, even if it means paying more.

I'm so sorry to hear about your experience. Terrible!

Joe February 21, 2013 at 05:45 pm

United isn't what it use to be....bad workers=bad service

Peter E February 21, 2013 at 05:48 pm

As soon as you cannot even say "i am not a terrorist" the terrorists have definitely won.

Seth February 21, 2013 at 06:12 pm

Please name names. The bad publicity is the only way to get the individuals (flight attendant and captain) to bear the responsibility that is theirs.

Should I buy a ticket on United, I would proceed to phone their Customer Service Department to ensure that neither of those is working on the flights I purchased. If they are, I would cancel and refund that ticket.

Loss of actual revenue is the best way to cause businesses to act.

Chris February 21, 2013 at 06:15 pm

For those who say simply using the word "terrorist" gets you kicked off a flight, think about the case where you tell the FA that you feel that the person in front of you may be a "terrorist," and that you feel uncomfortable flying with them. Guess who is going to get kicked off the flight? Not you.

Essie February 21, 2013 at 06:19 pm

"There are certain words that FAs are now trained to listen for and report."

Yes, because terrorists ANNOUNCE their presence on the flight before takeoff in hopes of being stopped.

This is the HEIGHT of IDIOCY. Now, if you want to tell me that FAs have been given extensive behavioral profiling training to spot suspicious behavior and report that, I'd buy it. But we all know that no domestic airline would put that much $$$ into training because they have no sense in how to manage their margins. Most police agencies haven't bothered to train their forces in such areas.

Noel February 21, 2013 at 06:21 pm

I hate United Airlines. I have personally been on several (purposefully) oversold flights where I've had to wait a 3/4 a day or more to catch the next flight. The worst was a poor woman next to me who was going to miss her mother's funeral because the flight was overbooked and there was no room for her on the plane. If I hadn't have already been told there wasn't enough room for me too, I would have given her my seat. She was DESTROYED by United. She sat for hours, hunched over, wimpering and crying. She had zero recourse.

United is a profit hungry company who has frequently and intentionally put greed ahead of customers needs. I only fly them if it is my absolute last resort.

ohmygizod February 21, 2013 at 06:22 pm

It would be really stupid if using the word "terrorist" like it's been used in this case, might make the FAs nervous and mark the author as a threat, like some rather feeble minded commenters suggest.

First, as has been pointed out, people who are a threat surely will do all they can tp prevent others from noticing.

Second, I'm sure that terrorists do not call themselves terrorists. They probably use all kinds of words to describe themselves, but I would guess that terrorist is the last word they'd think of.

Honestly, I would have done the exact same thing as you. If an FA would have gotten upset at me over that, I would have apologized and explained myself in the exact same way you did. Now I am not sure how she took your explanation or what was going on inside of her head to get you thrown off the flight. However,her behavior is unacceptable.

I fly all the time and I will take photos on the plane (rarely) but often out of my window. I had never heard of an airline with this policy.

Another issue I have is the policy being in the magazine. Legally, they cannot hold up. Those magazines are available to anyone and you might not have had a copy of it in your seat. If this is a policy that is enforced, they must announce it or have it as part of the seat pocket documentation for every single passenger. Having that in an inflight magazine isn't enough to be able to enforce it.

Granted, her asking you to comply is a federal policy. However, lying about a passenger to get him thrown off a flight should have some legal consequences, regardless of any miscommunication there may have been about this issue.

Kristie February 21, 2013 at 06:27 pm

Nonstop to Istanbul.... NO offense, but considering the seat you were occupying (near the cockpit) I might be a little concerned too....

Ken February 21, 2013 at 06:29 pm

A question for the other folks that sat on this flight; Did the seat remain empty during the flight? Is it possible the F/A used the seat during her breaks? A possible motivation. Most of the carriers hold a business and / or first class seat for the extra pilot on their rest cycle. Maybe this F/A wanted one of her own.

Mike Ross February 21, 2013 at 06:32 pm

As a Brit who has lived in America for many years, and experienced the best and worst of both American and Euro carriers, I have one first thought: it's long past time to break cabotage. Protectionist nonsense from a bygone era.

What follows isn't a threat, just a statement about the real world. I don't think anyone would deny that it can and does happen that crew members have bad days, and/or get a little power-trippy. Very rare of course but not unknown. I've seen comments here about FAs 'smirking' as they misuse their presumed power to prove some kind of point. Never seen it myself but prepared to believe it can happen.

Any crew member tempted to do such a thing might do well to consider there ARE bad people in the world. You might get away with the kind of thing several people have given examples of here, dozens of times. Most times there's no comeback. Someone may complain occasionally but they probably don't even remember your name, and it seldom goes very far.

Then you misuse your power on totally the wrong guy, he gets quietly off the plane, makes a phone call, and a few days later you're having your legs broken down a back alley.

Be careful up there, everyone, SLF and crew alike; actions have consequences. You're trained in de-escalation; do it.

Zack Chisse February 21, 2013 at 06:33 pm

So...say one of the magic forbidden words like "terrorist" and you're off the plane?

What a pack of pathetic, snivelling, worthless cowards the UA personnel are. Afraid of a word. That's disgusting. That's appalling. And those are about the nicest things I can say about it. Passengers, don't count on these wimps if it comes to a fight with real live actual terrorists: they'll either faint or wet their pants.

Also, by the way: real live actual terrorists would not openly take pictures. They're evil, not stupid (like you). If they felt that they needed to do recon, they would do so carefully -- and you're certainly not anywhere close to smart enough to catch them.

rr4goose February 21, 2013 at 06:35 pm

Well don't ever say "booger" either.

Mirko Predosin February 21, 2013 at 06:36 pm

More reason why I would never fly with United Airlines ever again. Word of mouth carries alot of weight. Rest assured, I'll be sharing this story with all of my friends.

Annon February 21, 2013 at 06:36 pm

You need to re read that rule about photography on the plane thoroughly. It says no photography of the plane at all. The seat is counted as the plane too. Before you go saying it is a crap rule, you have to read it. I think it is crap too, but you have to respect the rules of the airline you are flying with. I have read your post, and I think you should not have said Terrorist, that is just plain dumb. Also know when you are beat. The captain's main concern is the passengers, not just one, but the whole, and he had other passengers times to think about, not arguing with you.

Donn February 21, 2013 at 06:42 pm

I feel your pain. It had to tough trying to figure out what really happened and I'm guessing your still not sure . I think it's so sad when someone is wronged for no good reason. Whatever happened I have a hard time believing that the use of the T word caused you to ousted. FA started something she could not stop and the captain had no desire to do the right thing.(It might of held up the flight) That said, You have created some great reading . I have read them all. Looking forward to the outcome.

CyberAttorney February 21, 2013 at 06:44 pm

Sue their fucking pants off. Humiliate them like they humiliated you.

Zac Smith February 21, 2013 at 06:46 pm

So many sheep in this comment section that just seem think "that's the way it is. Take it in the shorts." No, don't just take it. Stand up for your principles and then write about it.

United has been consistently one of the worst airlines to deal with. Their FA staff is awful. Walk away and build loyalty somewhere else.

Mike Ross February 21, 2013 at 06:48 pm

Oh and as for comments about security, and security risk from taking photos, and using Forbidden Words... give me a break!

It's ALL security theater (oh and FYI I'm a fireman, and I was in New York on 9/11; I take security issues seriously).

I'll start worrying about the security implications of taking a photo of an aircraft cabin or crew when they stop selling duty-free.

At security, they'll take just about anything suspicious off you - the smallest penknife, screwdriver, heck I once had a tiny 4" adjustable wrench taken off me. Why, I asked... she thought hard, then said "you could MAKE something with it"!

Then once you're through security, you go to duty free and buy glass bottles of high-proof rum.

Stick a handkerchief in the neck and set light to it, it's a moderately effective improvised Molotov cocktail.

Break it over the seat in front of you, you have a weapon in your hand more dangerous than a penknife. Or a 4" adjustable wrench. Or even a box cutter. Ask any cop, or ER doctor, just how much damage someone with a broken bottle and a mean disposition can do.

As long as they keep selling duty free, the Emperor has no clothes and 90% of visible security is bullshit. If there was anything real about security, duty free would have been banned the day after 9/11, and then sold only after arrival, groundside. I'm astonished more people haven't seen this or spoken up about it.

Can't photograph cabin or aircraft equipment - fah!

Hoemoe February 21, 2013 at 06:49 pm

You broke the rules. You then argued with the crew. You argued with the captain. You are a crybaby, sorry, but in our culture what you did was wrong.

Leah February 21, 2013 at 06:58 pm

I flew the same new international configuration in business class from Paris to DC in November. I totally took a photo. I'm sorry for what happened to you. As a Houstonian, I can always tell which crew is United and which are Continental. The dead give-a-way is how you're treated. I look forward to this follow up.

kevin February 21, 2013 at 07:06 pm

These comments just get better and better! Matthew, is this what you call loyalty to United? Something that you could've addressed directly to the people in Chicago since they know about you? This is how you re-pay them? Look at the firestorm! Dude, do us all a favor and take your business elsewhere. You're a spoiled brat But, you won't. You know how to work the system to get reimbursed for your ticket, plus some. Just be sure to post how they took care of you after all of this. Be fair! Definitely a member of Generation Y,and it shows! I'm already special at 26 with all of my miles, blah, blah, blah...

"Jean Twenge, the author of the 2006 book Generation Me, considers Millennials along with younger Gen Xers to be part of a generation called Generation Me.[33] "

Chris February 21, 2013 at 07:12 pm

I suggest you contact "The Haggler" column at the NY Times. United doesn't care about anything (safety, security, comfort, etc.) except to the extent if impacts profits. Exposing this fiasco in the Times will get their attention.

Jack February 21, 2013 at 07:13 pm

Sorry to hear of your ordeal. I got nailed by a United flight attendance a couple years ago for having my handheld Garmin GPS out mid-flight. I sometimes use it to pass the time and see where I am, what's nearby, time until landing, etc. Had a FA start loudly ordering me to "Turn it off NOW!" I asked why in a polite way - Hey, I'm Canadian and that's what we're known for, right? She cited a policy about "banned devices transmitting data and pictures". I considered trying to debate the transmission capability of a GPS with her (it can't. It receives signal from 20 geostationary satellites) or that it can't take a photo, but her level of agitation was enough that I valued getting to my destination more.

FWIW, I've used it on Air Canada, Westjet, Northwest (back when) and Delta without issue. Even had a Westjet FA ask me about the model and if I preferred it to another one! Go figure.

David Patton February 21, 2013 at 07:24 pm

I've just recently taken my first ever first class flight, flying LAX-LHR-LAX with BA. When the crew found out that this flight was my first first, they actively encouraged me to take photographs.

lol February 21, 2013 at 07:31 pm

DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!? I HAVE A BUSINESS CARD! I AM IMPORTANT! RULES DON'T APPLY TO ME! I HAVE A BUSINESS CARD! A BUSINESS CARD! Yeah I think you got what you deserved, but even so, you act like it was a great injustice. You had to get on a different plane...big deal. People find out they have cancer every day or have to struggle to put food on the table. You just have a busted ego and it seems like you have plenty to go around.

Bob February 21, 2013 at 07:38 pm

@Heather: The correct phrase is "Some times it is best to let sleeping dogs lie...." And it's quite ironic here.

I didn't pick up any entitlement at all. If he asked for the police, that might be justified, but he seemed very polite to me.

Allen February 21, 2013 at 07:42 pm

Take a look at the picture at the top of this page. It would make a perfect illustration in the dictionary under "entitled." I'd throw that spoiled, snot-nosed kid off my plane, too.

Bottom line: people are idiots. I think that sums things up. Onward to more weighty matters.

John Pettitt February 21, 2013 at 07:46 pm

That's really interesting - a week ago I tweeted, in flight, a picture of my meal and @united responded positively. Clearly the "policy" is not very evenly enforced.

Laches February 21, 2013 at 07:49 pm

I keep seeing these nonsensical arguments to the effect of "well, he violated their policy."

As I noted earlier, it's debatable whether that's even true.

But even if it is, read the facts again, that's not why they said they were pulling him off the plane. Their explanation was that he was removed for continuing to violate the policy in defiance of the FA's request. That was a pure fabrication by the FA.

I cannot fathom how many apologists there are for the conduct described here, nor the attitude that "passenger safety" and "9/11" are magic words, the mere incantation of which entitle airline personnel to mistreat paying customers however they choose without consequences.

I know two wrongs don't make a right, but if this ever happened to me, part of me would be awfully tempted to report the erratic behavior, slurred speech and smell of alcohol that I noted when interacting with these crew members; see how they like having to deal with false accusations leveled against them.

Eight February 21, 2013 at 07:52 pm

I don't know if 'legacy' says anything about the FA's seniority or what the union situation is there, but to me this sounds like it should be grounds for firing. If it were me and I were being contacted by UA reps to come to a resolution, that would be among my demands. FA who lies to get someone thrown off a plan because she's having a bad day should be let go. That's business. Whatever they might offer in terms of money, or free miles or status upgrades or whatever else, they should resolve this with a minor personnel change.

Bill MacRae February 21, 2013 at 07:53 pm

It was United - doesnt that say it all?

P. Agard February 21, 2013 at 07:58 pm

I am truly sorry to see the sad state of the domestic airline service. Long gone are the days of flying being an experience and thrill. Society has lost much of its grace and elegance. What happened to you is unfortunately becoming the new norm. The decline of service is evident, that UA probably thinks it is more economical to lose you as a customer with all those miles and perks and have you replaced. When economics rule there is no room for better service especially when it adds cost to the bottom line. All the best to you and don't lose your enthusiasm for life and flying

jim February 21, 2013 at 07:59 pm

as usual, this is only HALF OF THE STORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sparks February 21, 2013 at 08:00 pm

Let me offer another perspective... from the cockpit. Safe conduct of the flight is my primary concern. If an issue enters the cockpit, the first question I ask myself "Is this a safety issue? Or is it a customer service issue?". My goal is to keep distractions out of the cockpit. If it is a customer service issue, I rely on the customer service agent to resolve it. If it is a safety issue, I'm not moving the aircraft until it is resolve. Again for emphasis, my priority is the safe conduct of the flight, the safety of the crew and passengers on board. Even an on time departure is subordinate to safety. With that said, lets examine the Captain's actions.

If a problem was reported to the Captain as a customer service issue, he would of handed it off to the boarding/customer service agent. Usually these issues rarely find their way into the cockpit. And when they do, it is very rare that the Captain would step out of the cockpit, and only after they have accomplished all their duties. My guess: This issue entered the cockpit as a safety issue.

So what was the safety issue? Without being privy to the conversation between the Flight Attendent and the Captain, I can only guess. Picture taking against company policy is not a safety issue. The word "Terrorist" in this context isn't a safety issue either. "I'm not comfortable with you...", (or the classic; "he looks suspicious," "he looks like a terrorist,") are not safety issues without corresponding behaviors. So what did Matthew do in the eyes of the Flight Attendent that elevated this episode to the cockpit? My guess: "Failure to comply with flight attendant instructions." Assuming Matthew's description of the encounter is accurate, the issue should have never made it into the cockpit. Even if the Flight Attendent described the situation as a uncooperative passenger to the Captain and the Customer Service Agent, it could have easily been resolved. The Captain or the Customer Service Agent could have asked Matthew to promise to follow the instructions of the crew, not take anymore pictures, and leave his cellphone off until they arrived in Istanbul. If Matthew's response was in the affirmative, and his behavior demonstrated his intention to comply, problem solved.

But. That's not what happened. There was a fail at every level. Issues similar to Matthew's are resolved everyday with a simple second reminder from a FA to buckle your seatbelt, please turn off you cellphone, stow your bag properly, etc. without anyone taking notice. I'm not sure a second reminder was given or was even necessary.

rob February 21, 2013 at 08:00 pm

"I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist."

That's why you were kicked off the plane. Not because of pictures. Because you're a fool for saying something like that while on an airplane. I hate the overly PC culture we have, but you should of known better than to get on and airplane and say something like that. I wish things were different, but that's the world we live in right now.

LOD Fly Guy February 21, 2013 at 08:02 pm

I work for a legacy airline. I fly international all the time. I just worked a long flight from Paris to the USA today. I work business class all the time and my airline has a similar photo policy. Photos are not forbidden of a personal travel experience and it appears this is the same policy at United. It is unfathomable how a flight attendant could tell a passenger that. Especially when photographing his/her own travel experience. The crew were not targeted and as a crew member I would prefer not to be photographed without knowing it - ie a trip to the bathroom to make sure hair is perfect - then a pose with someone if they wish - but I also am one who subscribes to common sense.

It seems this FA was on a power trip and its unfortunate that it also happened with the captain. It seems no one used common sense. What is really alarming is how the word terrorist seems to be a bad word. If what he said was true he was stating a fact - I am not a terrorist. It is a statement that many people on the plane could say and no one would bat an eye. I hope you seriously reconsider supporting United. They aren't super famous for their customer service.

If what you say is true, you are 100% in the right and the crew is 100% in the wrong. No discretion was used. No common sense. No intelligence. I truly hope the FAs involved are in for punishment. Unfortunately in the union obsessed airline industry - bad Flight Attendants are rarely ever fired - so please write in a formal report to the airline and if you can remember any names use them. Its doubtful any of the crew will be honest with the airline about what happened - it is unfortunate. One reason I'm thrilled to work for a legacy airline with a non-unionized flight attendant group. It takes time but the bad Flight Attendants do get fired - mostly due to reports from passengers. So don't give up and maybe consider an airline change. I would love to have you on board - but you might need to swap to that big airline that maybe calls Atlanta home.

Good luck.

Gwynnebaer February 21, 2013 at 08:02 pm

For a traveler of your calibre, with the miles you mentioned, I cannot understand why you don't get that the pivotal moment was the use of a "stop word" such as 'terrorist', even in the context of a negative (eg, "I amnot a terrorist"). How could you interact with the flight industry for the length of time you have and not understand how the system works at such a fundamental level? Safety is not an item an FA can take for granted, and good or bad, the system is designed to keep people safe, even if it inconveniences us to refrain from behavior which in any way falls outside of the norm. I admit I am not a fan of the system but it is what it is, and you of ALL people should understand that. Perhaps you need a refresher on what flying means for the casual passenger, and the (unfounded but still very palpable) fear that many continue to endure while making the decision to fly.

I believe you should continue to press on United for a resolution wrt to "lies" vs. "t-word" for confirmation, and your stature with the company I hope will see you to successful conclusion. However, I remain convinced that the true fault of being asked to de-plane was your "sophomoric" use of language which clearly the aviation industry is not ready to accept in good faith or in jest.

Jeff February 21, 2013 at 08:03 pm

I seem to recall that were several incidents in the 1980's where people disobeyed and then assaulted crew members, resulting in the passing of a law prohibiting it. Then, the Patriot Act made it a clear federal offense to disobey the flight crew in any way (technically, interfering with their duties, but disobeying anything has been taken as such).

In my opinion, giving this much power to such a large number of untrained people is always a bad idea. I really don't like flying now, because I know there's a good chance I'll get some snotty order from the flight crew and have no choice but to sheepishly obey their nonsense, or else face prison time.

What other form of transportation carries the risk of imprisonment merely for standing up for yourself against false accusations or unreasonable, pointless demands?

when dealing with people in public safety positions of any kind, be they traffic or parking or highway police, tsa agents, or members of a flight crew, remember they deal with a lot more people like you than you do with poeple like them, and they've probably had a long day already, and they have your convenience if not also your freedom in their hands. so if you get an opportunity to rock the boat, don't. smile, thank them, sit down or keep moving [as appropriate], shut up, and hope that both you and they get home safely to your respective families. they are not storm troopers and you are not a rebel. your life will be ruled by the law of large numbers.

KJM February 21, 2013 at 08:05 pm

Although, a terrible and unfortunate experience indeed, the situation could have been completely avoided had you let it be after having stopped taking pictures with your phone. This is where the situation took a complete turn for the worse, uttering the word terrorist and assuring you are not one combined with you motioning for the flight attendant to come to you so she could take your jacket to hang is, believe it or not, a sign of arrogance in the flight attendants eyes. People may balk at this but, nevertheless, it is fact whether you or anyone else likes it or not. Once you willingly placed yourself in this light, then uttered the word terrorist, that is exactly what got you kicked off the flight. It's my guess, they used the excuse that you continued to take photos so as not to create a scene due to the sensitive nature of that one little, although, quite powerful word, terrorist. As a flight attendant myself for the last two plus decades, I will tell you that the crew sticks together and backs one another and she apparently very much felt uncomfortable to the degree of safety in flight on such a long haul to allow you to go with them. The captain ultimately has the last word and the captain has the absolute authority to have any customer removed from their flight. The airline by which they are employed trusts in the captains ability to make such a decision and is rarely, if ever, questioned. I hope in the future you are carful with the words you choose to use to defend or express yourself while aboard a US commercial carrier. You and others reading this may just say they were making a big deal out of nothing but, a real danger unfortunately remains present when it comes to terrorism and the potential a terrorist has at using a commercial aircraft as a weapon. I truly apologize this happened to you. Godspeed.

Joshi February 21, 2013 at 08:06 pm

It's idiotic to say the word "terrorist" on an airplane and expect to keep your seat.

DGT February 21, 2013 at 08:08 pm

I used to be a high ranking frequent flyer on United until one day I ran into a problem created by UA, exacerbated by UA and ultimately not solved by UA.

I walked away - and I have gone out of my way to never fly them again.

I'm now a million+ flier on American. Wild horses wouldn't get me back on UA. I guess they are right when they say over the PA "we know you have a choice." All I can say is put your money where your mouth is and walk away from UA. Take your hundreds of thousands of miles and get equivalent status on another airline.

And tell anyone who will listen why.

josh February 21, 2013 at 08:10 pm

Agree saying terrorist isn't the best idea. When I was around 14 a friend of mine said something stupid. We were 2 excited kids on trip to Hawaii looking out the window to spot or luggage. A lady in front of us who was high strung kept asking us "what is that pipe" in the bags to which we replied, "no idea". After the 5th time she asked my friend said, "I don't know lady maybe it is a bomb, leave me alone I am trying to find my bag".

Next step is 2 large gentlemen in hawaiian shirts escorting us off the plane. And 5 hours of scary interviews you would see in the movies. Us kids and our families were banned from the Airline and they needed FAA clearance to fly the plane. They also deboarded each passenger and rechecked everyones bags.

This was pre 9-11.

Belen February 21, 2013 at 08:21 pm

United clearly is an "over-reactionary" airline. I have often witnessed their flight crews be less than pleasant to other passengers - yelling and carrying on with passengers in the most undignified ways. United corporate doesn't seem to care as their approach to flight attendant issues has been that their flight crews are always right (this is clear from several complaints that I filed - they use the "safety" line as a way out). Due to the surliness of their flight attendants that I have witness (and the blase' attitudes of United management), I convinced our company leadership to remove United from our preferred carriers (we spend close to $40 million in air travel annually and this policy has been in place since Q4 2011). Delta, Virgin America and Southwest gets the bulk of our business now.

I think the real issue that Matthew experienced has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that he his a 26 year old blogger. I'm certain that the flight attendant he encountered was in her late 50's / early 60s' (this is typically the case with the international flights; senior flight attendants get those routes). Some of our executives are in their 20's & 30's and sit in Business and First Class - and when they would fly United, about 2/3 of those executives would end-up complaining of ageism that they would experience from the United flight attendants. This seems to be a problem within the United culture which the United corporate folks could care less about (since they want to avoid employee age discrimination lawsuits - so they clearly are caught between a rock and a hard place).

My advice to you Matthew: Refocus your flying blog to American, Virgin America or Delta - and use your existing United miles on a Star Alliance partner. It is highly likely that your United frequent flyer profile has been flagged, so the United flight managers may end up giving you the side-eye every time you show up for a United flight.

Chris February 21, 2013 at 08:25 pm

To try and break this down again, here are two different ways this could have gone better after the flight attendant reported the problem - even if the passenger had still been kicked off the plane:

SCENARIO 1 1. Pilot explains that passenger is being removed for taking photos. 2. Passenger explains that he did not take photos after the first instruction. 3. Pilot asks the flight attendant if this was the passenger who kept taking photos. 4. She says yes. 5. Pilot apologizes, but explains that he must trust his flight attendant and passenger cannot fly.

SCENARIO 2 1. Pilot explains that passenger is being removed for taking photos. 2. Passenger explains that he did not take photosafter the first instruction. 3. Pilot asks the flight attendant if this was the passenger who kept taking photos. 4. She says no, but that she still feels uncomfortable with the passenger. 5. Pilot explains that though passenger was not the one taking the extra photos, the flight attendant is uncomfortable with the passenger for other reasons, and passenger cannot fly.

Either the flight attendant doubles down on the lie (Scenario 1) or tells the truth (Scenario 2). Either way, the pilot actually gets the information to make an informed decision to eject the passenger - even if the information is faulty.

Fools February 21, 2013 at 08:29 pm

Preposterous. Really sets a new low mark for flight crew standards.

The memo that a single Business Class passenger fare can make the difference between flying profitably or at a loss did not reach this FA. Or, she just had an issue and needed to take it out on someone, also professionally unacceptable.

As per United's policy - I can see that Business Class Cabin "design espionage" might be an issue between airlines, but come on!

The only good flight is the one you don't take these days -- and United should be working to up their game, not creating bullshit. If the writer was a security risk, rebooking him is unacceptable - the flight crew is simply abusing their power in this instance.

I surely hope United apologizes to you, and especially that Captain and FA, personally. Give 'em hell. In solidarity, I shall fly American till they do.

Mh February 21, 2013 at 08:32 pm

I have been an international flight att for 35 years. I am sorry you had this horrible experience. Most of my coworkers are wonderful....we do have a few that slipped thru the cracks....we all hate working with these types that give us all bad names. Most of us love to see our customers enjoying their flights.....I love to take their cameras and take pictures for them...and hear the excitement /or lack of as they tell me why they are traveling , vacation or business...... I work for Delta....after 4 mergers.... Delta is my favorite as they really promote good customer service on all levels . Good luck in you future travels had a really bad experience and I believe you did nothing wrong.

Ron-E February 21, 2013 at 08:36 pm

This story blows my mind, and I find myself frustrated as if I was there. I've been in situations before where I battle with defending my principles versus what will cause the least amount of trouble. It drives me mad, and I feel for you. The good news, I've never seen your blog and now I will be following it closely. I hope we see some justice, but will not be surprised if we don't.

Btw, Love the comments about our over zealous fear since 9/11, how differently El Al would have handled this, Viktor from Switzerland, and something about a school teacher. ;)

Steffie B February 21, 2013 at 08:40 pm

I only saw one other poster mention maturity here, and I think that's the main thing our young blogger here is lacking (ps, everyone these days is a blogger and travel writers are a dime a dozen). A grown up knows when to fold, appreciates the nuances of managing a flight and the safety of everyone involved. This whole story, which has many more sides than we will ever know, is ridiculous. I mean come on, who the hell gets thrown off an airplane? I've never even come close in my many, many years of flying all over the world. Were you drinking, Matt? My advice is to take that big chip off your shoulder and get on with your life.

Adena February 21, 2013 at 08:45 pm

I'm so sad that I have a lot of frequent flier miles on united. I am trying to use them up as fast as possible because this airline makes me sick to my stomach how they treat customers. I loved Continental and I'm sad that they were bought by such a terrible airline. I'm soon moving my loyalty program to Virgin America as they know how to treat their customers. I hope this FA loses their job and so does this captain. How ridiculous. If taking pictures is illegal on planes then they should announce that to everyone. I take pictures on planes all the time, I'll just wait until the day I get kicked off and write my own blog post. I bet it will be soon.

Ima Sellout February 21, 2013 at 08:46 pm

I read your well-written explanation and many of the subsequent comments. What struck me was your use of the word "Terrorist." Regardless of what is right or wrong in all of this, I believe your decision to use that word was the catalyst for your removal.

At first I wanted to side with you - being kicked out for taking pictures was what I read at first on a page publishing your story. But after getting your full side of the story: both sides are to blame.

It's their plane, their rules. If they tell you not to take pictures: don't take pictures. You complied. If it stayed at this you would have stayed on the flight, could have complained to customer service, blogged about it, whatever, afterwards. Let me cite you: Last but not least: "I want you to note that I was cooperative in your report and that the FA lied about me taking further pictures." No. You weren't You choose to play the spoilt kid. You kept her from doing her work (explaining or whatever you want to call the act of telling her you're a travel writer) and aggravating the situation by veiled threats. "...and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog." - translation: "you did a good job - now I'm pissed off. I'm going to cause you more stress and make you miserable during the next hours and afterwards I'll write about it and make sure you get fired/demoted" The FA did the wrong thing as well: lying. No excuse for that. That the captain was rather defensive and siding with the FA is simple: he might know her better than you and believe her more than you - even if they saw each other for the first time: the first story you hear of an incident is the one that you are most likely to believe.. Just as you hope that we believe your side of the story.

Chris February 21, 2013 at 08:57 pm

I read the original post, compared it to my own neutral to negative experiences with United flight attendants, and decided to fly with another airline from SFO to BKK. I do not like the dreadful, if any, meals, the neutral to dreadful interactions with customers, and the uncomfortable dirty aircraft. I, for one, have had enough. Thanks for the memories, United staff and management.

Joe in Calif February 21, 2013 at 09:00 pm

You do know that the February 7, 2013 United Airlines contract of carriage does not contain any limitation on photography on board. Thus they illegal detained you which constitutes false imprisonment by keeping you in Newark.

There is no restriction on photography. Period.

Moreover, the Captain threatened to call the police to have you removed. This means that she invoked the interfering with a flight crew. and if you are correct, she made a knowingly false report. This is a crime - not just a garden variety bad behavior.

This one needs to be pressed to the fullest extent. Yes, I am a lawyer. . . . this one requires that the F/A provide a written explanation for what she did. . .

Greg February 21, 2013 at 09:01 pm

I find this incident a sad commentary of a lot that is going on in the US and with American transportation companies. So many seem to grasp at any amount of power they can have on others and cause harm for the sake of some made up "security" needs. Firstly, the UA "Law" that you cannot take a picture of their own safety video is ridiculous. That by itself is a power trip. And since when did stewardesses become cops? They are there to be accommodating to the passengers, not police their activity when they are not causing harm. Why do they have to be this way to people that have paid hard earned money to be there? It is too bad you work for UA, since it has developed a well deserved reputation world wide for rude service, surely employees, extra charges, etc. etc. etc. I associate with many that travel often from the US to Asia, and almost all would agree "any airline except United". The Asian carriers are much more gracious, friendly, attractive and make for a much pleasant trip. A comment from an idiot named Paul above said:

"Flying is a privilege, not a right. The reality is that flight crews have short fuses given the climate of heightened security and don't really need to justify their actions with respect to security. If a crew member feels uncomfortable with a passenger, that is all the justification that is needed."

Paul is the perfect UA traveler. Firstly, arrogant Paul, travel is a right. You may not have read the Constitution since high school, so it may be time to review it. And secondly, for anyone to do harm on another with no real justification is ethically and morally wrong. When they come and tell Paul to get in the boxcar, I am sure he will show his respect for false authorities and quickly jump on aboard. After all, they don't need any justification.

Tim February 21, 2013 at 09:10 pm

If escorting flight nerds off the plane is the new strategy, then the real security threat is the poor judgment of power tripping FAs like this. Do you really think Al Qaeda is telling its members to take pictures of the IFE system's welcome screen?

Dave February 21, 2013 at 09:12 pm

If the FA had wanted to throw him off the plane for saying "terrorist", she should have done that. She didn't. She lied. There's absolutely NO EXCUSE for that lie regardless of what the author of this post did or said. If he did something that validated throwing him off the flight, the FA could use that as her reason.

Beau February 21, 2013 at 09:18 pm

Hey Matt,

As a loyal reader for years and an AA ExPlat, I've been in similar (but not as "elevated") situations re: incompetent FAs. Other commenters have stated my views much better than I ever could. Also, please, Kettles, shut up. You're the same ones who take up my overhead space with your giant bags on RJs and block the carpet for me to board when the airline requests pax of my status, as recognition for the thousands (three or more zeroes after the number) of dollars I spend monthly, compared to you and your consolidator fares purchased for the cheapest flight possible so you can fly once a year or less.

However, has nobody noticed just how creepy "Daniel Forero" (#393) is?

Sorry for the rant, I hate to sound "entitled" or pull a DYKWIA, but the airline recognizes elite pax for a reason.

KJM February 21, 2013 at 09:20 pm

Although, a terrible and unfortunate experience indeed, the situation could have been completely avoided had you let it be after having stopped taking pictures with your phone. This is where the situation took a complete turn for the worse, uttering the word terrorist and assuring you are not one combined with you motioning for the flight attendant to come to you so she could take your jacket to hang is, believe it or not, a sign of arrogance in the flight attendants eyes. People may balk at this but, nevertheless, it is fact whether you or anyone else likes it or not. Once you willingly placed yourself in this light, then uttered the word terrorist, that is exactly what got you kicked off the flight. It's my guess, they used the excuse that you continued to take photos so as not to create a scene due to the sensitive nature of that one little, although, quite powerful word, terrorist. Using the word terrorist is equivalent to using the word bomb while on board a commercial flight. As a flight attendant myself for the last two plus decades, I will tell you that the crew sticks together and backs one another and she apparently very much felt uncomfortable to the degree of safety in flight on such a long haul to allow you to go with them. The captain ultimately has the last word and the captain has the absolute authority to have any customer removed from their flight. The airline by which they are employed trusts in the captains ability to make such a decision and is rarely, if ever, questioned. Bottom line, we are only as strong as our weakest link and the US commercial airlines take this very seriously and have programs and training in place to be certain commercial carriers remain a strong link to maintain the traveling publics confidence and trust. Whether you implied such a thing jokingly and anyone who personally knows you could attest to the fact that you are not a terrorist, it is no joking matter as at this point once you've brought attention to yourself in such a manner, the only option is to have you removed from the flight. I hope in the future you are carful with the words you choose to use to defend or express yourself while aboard a US commercial carrier. You and others reading this may just say they were making a big deal out of nothing but, a real danger unfortunately remains present when it comes to terrorism and the potential a terrorist has at using a commercial aircraft as a weapon. I truly apologize this happened to you. Godspeed.

Dan D. February 21, 2013 at 09:25 pm

After reading 300+ comments, I too am surprised how this became a huge incident for Mathew. My guess is the captain had already decided that Mathew was getting kicked off and either wouldn't or couldn't change his mind.

When a pasenger is being removed, does the captain have to inform somebody? Yes. In this case GS and I'm not sure who else. Are the bags being pulled? They should be. Once that's in motion, I doubt any captain will have the b*lls to reverse the decision as it will make him look very weak.

It seems obvious to me the captain did not want any confrontations with an 8+ hour flight ahead. He took the easy way out. As much as all of the comments talk about entitlement, in some cases, knowing the passenger was in B/F and a 1K member, the captain could have taken the 2 minutes it would have taken to confront Mathew and clear things up, or not. He still may have been taken off the flight, but doubtful.

Although I didn't read every comment, I didn't see anyone mention looking at the FA's work record. Is this the first time this happened? With others who were ON the same flight making comments consistent with the story posted, the FA's record is failry important. The issue is, I doubt you will ever get a sniff of it, especially with a union involved.

After reading this, I reflected on how much I used to fly and now it's once a year. As most posters have written, flying is not fun anymore. This is a glaring example. When you get to the airport, don't talk, don't look at anyone, don't turn your head, etc..

My only issue with the whole thing is the "T" word, although it's not an exuse for what happened.

Mathew, if you read this, here is my question. If you were in a car, crossing the border from the US into Canada, would you mention a "gun" without being asked about it? IMHO, the segway can be made with aircraft and the "T" word.

Matt Joyce February 21, 2013 at 09:25 pm

This happens all too often. There needs to be some oversight in airports. The TSA and the flight crews ( lets leave pilots ang engineers out of it as they have ZERO exposure to passengers ) are abusive and frankly taking advantage of people.

And the reprecussions are severe for the passengers with zero accountability elsewhere. I have a friend who has been attempting to pursue a complaint against the TSA for three years now. They have fabricated complaints, threatened lawsuits, lost paperwork, and basically pulled every trick in the book to try and get him to stop but, three years on he's still grinding away at what appears to be an endless maze of beaurocracy designed to eliminate any and all accountability.

In situations like these as a flyer, you simply grin and bear it. Be nice, swallow your pride, and try to figure out a path forward. But the truth is, there is no accountability once you enter an airport, and livestock has more legal rights than you do there.

Greg G February 21, 2013 at 09:26 pm

A bunch of very interesting stories and theories. If this has been said previously, I apologize. However, as I post this, there are 416 posts in front of me. Matt was 12 or 13 when 9/11 took place so he cannot really be expected to understand how that day impacted people who work for UAL and American, especially those who fly out of EWR. Further, he is only 25 and when I was 25, I did not have the sort of perspective that I now do at about twice that age. So, his common sense was not working correctly but I am not really sure that the flight attendant was justified in being so paranoid and in being such a bitch to him. Where is the judgment of the flight attendant? If she cannot find it, I have a nice job for her at the DMV or the VA pushing paper and being rude to people who expect nothing better. I realize that most people in aviation see only shades of grey and more often than not, that is pretty important. However, kicking a paying, elite passenger off of an international flight which could have cost him (Matt) his job was simply wrong.

However, all of that notwithstanding, there is no excuse for a FA or a captain to behave that way. Where is the common sense and judgment that these people are supposed to have or is the captain just a prop on an automated plane who is just there in case of an emergency. I know plenty of pilots and flight attendants and I would guess that most of them would give the guy the benefit of the doubt, especially if he did not argue (which it appears he did not). Any corporate clone can defend moronic policies so let's not waste time justifying the actions of a couple of morally reprehensible people who abused their power and will hopefully get some sort of reprimand (although since they are both members of unions, it won't likely be more than a slap on the wrist).

Gary S February 21, 2013 at 09:29 pm

Just give up on UA, I did after being loyal for 16 years, the CO merger destroyed all the good that UA offered to 1K flyers.

MSU February 21, 2013 at 09:30 pm

Wow. What a glaring omission on the part of everyone defending the airline's actions.

Near universally, none of them addressed Matthew's accusation that the FA LIED.

I see 2 scenarios, both of them rather damning: * They didn't read the story: Nuff said. * The read the story: In that case, all of their justifications are woefully inadequate when weighed against his accusation that, once again, the FA LIED.

I wish I could say I'm surprised.

MSU February 21, 2013 at 09:32 pm

Wow. What a glaring omission on the part of everyone defending the airline's actions.

Near universally, none of them addressed Matthew's accusation that the FA LIED.

I see 2 scenarios, both of them rather damning: * They didn't read the story: Nuff said. * The read the story: In that case, all of their justifications are woefully inadequate when weighed against his accusation that, once again, the FA LIED.

I wish I could say I'm surprised.

DavidH February 21, 2013 at 09:46 pm

I hate that many airline personnel abuse the authority they have been given and use it for stupid, vindictive petty things like this. That goes for the FA and the captain, who you would think might be above this type of childish, unprofessional behavior.

I have had so many bad experiences with United that I will only now fly them as a last resort. And I just anticipate problems so they will not be stressful when they (often) happen. Number one on that list: Never trust a <3 hr connection on an important outbound flight for United.


CJP February 21, 2013 at 09:50 pm

Wow, I found this post from a facebook post and let me just say this validates my loathing for this godawful airline. I made a pact with myself to NEVER fly United if I absolutely did not have to and this has just renewed my commitment to it. I thought it was bad when they kicked a mother off a flight for trying to buckle her child in an infant car seat ( Good going United. Now off to share on my own wall to get the word out there.

J Hofman February 21, 2013 at 09:53 pm

I stopped flying United 4 years ago. I'm a million mile flyer and totally dumped them and swung all of my trips to Asia (7 times per year) to Delta. Aging fleet + aging flight attendants + aging service = crappy airlines. Delta isn't perfect by a long shot, but they fly 777s instead of 40 year old 747s and the food won't kill ya.

Mimi February 21, 2013 at 09:55 pm

Oh please, i motioned to her to come back and take my coat? Seen that so many times , arrogant person i think u are , after 9/11 things have changed , goid for the captain for backung up his flight crew , bravo

Mimi February 21, 2013 at 09:55 pm

Oh please, i motioned to her to come back and take my coat? Seen that so many times , arrogant person i think u are , after 9/11 things have changed , goid for the captain for backung up his flight crew , bravo

Pathetic showing by both the FA and the captain. I'd have both their jobs... Good luck, I hope UA rights this wrong.

ECM February 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm

As a pilot myself, like it or not a pilot has the say on who his passengers are. End of story. Why do we assume our media people are honest Joes (he may be), but we are not hearing their story. Every media person I know has a little 'testosterone' level that they feel entitles them. Also, no one seems to want to follow rules anymore. Their "rights" are enfringed. Stop crying. Follow the rules or take the bus. Anyone who believes the accuracy of this story better further check into it further.

George February 21, 2013 at 10:18 pm

And if United shareholders wonder why in the last quarter United lost hundreds of millions and US Air turned a profit, they only need to read this exchange. Does Jeff get it?

I'm sorry for your experience and have filed a complaint with United referencing this article.

Photo guy February 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I seem to recall here in Canada several years ago, airport security personnel were legally obligated to detain passengers who joked about bombs or being a terrorist during the pre-flight screening process (even if the statement was immediately recanted or said in a jokingly fashion). There was a zero tolerance policy and certain spoken keywords were a guarantee of receiving criminal prosecution regardless of the harmless intent. ( I believe their policy is now a little more relaxed allowing the security personnel to use some discretion/common sense before deciding whether to involve the police).

While I completely empathize with your situation and feel that UA personnel may have over-reacted, I can understand the harried FA's position of not wanting to take a chance if the feeling elicited was one that the passenger's or flight crew's safety may be threatened. Perhaps the second photographer's actions may have tipped her suspicions.

I was on a flight recently where just after the doors were closed, a passenger had a medical emergency delaying the flight and resulted in the passenger being taken off the flight by emergency personnel. We then taxied to the runway and just prior to take off, another passenger had a medical emergency resulting in our plane going back to the terminal to disembark the patient.

I recall overhearing one of the FA's stating that in all of her years of flying, she never had a flight encountering 2 medical emergencies.

Shortly after, security personnel from the airline boarded the plane, and went over every square inch of the cabin to ensure that neither of the disembarked patients had left anything on the plane...they even checked well beyond the seating position of the 2 passengers as well as the bathrooms. I guess there was suspicion in a highly unusual situation that something sinister was at play. I wonder if the FA on your flight was in the same frame of mind.

If will be interesting to see how this situation gets resolved...good luck.

Bob February 21, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I'm actually pretty flabbergasted at the comments about not being able to use the "T word." What else is someone supposed to say? What politically correct term should we use instead? Religiously misunderstood freedom fighters? It sounds like it was used properly, in an explanatory sense and not in any sort of a threatening form,so I just don't see the problem. To believe otherwise is to give in to irrational fearmongering.

Look, the FA clearly thought the photo taker was a security risk, and in this post-911 world that others have mentioned the brutally obvious connection is to terrorism. So, what else was he supposed to say that he wasn't? What else was the FA thinking? That he was selling Girl Scout cookies?

I understand that certain buzz words may get additional attention nowadays. However, I've been on planes when people have talked about bombs quite openly in front of crew members ("She's 'da bomb!) and nothing has happened. Figures of speech, get it? I remember sitting on a Continental flight with a dead heading pilot years back post 911 and having very open conversations about everything from Osama bin Laden to politics to the state of the US educational system, and no one pushed the panic button. A lot of this is simply the exercise of good judgment and common sense, which so many people have sadly lost. The deadheading pilot, other passengers and I were having some pretty interesting conversations and we were all quite levelheaded and professional, including the pilot. No one got thrown off of the plane, and were were openly discussing terrorism by name. Why should this situation have been any different?


Maya L. February 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I hate that we are being treated more and more like cattle instead of human beings. If I had had a cool seat like that, I probably would have wanted to take a picture of it too! And shared it to show how cool United's airplane was. Where I think this went off the rails is when you wanted to explain more to the FA. She obviously didn't care. And sadly, it's not her job to care about you. Her job is to keep you healthy, comfortable and happy enough in your journey. But you are just livestock. You are NOT an individual. YOU think you are, but you are not to them. You're just another head of cattle moving through... And they frankly can do anything they want. So I'm sad to hear this, but I'm not surprised. My boss has completely given up on United. I know several other people who have too. Your loyalty is commendable, but it's clearly not reciprocated.

Humans are morons. The rules on photography in UA planes are published and are quite clear (although some commenters on this forum clearly haven't read or understood them). The post author broke a rule, and was lucky enough to get away with just a request to stop. AND, he got to keep his picture. Why he didn't say "Ah, I'm sorry. Thanks for letting me know", then settle into his seat quietly in the knowledge that he had successfully kept the picture he had wanted, is beyond me.

Lily February 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm

I sincerely think pilots are susceptible to the same arrogance that accompanies the wearing of any uniform. Sounds like a cocky brute

Lily February 21, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I sincerely think pilots are susceptible to the same arrogance that accompanies the wearing of any uniform. Sounds like a cocky brute

Dave February 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm

So it seems that when a captain gets shirty with you the best course of action is to loudly say "I smell alcohol on your breath."

Welenja February 21, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I have read many responses to Matt's plight and many of them talk about your use of the word "terrorist" as an obvious misstep. The reason given by the pilot for his removal was for continuing to take photos after having been told to cease doing so. If the use of the word "terrorist" was the reason then why didn't the pilot say so? And if on the other hand Matt's taking a photo was the reason why was the FA compelled to embellish the story? And why did she appear to duck him? It is beyond obvious that the FA was in the wrong as supported by at least 4 posters here who were on the flight. Ridiculous.

Lance White February 21, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Dumb rule about the photos? On the surface, yes. But I'm sure there is much more behind the reason for it. But, you weren't booted for taking the pictures. You were booted for being a pompous, entitled ass that questioned the judgement and authority of the FA. Pulling out your business card and saying you are a "blogger" (who the hell hasn't been), was amateurish. She didnt care who you are. Frankly, I'd never even heard of you before seeing a link to this post. So, in the grand scheme of things you are rather anonymous. To her, specifically. The FA is not there to hang up your coat, get you a drink or fluff your pillow. The FA is there to ensure your safety, and the safety of everyone else on the plane. You said and did things that she felt jeopardized that. So, the best way to deal with it was to eliminate it. It wasn't her, it was you.

Sure, it's true that terrorist will likey not say they are or aren't. But that's not the point. You said something that likely put her and perhaps some fellow passengers ill at ease. As much as you have allegedly flown, you should have been the first to realize that

Bob February 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I would ad something else. I've flown many airlines: Hawaiian, Continental (former frequent flyer), Swissair, Alaska, Delta, American, TWA, PSA (I still miss them!) and United, to name a few. I have only had one bad experience aboard Continental. But, United? As I think back, they were truly at the bottom in terms of hospitality and customer service: surly cabin crews were the norm. PSA and Continental were at the top. These are just anecdotal experiences, but they do tend to support what others have said about United's in-flight service.

Now, if you want fun, seriously ask someone who used to fly PSA. They made Southwest look conservative. Talk about a fun ride.


Drew February 21, 2013 at 10:55 pm

It seems very clear to me though not to many other commenters here that the particular flight attendant in question had convinced herself that the FAA does not allow any photography on board any airline flight at all. That's what led to her behavior towards the writer of this post and towards the other passenger who had been reprimanded. It had NOTHING to do with using the word "terrorist." There is no rule conveyed to passengers never to say any particular word in the English vocabulary or you'll be removed from a flight. That flight attendant simply decided that any taking of a photograph was forbidden, and any passenger doing so was outrageous. She couldn't even comprehend the rule as described in the airline magazine. She was unreasonable and vindictive. She should be fired without question.

an onnymouse February 21, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Only a terrorist would say "I'm not a terrorist".

Learn to reign in your Aspergers and you'll go further in life. Like maybe Istanbul.

Veteran FA February 21, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I am a flight attendant and do enjoy my job very much. I have received many letters of praise during my career. This photo policy is obviously in place for a reason. I have had situations where passengers take pictures of me on the airplane randomly without my prior consent. This makes me extremely uncomfortable and it's in complete violation of my privacy. Where might these photos end up??? I am just doing my job and I certainly wouldn't come into anyone's office snapping photos of them at work! Perhaps the FA was beyond tired of explaining it over and over again. I understand your reference that you did not take a photo of her personally, but how is she to know? She doesn't have time to figure that out when she's busy during the hectic boarding process. Please take your seat and let the crew do their job efficiently in the very short time frame that they have! It's stressful enough without any added drama. And to those who think that the flight crews are getting ruder, I must say I've been in this profession for over 28 years and a pretty good percentage of passengers nowadays are not very pleasant to deal with either! Many are lacking manners and show zero courtesy to fellow passengers or the crew.

Lance White February 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Dumb rule about the photos? On the surface, yes. But I'm sure there is much more behind the reason for it. But, you weren't booted for taking the pictures. You were booted for being a pompous, entitled ass that questioned the judgement and authority of the FA. Pulling out your business card and saying you are a "blogger" (who the hell hasn't been), was amateurish. She didnt care who you are. Frankly, I'd never even heard of you before seeing a link to this post. So, in the grand scheme of things you are rather anonymous. To her, specifically. The FA is not there to hang up your coat, get you a drink or fluff your pillow. The FA is there to ensure your safety, and the safety of everyone else on the plane. You said and did things that she felt jeopardized that. So, the best way to deal with it was to eliminate it. It wasn't her, it was you.

Sure, it's true that terrorist will likey not say they are or aren't. But that's not the point. You said something that likely put her and perhaps some fellow passengers ill at ease. As much as you have allegedly flown, you should have been the first to realize that

L. R. February 21, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Why are so many people stating that you "broke the rules by taking a picture"? You CLEARLY posted a photo, word-for-word, of what the "policy" is that is in question. Your photo DOES NOT have any crew members, passengers, whatever else in it. That picture CLEARLY does not break any of the stated rules and regulations. Whether saying the word terrorist is the issue or not, it certainly isn't the photo itself. Any argument that states that as one of the reasons you were wrong is immediately invalidated in my opinion.

Ann February 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I found all of this very interesting, but I can't understand why anyone wants to take a picture of a regular type seat, not even a travel blogger. I agree that it is a sad state when a passengers is treated this way by an FA that apparently need psychological testing. I do blame the Captain. He is supposed to be the smart one. No one flying wants an obnoxious passenger on board, but the Captain should have taken a couple of minutes to determine what had happened. One Captain said that the FA would make his life miserable if he didn't take her side. Really, I guess the inmates do run the I mean the plane.

Tim W. February 21, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I suspect another thing: the FA misheard you. Sometimes action is taken as communication: in this case saying something and handing your card was seen as both evidence of wilful resistance, self-justification, possible cover-story for taking the photos, and all of these point to intent to keep taking photos and possibly nefarious purpose. Mentioning terrorism didn't help either.

In the light of such projected intent, you weren't going to be heard right. A 'not' in speech is likely to be ignored as the brain rejects the perceived less probable communication. Therefore there is a chance that the attendant did not in fact lie. Realistically, you'd have been deemed less suspicious if you'd stopped and said nothing, or else acted angrily (I doubt that the other passenger would have been seen as attempting to cover for anything. S/he was probably 'just being obnoxious').

The key is to not see these situations in turns of justice if you want to understand them, but rather in terms of perception. Of course it was unjust, this whole flying regime is.

Shane Harris February 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I am disgusted by the number of comments that suggest that submission to injustice is the appropriate way to deal with bullies.

Cecilia Whitaker February 21, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I never, ever fly United. The way passengers are treated is awful.

JetJock February 21, 2013 at 11:41 pm


This story has really gained some traction, but I think what most commenting on this story fail to realize is this: What is going to drive United's response to you, and, their response to the public, as your experience exemplifies the attitude and behavior of many United employees in the years post-9/11, post-bankruptcy, post-wage concessions, post-merger.

While United will probably throw some miles at you, treat you to some fancy dinner with other Million Milers and do other fancy things for you to win you over, never relent - continually ask United management as to what they're going to do to ensure this does not happen to another passenger. Their photography policy in the inflight magazine is vague and poorly written; no FAR's prohibit photography onboard an aircraft, and the United Contract of Carriage makes no mention of photography onboard their aircraft. So, in a simple sense, how does management support and defend the actions of this Flight Attendant and Captain? A simple "This passenger was non-compliant with government regulations" is not going to suffice in this case.

A few other considerations for you -

International flight crews on US legacy carriers are overly paranoid on international flights. That's the plain truth and there's no way around it. Get used to it, they're never going to change.

Istanbul is a new-ish destination for Pre-Merger United crews and they're overly sensitive to new destinations in the Middle East. Remember something - United crews are going through an entirely new experience in Newark, flying destinations with special procedures and requirements which increases workload, anxiety and frustration. I guarantee you that if you'd been going to London, Paris, Frankfurt or some other fairly benign European destination, this wouldn't have happened. Istanbul, with additional security considerations and a crew on edge? You're lucky they DIDN'T have the Port Authority cops take you off the airplane.

Immediate re-engagement of a Flight Attendant is never the best way to solve a conflict onboard the airplane. It's pretty clear through your depiction of the events that this Flight Attendant violated the Chain of Command while managing your particular situation. You should have sought out the assistance of the Purser rather than engage this hostile F/A in conversation again. (Live and learn, kid).

As an aviation professional with 25+ years in the business, I've interacted with journalists throughout my career, so here is a word to the wise: Announce your intentions early and often. If you have the connections with UA Headquarters that you've alluded to in your blog and that you communicated to this F/A, you should have given the company the professional courtesy of the knowledge of your presence. Why? To prevent situations like this from happening. If you choose not to, you should, like a good restaurant critic, sit back and silently participate and review using your journalistic talents.

The bottom line is: What is United's formal response? What will they do to ensure that this doesn't happen again? Will the ambiguous and ill-stated policy in the United onboard magazine be evaluated? Is there a process in place to involve the leadership Flight Attendant in the decision-making process as to whether or not the Captain be consulted? Did the crew follow standard operating procedure in having you removed from the flight?

Ask some questions. Get some answers. You deserve them.

kcwildcat February 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm

In post #131, the OP states:
"Please don't imply that I must have been drinking/tipsy, because I had only had water all day. In fact, I have a picture of my PDB--seltzer water with lime."

How do you have a picture of your PDB if you ONLY took a picture of the seat?

Joanne February 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I am blown away by this story and the other stories I've been reading about recently of FAs kicking off passengers for things that under any common sense standard on the ground would be deemed merely rude or a poor choice but NOT a safety issue because there is no violence or threat thereof at all. WHEREBY AN APOLOGY IS THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE AND THAT SHOULD SETTLE THE MATTER. After all the average flying I've done too (2-3 trips for work per year and rest for vacation and family visits home) I wouldn't have believed the FAs' unchecked "power" until it happened to me except the "waitress in the sky" on my UA344 flight (I insist on calling her that bc she is unworthy of anything except my utter contempt) completely overreacted and worse, lied to the police and FAA about what happened and now I'm looking at a civil penalty whereby the FAA is trying to extort money from me. Of course, I'm hiring an attorney, despite being one myself as this is not my area of expertise, and plan on suing UA and this "waitress in the sky". The most ironic, mind boggling, hysterical laughter inducing part of my situation is that I actually received a letter from United today saying I was welcome to fly with them at any time but just to be aware of regulations. So either I'm a horrible passenger that required their employee to report me and United doesn't care about its employees' "safety" either OR whatever (didn't) happen apparently amounted to nothing.

No service jobs are easy and I get that FAs have to deal with more than a fair share of nasty passengers but this is for the horrible FAs who don't deserve to be working in this already stressed out industry...I hope you rot in a special hell for abusing your limited "power" on an aircraft because nothing compares to the wasted government resources on false "risks" and the intimidation and outright lies you have to tell in order to make yourself anything more than the miserable stupid person you probably are.

Matt, undoubtedly you won't sue because the hassle isn't worth it in your case (unless there is more to the story) but you do deserve an apology and reimbursement. You need to get the proper resolution because so many more don't/won't and that has stuck with me more than any other point of all these comments and stories I've read. Thanks for writing about this.

John H February 22, 2013 at 12:03 am

Yes the FA interpreted a published policy a specific way but whether people think the policy is idiotic of not is beside the point, IT WAS PUBLISHED. You were told to stop, you respected what she said at that point and did stop which was the right thing to do. However, you should not have tried to explain to her later what you were doing as you probably could tell by her earlier behavior that she didn't care and quite frankly was trying to get a lot of tasks completed to get that door closed (which incidentally is when she begins to actually be paid. That's right, FA's are not being paid until all the doors close (including cargo) and have a huge amount of things in their checklist to complete during boarding). It's her office, just as if she were in your office and you asked her not to record a conversation you would have with her, same deal. Had you been sensible you could have discreetly spoken with her after the completion of the service and explained things then, even trying to get her thoughts on how she liked working the new configuration. Your choice of timing and words were foolish. Should you have been thrown off? I don't think so but in asking to speak with the captain you doomed yourself, the captain has to take what their crew says to heart whether right or wrong because the crew is the eyes and ears to the flight deck and ultimately the cabin crew has to deal with whats on their side of the door. The flight deck crew do not know what transpires in the cabin and have to be able to rely on the judgement of the FAs. Yes she handled it poorly, but you did too. As for everybody ragging on UA, yeah, lots of growing pains, lots of tired cranky crews, but plenty of great and happy crews as well, just like every other airline out there. And STOP comparing a US carrier and its service levels to state sponsored/subsidized carriers of other nations. You get what you pay for and quite honestly there is no way they will be able to compete fully with those carriers. The demand for cheap fares and free upgrades will continue to erode service. Flying is cheaper today than it was 30 years ago, but labor/fuel/landing fees are not. Should you get good service? YES! Should you expect private jet service? I think not. Anyway, in you taking three days to think on this I think you might have just sent a letter to UA about the policy and about its interpretation and also thought about the fact that you exacerbated an already crappy situation. Oh and by the way, next time ask a FA if they wouldn't mind taking your picture in your seat for you. I can pretty much guarantee they will be happy to do it and you may engage them in conversation during a non-busy time and ask if you may snap a few yourself. You might even get some inside info worth blogging about.

Ferry February 22, 2013 at 12:08 am

Maybe UA should hire FA who has Brain over Beauty..

Dave Witter February 22, 2013 at 12:11 am

From what I read in your article I can see why you are upset. If I were you I would file a complaint. I would be interested is reading what the other side had to say. As a crew member we use the acronym CUS which stands for concern, uncomfortable and safe. When someone uses one of those words, we take a timeout to resolve the situation to everyones satisfaction. It should be a time to get a second opinion to justify removing someone from a flight. The Captain is responsible for the safety of the flight and the comfort of his passengers, it also the duty and responsibility of thousands of dedicated flight attendants to do that every day. It is counter productive to treat our customers with anything less than dignity and respect they deserve.

@kcwildcat: I said that after the FA told me to stop, I did not take another picture--not even one more. I had already taken a picture of the PDB and the menu before I took the picture of the seat.

Patrick February 22, 2013 at 12:22 am

I find it scary what happened with Matthew. I Just flew back from HKG in United Business today and FA saw me taking photo's. She asked me if I wanted her to take a photo of my wife and I. Much different experience, same airline. I have taken many photo's on flights and never once has a FA questioned it. The real problem with United (in fact, all US Airlines and even most European Airlines) is inconsistent service and treatment. One flight they treat you great, the next awful. It will only get worse for US Airlines now that AA & US Air merged. Their employees will not be happy and start taking their frustrations out on passengers.

It sure as hell makes me feel safer knowing that FA's won't tolerate someone saying the word "bomb" or "terrorists" (sarcasm). It has gotten to a point of absurdity, I have my toothpaste taken from me at security but I could still beat the absolute shit out of someone with my belt I am wearing.

Qian February 22, 2013 at 12:25 am

Can it be regarded as a discrimination case? You are differently treated because you said that word and they just took the advantage of your innocence.

This story brings forth the ease with which a crew can just boot a paying passenger of a flight, unjustified or otherwise, and without any consequence to them or their employer.

Have we Americans become so accepting of someone trampling our civil rights, and the basic tenet of ethical business dealing. I travel globally, and with the exception of US and British carriers, other world airline crews know who pays their salary.

I am not advocating crews should accept threats lying down. But there has to be a requirement of explanation.

If a crew wants me off the plane, fine. But then ethical and fair business practice is that it the airline's responsibility to get me to my final destination and make good any losses suffered as a consequence of my denied travel.

Only when airlines start getting hit in their wallets will they start questioning their crew, and only then will the crew

And @Matthew, my hats off to your understanding and patience, for giving that crew even the slightest modicum of doubt. If United employees, even one, do not value you as a customer, it is time to move on. Get your million mile card, cut it and send it to the CEO of United. Believe me, they care.

Gabriel F February 22, 2013 at 12:40 am

Really hard to believe that, this is outrageous, last time I took few of the sunset photos by camera, no one stop me! Hahah, maybe the FA just want to warn you close you phone, sorry to heard your story

Luis seoane February 22, 2013 at 12:45 am

I am a 1K and 1 Million miler with United. I now fly only Emirates on my international flights. The FAs even take your picture on a Polaroid camera and frame it for you, as a memento of your flight! Sorry about your experience. Last year I had a really bad experience with United. That forced me to stop flying with them.

Brian February 22, 2013 at 12:54 am

As a Global Services member with United I am sad to hear that these things happen, it seems people have lost the ability to use common sense and look at issues logically before making a decision. If what you write is factual, then that FA is clearly out of line. Can you imagine what would happen if law enforcement acted every time someone used a word that was politically incorrect. I disagree with above posts that just because you used the "T" word that it is somehow justifiable to remove you from a plane. The real reason is that the staff is just plain lazy, it is easier to get rid of the problem than to critically think about it and make a well thought out decision. A person using a word and not meeting any other threat criteria is not a threat-period.....

The one point that I do agree with is that you probably shouldn't engage with the crew in a negative manner while on the ground, stupid as it seems, they hold all the trump cards as you found out. Kind of like arguing with a police officer before he gives you a ticket.

I hate to say it, but in my experience, United seems to place more senior staff up in business/first and sometimes they seem to act as if they don't give a darn about the customer. I have had some very good United employees, however that isn't always the norm. I fly quite a bit on various Asian airlines and the staff treats you much more respectfully, must not be union ( just kidding, I don't want the AFL-CIO all over me).


James February 22, 2013 at 12:56 am

I'm very impressed with the number of comments. This event obviously touches a nerve. This is a case where authority has too much power mixed with bad judgment.

I had a similar situation with the INS when I was separated from my wife due to a paperwork error. It took nine months and the help of a congressmen before their mistake was correct. Unfortunately there are a lot of incompetent people with authrority.

I fly a lot and never knew this rule existed. Impossible for them to control with all of the cell phone cameras.

I would assume somewhere there's a video of you being thrown off the plane. :)

maruskipper February 22, 2013 at 12:58 am

As a photographer, I can tell you that a person in a public venue has no reasonable expectation of privacy, therefore can NOT prohibit photography. The question then goes to "is an aircraft a public conveyance?" The restrictions on photography in general are far beyond unreasonable, but I do understand that terrorism has placed new stress on our Constitutional rights. Additionally, I can think of many celebs who vociferously resent being photographed when they are off-duty.

I can only suggest that you travel on a more passenger-friendly airline next time.

Steven Leoni February 22, 2013 at 01:00 am

United has never been the same since bankruptcy and especially the Continental Merger. In fact I stopped flying UA after a worthless flight crew took us from Washington in their Global First Class to Munich. We were 6 flying together in First Class with their lay flat beds etc... My seat mate was an ER physican who worked all day and couldnt wait for a good night sleep as we crossed the atlantic ocean. When it was bedtime he asked about his seat which appeared to be inoperative. The FA came and worked on it for a few moments and eventually gave up. She said "Don't you know we are in Bankruptcy". Absolutely classic!!!!!! I started wondering if one engine would suddenly stop working and what she might say at that point?

Regardless, on the return flight home i begged the Lufthansa desk who handles flights for United at that time in Munich to please let us switch to their IAD flight. Remarkably, they felt bad about our story on the way over and moved all of us to the LH flight to IAD. Talk about happy!!! I never flew United again until they merged with Continental. Unfortunately after the merger and spending 3 hours a week on the phone with them as they taught Continetal how to become as worthless as they were.

I want my Continental Airlines back!!!!!!!! United destroyed it and anything good of Continental...........

terrie February 22, 2013 at 01:18 am

Alex B. your are a respect for women

S February 22, 2013 at 01:31 am

Was the flight attendant fairly young? Perhaps a new hire? That route is actually flown by legacy Continental crews, and since they have been hiring, I'm wondering if she was a newbie who was very much going by the "rules". That's the only explanation I can think of...cause even we crew members take pictures of our seats when we're pass riding, or of the plane when its empty, or of a bazillion other items in our "office". Whatever the case, you still were not violating any rules outlined in that description she showed you. I am truly sorry you were treated this way, but I must say I appreciate the way you handled the situation with such grace, as well as stepping back and weighing your words before writing this post. Most people would just write in their anger and start a bitter-fest, so thanks for not doing that.

Peggy February 22, 2013 at 01:32 am

This is ridiculous. While comments like "terrorist" and "bomb" are obviously ill-advised during air travel (and only because of the cloud of 9/11), they shouldn't be prohibited. Terrorism is using intimidation to prevent us from doing something; it is at its most basic level, the act of creating terror in a population. I would say based on this post, the terrorists have won every single time something like this happens. People who say @Matthew should've known better and not said it are contributing to what the terrorists were trying to perpetuate in the first place. I am all about reasonable, logical requests to help do whatever we can to keep the public safe...I will even agree to the rape scans and pat least until we are genetically able to have xray vision and only specifically for hidden weapons/bombs on peoples' bodies. But throwing someone off a plane for saying a word without the intention of threat? That's absurd. If @Matthew complied, then there shouldn't have been an issue. If the FA felt threatened simply because he said "terrorist", then, perhaps, she isn't made for this post-9/11 travel world.

Gina February 22, 2013 at 01:38 am


Beau February 22, 2013 at 02:07 am

Just a follow up after having seen all of the latest comments-

This wasn't your $175 round trip AirTran flight to Grandma's house. This was a flight in international business class. The flight attendants are actually there to serve drinks and take coats. There's a reason the planes come with built-in closets in the premium cabins. There was no rudeness, implied or actual, in Matt's signaling the FA back to take his coat. If you want that kind of service, buy or upgrade to a premium ticket.

Really? February 22, 2013 at 02:15 am

For everyone who seriously thinks this guy got what he deserved for saying the word terrorist... just, wow. Take a deep breath and step back from the crazy juice. That is some insane 1984 talk.

While that is probably the reason this travesty occurred, can we not all acknowledge how completely f-ed up that is? It's a word. You live in a country where people can be punished for saying a WORD.

It doesn't even make sense. You know who is the last person who is ever going to say the word terrorist or bomb on a plane? A terrorist. Seriously.

While it's poor judgement to use bad words when you live in a totalitarian State, there should be nothing but condemnation levied against UA, this FA, and the entire system that allows something like this to transpire. A person's life was meaningfully disrupted, both time and money lost, liberties violated, because a fearful person in a position of power hid behind a system that enables that fear. There should be public outrage over this, and every other similar incident that goes unreported.

flyingJourno February 22, 2013 at 02:32 am

i haven't met a whole load of terrorists but am i to really believe they wander about, on their way to work, muttering the word 'terrorist'?

i mean your garden variety 'terrorist' has to build bombs that fit in their underwear and know how to fly planes etc. could they be that stupid?

i fly A LOT as a result of my chosen career path (not a blogger) and it always boggles my mind when security and customs single out the people who look the most like stereo-typical, american prime-time 'terrorists' for review and engagement. again, would mr. garden variety 'terrorist' not consider hanging up the bin laden team jersey when attempting to board a plane? this level of stupidity couldn't be possible? i suppose one could argue the security and customs behaviour would indicate yes, it could be possible.

consider this... i know a guy, who knows a guy who knows a guy who was recently in the middle east covering a conflict for a large media outlet. it was a hairy environment and the 'guy' took a piece of shrapnel from a russian made rocket, packed with and caked in explosives residue as a souvenir (i heard the shrapnel almost took his head off!), in his carry on luggage, through 3 international airports without a single incident?! the shrapnel sits on his mantel this very day.

i guess security was busy patting down the Burkas.

Joe Bunda February 22, 2013 at 02:48 am

Re the use of the word "terrorist": I really do not think that terrorists EVER use this word in reference to themselves. Now if I heard a passenger using the word "martyr" or "shaheed"--Arabic for martyr--then I think I might get really concerned.

Mike February 22, 2013 at 02:48 am

Next rule will be that no one is allowed to talk during the flight because IF someone is a terrorist they could discuss their evil plans. Of course there will be certain exceptions to the rule to be found in the back of the in-flight magazine. Any violation (such as paraphrasing the allowed sentences listed in the magazine) will land you on the carriers no-fly list.

M February 22, 2013 at 03:04 am

I'm European, so it's extremely rare for me to be on a US airline, therefor I didn't know of their reputation before booking my ticket, BUT I have to share my Delta story.

We were about halfway from Amsterdam to Chicago when a woman on the seat behind me asked for a tissue for her infected eye. The FA said she couldn't do that, because they might be chemically treated, and they're by law prevented to provide them for use for anything other than hands. The passenger insisted, calmly but clearly in discomfort, saying she'd take full responsibility, but she really needed a tissue, and that's when things suddenly got out of hand.

Instead of repeating herself or apologizing and just walking away, the FA started raising her voice and saying that the suffering passenger was being very threatening, and if she didn't drop it the FA would get the air marshal and the passenger would be arrested.

The remaining five hours were very uncomfortable for everyone.

Mark February 22, 2013 at 03:13 am

list of words that you should not use

9 11 box cutter crash tower Islam Religion pray shoe

maybe united should give a (white) list of words that passengers are allowed to use.

OLee February 22, 2013 at 03:24 am

Did you have checked baggage? If so, did they remove it from the hold before takeoff?

I wonder how this would have played out if the captain had had to wait for your suitcases to be located and pulled . . .

JK February 22, 2013 at 03:24 am

I am UA Flight Attendant, and have been for 24 years--I still love my job in spite of all the challenges. I'm so sorry this happened to you! It sounds like the situation got way overblown and totally mishandled--would that be an understatement? Please know that the majority of us are still very happy in our positions, and take pride in delivering great customer service. Unfortunately, there are always a few bad apples in every group that make us look bad. Again, I am so sorry this happened to you!!

Sou February 22, 2013 at 03:31 am

Flying is the pits these days. A friend of mine once said to me that the 'terrorists have already won'. I disagreed at the time but these days the horrible experience of flying in general and this example in particular does make me wonder if she was correct.

I'll be making sure never to fly United again. (Though I know that wasn't your intention in writing about your experience.)

i WONT be flying united because i am a shutterbug

Adam February 22, 2013 at 03:40 am

Someone inform the captain's wife that he's sleeping with the FA.

Sent to the Jeff guy in the comments who works for united. because i am flying for first time after a serious disease robbed me of many bodily control over muscles. i want to document that first flights. so this is what i sent.

Anyone want to contact me my website i

referencing this article. This is why I believe i will not be able to fly on United.

I have Cerebral Palsy, Rett Syndrome and a plthora of other progressive diseases.

I love to use my camera in public because I hav my first amendment right, a plane is a public conveyance even though it is owned by another entity, just as a bank i owned by someone. let alone a city bus or a city train.

I will be flying for the first time since acquiring these diseases this june or september and I want an airline that will let me document the mileston event of being able to fly again without having to worry about being taken off the plane!

I also love to take video and i want to take a video during take off using a camera that i have already had cleared by the FAA as 'SAFE' and they told me that i may leave my camera turned on provided i do not have my Wi-Fi enabled Memory Card turned on, I already showed them that i can deactivate the card before even getting near the skybridge and they welcomed my camera in the skies. I will receive an exemption letter from them soon regarding my PANASONIC DMC-FZ200 and its 16GB Eye-Fi SDHC Class 10 card that they examined.

I can understand other peoples privacy and therefore when i board the plane i am simply going to ask that dad take a wide angle photo of me getting on the plane, of course after a picture of me leaving my wheelchair behind on the skybridge, a close up of me in my seat and then i will stick my camera up in the air and take a ' view from my seat' picture wide angle and no ones face will be visible and ven if somones face IS it is a public venue and i welcome people who can identify themselves to come to my website, contact me, so i can blur their face. anyway moving on after all that I will set the camera into video mode and video tape the take off and then shoot more pictures through the window, i mean when else will i get th ability to take photos at 38,000 feet? NEVER except on a plane! then during final descent and landing i will turn on the video recording again and then take photos of me getting off the plane and getting back into my wheelchair at the skybridge. and so will conclude my photographs in and around the plane. FAA / TSA said i can take photos all i want in the airport just not at the checkpoint and that i cannot 'impede normal traffic flow'

Please reach out to me. I want to be able to securely know i can excercise my right to use my camera within my logical limits. And if not I want to know well ahead of time so I can find another airline that will accommodate my first amendment rights.

Thank you jeff

Alin S

The content's of this message are considered SECURED information intended ONLY for the named recipient and may NOT be copied, retransmitted, printed, or otherwise reproduced. By receipt of this message you are granted no legal right to use the enclosed information unless you are the above named recipient. If you are not the named recipient and have received this communication in error contact me IMMEDIATELY and destroy the E-Mail IMMEDIATELY.

(truncated contact info)

sent to the jeff guy in the comments who works for united. because i am flying for first time after a serious disease robbed me of many bodily control over muscles. i want to document that first flights. so this is what i sent.

anyone want to contact me my website i

anyone know of good CAMERA friendly airlines EMAIL ME at [email protected] thank you!

referencing this article. This is why I believe i will not be able to fly on United.

I have Cerebral Palsy, Rett Syndrome nd a plthora of other progressive diseases.

I love to use my camera in public because I hav my first amendment right, a plane is a public conveyance even though it is owned by another entity, just as a bank i owned by someone. let alone a city bus or a city train.

I will be flying for the first time since acquiring these diseases this june or september and I want an airline that will let me document the mileston event of being able to fly again without having to worry about being taken off the plane!

I also love to take video and i want to take a video during take off using a camera that i have already had cleared by the FAA as 'SAFE' and they told me that i may leave my camera turned on provided i do not have my Wi-Fi enabled Memory Card turned on, I already showed them that i can deactivate the card before even getting near the skybridge and they welcomed my camera in the skies. I will receive an exemption letter from them soon regarding my PANASONIC DMC-FZ200 and its 16GB Eye-Fi SDHC Class 10 card that they examined.

I can understand other peoples privacy and therefore when i board the plane i am simply going to ask that dad take a wide angle photo of me getting on the plane, of course after a picture of me leaving my wheelchair behind on the skybridge, a close up of me in my seat and then i will stick my camera up in the air and take a ' view from my seat' picture wide angle and no ones face will be visible and ven if somones face IS it is a public venue and i welcome people who can identify themselves to come to my website, contact me, so i can blur their face. anyway moving on after all that I will set the camera into video mode and video tape the take off and then shoot more pictures through the window, i mean when else will i get th ability to take photos at 38,000 feet? NEVER except on a plane! then during final descent and landing i will turn on the video recording again and then take photos of me getting off the plane and getting back into my wheelchair at the skybridge. and so will conclude my photographs in and around the plane. FAA / TSA said i can take photos all i want in the airport just not at the checkpoint and that i cannot 'impede normal traffic flow'

Please reach out to me. I want to be able to securely know i can excercise my right to use my camera within my logical limits. And if not I want to know well ahead of time so I can find another airline that will accommodate my first amendment rights.

Thank you jeff

Alin S

The content's of this message are considered SECURED information intended ONLY for the named recipient and may NOT be copied, retransmitted, printed, or otherwise reproduced. By receipt of this message you are granted no legal right to use the enclosed information unless you are the above named recipient. If you are not the named recipient and have received this communication in error contact me IMMEDIATELY and destroy the E-Mail IMMEDIATELY.

(truncated contact info)

David February 22, 2013 at 04:22 am

Wow. Yet another reason I only fly United when absolutely necessary. While I haven't taken shots of signage or other passengers, I whip out a DSLR on nearly every flight and photograph traveling companions and the view from the window. No one has ever so much as batted an eye on board, or in the Terminal. Of course I usually fly Southwest or Jet Blue domestically and one of my destination country's carriers internationally.

That said, I would never, ever use the words, "terrorist," "bomb," or "gun" on or anywhere near a plane and I'm surprised such an experienced traveler as yourself would. Offering your business card during boarding? Really? Everyone has at least one and can make them that say anything they want through numerous outlets for FREE. What were they supposed to do with it? Delay the flight even longer to Google you?

Still, wow, the crew does paranoid and unprofessional in the way they handled it. Perhaps they thought it felt like a UA/TSA test?

I hope the rest your trip was eventful in more pleasant ways.

HouTxFA February 22, 2013 at 04:59 am

It's always amazing the the FA's should treat passengers with "respect" but never the other way around. If you're a "professional", act like one.....always.

bigbertha February 22, 2013 at 05:24 am

Matthew, I am a 15 year aviation industry employee. I have worked as a FA, Customs agent, Gate agent and am now an aircraft engineer. I travel worldwide for work, so I hope you will know that I am actually very sympathetic to you; however, these people (FA) make so little money and they are responsible for the safety of everyone on board, including themselves and their crew. I have seen people get thrown off flights for everything from smelling too bad to being drunk. I am sorry this happened to you; however, when someone asks you to do something, the best thing you can do is to do what they ask and then sit down and shut up. To me you were very arrogant to go over and say anything to her, especially using the word Terrorist at all.

I will also tell you that I hate flying with United and I always have. They are the worst company and their entire staff does the bare minimum and with the nastiest attitude possible. I am, or i should say i was, a Continental frequent flyer for over 10 years. I was very disappointed with the merger between Continental and United, but tried to be open minded and give it a chance to see if it would improve United and not bring Continental on the same level as United. Well, I gave it two years and as I predicted, the worst has happened. People living in Houston and only traveling with-in Texas do not see the affects as much as someone traveling abroad. Customer service is the worst I have ever seen, staff is disgruntled and Continental veteran flyers are treated like trash compared to United veteran flyers. I have recently cancelled my frequent flyer card, my Presidents Club membership and anything else associated with this airline. I am now trying to decide which airline to switch to for all my international travel. Lufthansa has been good so far. I would use Emirates if they had more flights to the locations I go to.

This is so bizarre!!

I have hundreds of thousands of miles logged under my belt and I had no idea that taking pictures was "against the rules".. I have taken loads of pictures with a big old fat SLR camera and no one has ever said anything to me. NOT ONCE..

And as far as being entitled.. (someone in the comments said you sounded entitled), i don't get that feeling from your post.

I will be sharing this post to get the world out..

chris February 22, 2013 at 06:00 am

Orwell predicted all this in the concept of Double Think in 1984.

shoegirl February 22, 2013 at 06:25 am

What I find interesting is the completely ambiguous and contradictory language in said 'policy'. One line states "the use permitted only for recording of personal events" (huh??) but then goes on to say "any strictly prohibited". So which one is it? Considering the clause "except to the extent specifically permitted by United Airlines", I can see why the author might have gone back to the FA to justify his actions. His job is to document airline experiences and he is known for such amongst other flight crews of the same airline. I don't think it's about entitlement, I think he was trying to explain his purpose, since he was obviously permitted to do so by other United FAs in the past. She might have been trying to do her job, but so was he.

I think these unclear, enforce at your own discretion, differing from country to county, airline to airline 'policies' with regards to safety make it confusing and frustrating to be a passenger these days. In one country's security line, I'm scolded for not taking off my shoes. In another, I'm given a dirty look for holding up the line by unnecessarily removing my footwear. With FAs, TSA agents and other airport personnel all setting contradictory precedents, it is hard not to start to question what the rules, and your rights, really are.

Although even when the rules seem clear, it's entirely up to the individual in front of you that moment to determine your fate. I'll never forget the flight I took for work, not too many years post 9/11 either, when I accidentally left a pair of small scissors in my carry-on that were uncovered when going through security. I was in a rush and late for my flight, so I quickly apologized and told her to keep them. Instead, she smiled, put them back in my bag and said "just don't do anything with them." Uh, seriously? Gosh, I hope some airport employees don't slip a gun or bomb back in someone's bag, saying the same thing.

Until there are clear, consistent rules across the board and intelligent enough people employed to enforce them and make smart decisions about safety, I can't ever see a stop to these kinds of situations. I'm all for any rules or procedures that keep us safer on flights, even if frustrating or time-consuming, but let's make sure they actually make sense. A travel blogger taking photos of his seat or a person prefacing what they are doing with the words "I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist" are obviously not a threat. Let's waste time and energy on people who really might be and leave the well-meaning passengers alone.

Hope you get an apology and refund for the flights they made you unnecessarily rebook.

bq February 22, 2013 at 06:36 am

Matthew - Fully understand and support your position - this whole attitude that FA's are not supposed to provide service is beyond me - as a regular customer you are ENTITLED to some respect and due process, regardless of what others here believe...

I stopped flying United years ago after they lost my mother - literally! She was flying MFR to LAX via SFO. Due to a fall the year before she had trouble walking and thus asked for wheelchair assistance. In SFO they wheeled her to the connecting gate, changed the connecting gate, and left her waiting there for about 2 hours until she managed to ask someone when the flight was departing... By then the last flight had departed and the airport was closing down. Tried to get her a room but none were available. She ended up sleeping in her wheelchair overnight in SFO.... When I contacted United to complain they of course took no responsibility saying it was my mother's responsibility to go to the new gate, even though the airline had agreed to assist her in making her connection!

You'd think an observant gate agent would have noticed the no-show they were about to unload the bags for was a wheelchair-assisted passenger who just might be waiting at the previous gate... guess that would take some foresight.

To all the FA's writing in here defending your colleagues, there is a reason many of us refuse to fly US airlines and why that will only make your jobs more and more miserable as foreign airlines pick up all the premium traffic leaving the bargain seekers funding your jobs. If you are really concerned about terrorism you should realise by maintaining this state of paranoia 11 years on the terrorists have already won. Paranoia is not diligence - there is a difference!

gary February 22, 2013 at 06:52 am

since this is social media, things could get interesting. imagine naming the pilot, and people taking note of his name. on future flights, when he does his announcement, people start putting up their hands and asking to be let off the flight because "they had heard bad things about this pilot and were not comfortable being on his flight". let it snowball :)

UACrew February 22, 2013 at 06:58 am

Matt - as a former CO, now UA flight attendant, I too must say that I apologize for the way you were treated. I am an aviation junkie as well. I understand why you take pictures. I do the same. That said, the way things unraveled should have been handled more professionally on our part.

Zack Chisse February 22, 2013 at 07:09 am

The cowardice displayed in some of these comments is disgusting. How can you people possibly wake up in the morning and look at yourselves in the mirror, if you are so afraid of words like "terrorist"? Are you really that weak? Are you really that stupid? Are you really so easily brainwashed?

I suppose you are. Well, congratulations: you've given Osama bin Laden a victory far greater than he could have hoped for. Every single time you cringe in fear at that word or any other, I'm sure, from somewhere, he smiles at you -- his obedient, willing servants. You're not American patriots; you're traitorous cowards.

By your insane illogic, the brave passengers who figured out what was happening on flight 93 on 9/11/2011 and took it down should have been kicked off the plane. Why? Because they used the word "terrorist" repeatedly.

Wow, this is pretty unbelievable. Also looking at the comment by M (#576) which boggles the mind really.

I don't fly United previosly, and certainly will avoid them even more now.

Shared this story on my FB page for as well.

Todd February 22, 2013 at 07:40 am

Next time say "I'm only shooting pictures and not people" or "it's only a phone not a bomb"

Shame on you for thinking you are in the right here. You claim to be a travel expert and you say something like that? You disrespected the job that crew has of keeping people safe and orderly by making light of our current situation of terrorism.

You got what you deserved and you know you did. Take responsibility for your actions and please don't ever fly in any of my 70+ flights I take a year.

M Chartier February 22, 2013 at 07:50 am

Me thinking the cabin crew didn't appreciate your remark "legacy crew" :- ))

Gemstone February 22, 2013 at 07:50 am


"Sorry that the U.S. has age discrimination laws so that all of your flight attendants don't look like Asian geisha girls where they have to quit at a certain age or reach a certain weight--kind of like how the U.S. industry was in the early part of last century!"

Asian geisha girls? Way to wear your racism on your sleeve.

Scott February 22, 2013 at 08:16 am

You can't take a picture on an airplane? Seriously?

Nathan February 22, 2013 at 08:21 am

To those calling for the author not to have stated his case might do well to remember the First Amendment. Kudos to the author for apparently keeping his cool, I would likely not have been so calm and therefor have found myself in a good deal more trouble...

I don't believe there is any rule against denying that one is a terrorist. One is not supposed to "joke" about it, but Matthew was not joking. I suppose better not to use the word, but better still to have FAs with IQs above 80.

greg February 22, 2013 at 08:53 am

Ahh, United, not just breaking guitars any more.

GSMember February 22, 2013 at 08:54 am

I fly united regularly and have come across several rude FA. This is unacceptable - pleas post a link on United's Facebook forum, I would like to see how United responds.

Will February 22, 2013 at 09:05 am

So, in the future, simply use another word for "terrorist": for example, the author could have said, "I am not Voldemort." eyeroll

MadDog February 22, 2013 at 09:19 am

I am amazed at the people who defend the idiotic actions of the FA and say "You should just do what they say" or that there was a valid reason for them to freak out. Airlines and TSA - all of them - need to be held accountable for their actions, and not just get a blanket pass because of 9/11. And if you are an FA who thinks the FA in the original story was correct in their handling of the situation, please do everyone a favor and quit now and find a job where you won't treat people that way - I don't need to encounter YOU the next time my family and I are flying somewhere.

The president of the airline should be apologizing to the OP, and grilling the flight crew and captain, demanding to know why they embarrassed and harassed a paying customer - a super loyal long time paying customer - instead of using basic common sense to assess the situation properly.

Todd February 22, 2013 at 09:31 am

re: #601

I am SURE there is something the author is not telling us. Like the tone and inflection in his voice when he denied it. For him to even mention in passing that he said "I am not a terrorist" really isn't relevant to his argument about taking pictures in the plane. In fact he could have written this entire "picture taking diatribe" without even bringing it up.

However - he DID mentioned it because he KNOWS it is relevant to why he was thrown off the plane. And because he knows that someone else overheard him and knew it would come up when he tried to defend his deplaning.

Raul Madrigal February 22, 2013 at 09:37 am

Follow the rules, jerk! You;re being white with a business card means nothing, Alec Baldwin. I'm glad this happened to you. I lost some friends on 9/11, asshole.

Jimboc44 February 22, 2013 at 09:42 am

I fly a lot. The bottom line is that Osam BL achevied what he set out to do. He has crippled our way of life. Gone are the days when you could pass an innocent remark, make a joke or in this case take a photo. LAX. I was security checked at the bottom of an escelator and then again at the top, and they wondered why i thought they were a paranoid bunch of idiots. Also, if we are now in a situation whereby we are not even allowed to defend our right, what the hell is going on? The FA lied? End of story. She need to be removed and dont give me all this tear jerk rubbish about the stress, what might have or might not have occured 9/11. If you need to lie to make your point, youve lost the right to have one.

Mark February 22, 2013 at 10:04 am

Sounds like you were in the right for the most part and didn't break any rules but using the word terrorist is just silly on a plane. Doesn't matter the intent but saying it is just going to ruffle feathers no matter what so don't do i

PK February 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

"You can't take a picture on an airplane? Seriously?"

Scott, one of the good things about this is that the article in NBC quotes an FAA official saying they have no such policy but the airlines can make their own. Therefore, when an FA shrieks you have to stop taking pictures due to FAA regulations, they're either lying or just using the FAA as a catch-all to get the passengers to obey.

Funny thing: When reading various FA blogs, I see them gripe that passengers expect them to be policemen and deal with conflicts such as other passengers reclining their seats, or children kicking chairs, or someone talking too loud. But if FA's have absolute authority to order people around for any policy whatsoever, why shouldn't passengers use them in such a manner?

Rolfen February 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

You sir have made some errors. First of all using the "terrorist" word with the FA and offering your business card. This FA is obviously a piece of shit, let her be. Then the next useless thing you did is dicuss with the captain. He wasn't going to let himself be dragged in the conflict, it's not too hard to understand that he won't change his mind. The next mistake you made is "not blame united". Well they are the ones who hired that FA, and WHO PROMOTED HER TO BUSINESS CLASS. They should be the ones controlling the quality of their personnel and right here you got everything terribly wrong, and it infuriates me a little - you should blame them, report this and consider flying less with them in the future.

Hypocritical FAs with dark and stinky souls like the one you met plague the business, and companies keep them and support them for a bunch of superficial reasons.

Michael February 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

As a five-million mile flier, this horrifies me. I will certainly avoid the "new" UA and recommend that my peers do as well, until there is a resolution to this matter.

Suze February 22, 2013 at 10:41 am

I'm sorry this happened to you because it definitely seems unjustified and embarrassing, but I think its important to consider how it may have come across to the FA. Many comments have voiced that FA's are at their highest stress level during the boarding period, so she probably had a short fuse/low tolerance. It probably didn't help that your response was a smile and no verbal acknowledgement of what she said, particularly an up front apology. A smile can be taken in any matter of ways, and if she walked away thinking you were a self titled jerk she may have continued to be skeptical of you following her orders.

Additionally, I have to wonder if it is it possible the flight attendant legitimately thought you had taken your phone out again and were taking pictures? Perhaps she saw something in your hand she mistakenly perceived to be your phone(another electronic device, or even your hand cupped around your business card?). If she was biased towards thinking you may still try to sneak pictures then its likely she will have "seen" something as she wanted to see it, rather then as it actually was (ie your hand cupped around a business card could seen as if you were really holding your phone and were trying to sneakily take pictures).

On the comments about saying terrorist...sure it seems silly that people can't use that word on a plane, and common sense dictates no terrorist is going to get on a plane and announce they're a terrorist, but people are sensitive to hear words like terrorist or bomb on a plane. I was surprised you so forthrightly said it, and it made me think of the bomb on an airplane scene in Meet the Parents. Also, FA's have to worry about other passengers over-hearing and being alarmed as well (anyone recall the series finale of friends where Phoebe got an entire plane worked up about a missing philange and forced the pilot back to the gate?)

Dave February 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

So this trip report included pictures of the cabin on two UA flights... what, UA allowed a passenger alone on an airplane???? Even pictures of an unmanned cockpit. Classic!

Dave February 22, 2013 at 10:51 am

The solution is to stop flying United. And since you are a travel writer, you should be able to influence others to do the same.

We are the solution!

WesD February 22, 2013 at 10:51 am

I think the only power trip here is by that of the author of this story.

"I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat."

She presented you with the rules and all you had to do was to leave it alone but you didn't.

I've had a number of flights (on foreign carriers of course), where FAs were apologetic about interrupting me taking pictures, and even offering to take a picture for me. Even if the connection was booked on a separate ticket, I would've been angry about missing that, and about having to fly economy when my ticket wasn't booked as that.

I think it's also pretty cowardly of the crew...for the FA to hide, and the captain to not be more direct. Even though it's someone livelihood we're talking, I hope the crew on that flight ends up being reprimanded, especially the FA for blatantly lying.

FlyingJim February 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

I was on a QF flight from MEL to LAX (A380), sitting in First Class. There is a camera on the tail of the aircraft, where you can see the upper fuselage and wings on your monitor. I was videotaping the taxi and takeoff that was on the monitor. The crew came over to me and asked if the footage came out nice. I showed them, and they loved it.

So, cash in your FF miles with some free tickets, and take your business to another airline. UA would love to read about that in your blog!

Good luck to you, Matt.

Bill from DC February 22, 2013 at 11:19 am

i read the article (linked from another site) and most of the comments (!) and several things stand out to me…

first – blame UA’s absurd policy a little bit (15%) – their photography policy is total gibberish, frequently contradictory and generally nonsensical. i completely agree with the recent comment in this thread from shoegirl #590. furthermore, NOTHING is more infuriating than a confusing policy that is selectively and inconsistently enforced.

second – blame the author a little bit (15%) – my interpretation is that the author’s comment was intended both to justify his actions and possibly to even “big time” the FA. in any event, it was unnecessary. as i read it, i can certainly see how the comment could be said with an implied eye-roll, snarkiness or similar.

to address the stupidity of having a concept of so-called “magic” dirty words that cannot ever be said on a plane, even if they are immediately preceded by a negative... first i am sure there is no such policy and, if the FA in question can’t use a little common sense and judgement about the context in which something was said, he/she has no business being a FA in the first place. which brings me to…

third – the FA was completely, totally, embarassingly wrong from this point onward (60%) – though it will never happen, the FA should be censured if not outright fired. first of all, at an extreme minimum, before taking steps to eject a px, the FA should have involved another party. in fact, for somebody who is likely to be very petty and overly interested in following the “rules” (instead of using common sense and good judgement), I would surmise that involving another crew member is included somewhere in that long list of rules (not to mention in the actual job description of the pursur).

additionally, what is most offensive is that the FA clearly lied about the situation to the captain and possibly crew members. this is unforgivable, inexcusable and should be grounds for dismissal. this also clearly demonstrates the motives behind the FA’s actions and also likely demonstrates that this person has no business being a FA in the first place (I am thinking DMV employee sounds like a much better fit).

fourth – the captain handled the situation poorly and demonstrated a lack of leadership and integrity (10%). this debacle could have begun to be defused (whoa, bomb reference, I hope that doesn’t get me kicked off this blog!) if he simply said that “regardless of the actual facts, which i cannot ever know for certain, if my FA is uncomfortable with the situation, i have to stand behind my crew member.” instead, he hemmed and hawed, failed to address the situation or the px directly and made more nonsensical excuses that served to further infuriate the px.

even if you accept that this situation had escalated to the point of ejection at this point, the captain (along with the GS rep) could have started the process of solving the problem instead of adding to it.

in summary - let's face it, in spite of the 15% blame i assign to the author, we've all been in situations where we've said something out of frustration that we later regret. in this scenario, common sense and good judgement were quickly exchanged for hysteria and overreaction. the FA is an incompetent liar and should be terminated. and i would never fly this airline again, except to use all of those miles.

On January 29, 2013, the New York Times ran this story about my incident on United Airlines:

There are numerous parallels, including the fact that the United personnel lied about what happened, although they concocted their lies weeks after the incident itself.

In short, while standing at the rear of the plane, I questioned the Purser about a sign at the front of the Economy cabin that asked passengers not to pass through the curtain. Note: I was in the rear of the plane, far from the curtain.

I captured the Purser's response and subsequent battery on video ( He explains that the signs are there for security reasons. When I tell him that I don't intend to follow them he grabs and forcefully confiscates my phone and I was tackled by two Federal Air Marshals. I was detained upon disembarkation for about half an hour.

I was never charged or accused of anything other than not complying with flight crew instructions, though at the time of the incident no one would tell me which specific instruction I did not comply with.

Following the incident, I've been told that I didn't comply with flight crew instructions; didn't return to my seat; and didn't stop taking photos. Those are all lies.

United refuses to apologize in any way.

Joe in Calif February 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

its funny - all the people who think that the statement in the inflight magazine controls the behavior of passengers. He was asked to not photograph = there is no prohibition on taking photos in the United Airlines contract of carriage- THIS is the controlling document of rules - not the menu, not the inflight magazine, not the gate agent or the flight attendant.

It is against the law to interfere with a flight crew's duties. It is not specifically against the law to refuse to comply with a flight crew's instructions that are illegal, or not within their power or authority to direct. Refusing photography of inanimate objects is not against United's rules - thus - the FA has no legal authority to prevent it. If she directs that you be detained for it and if the Captain presses the issues - then you are arrested - it is most definitely false imprisonment. You may not fly that day, but the police and everyone involved will be getting more training and you'll be cashing a nice check.

No taking photographs of cockpits? Seriously? Dozens of them for free - accurate and high detail -

Now, moving on to our disabled friends attempted practice of law -

An airliner is a quasi-public conveyance. If United Airlines WANTED to ban photography - they could easily do so. But they haven't . Be that as it may - an airliner or a bus or train or anywhere else that is owned by a non-governmental entity can do anything it wants. You only have 'rights' against the government = a private business can make any rules they want . . .

Joe Blow February 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

Since when did blogging become a profession that warrants special treatment?!?

RCM February 22, 2013 at 11:42 am

As a Continental Frequent Flyer, I have no loyalty to the new United. This stems not from this current situation, although it doesn't help, but from a general change in corporate culture post-merger. I had good rides and bad rides aboard Continental, but generally very good ones. I was nearly always satisfied with the product I received. For some reason, flying Mad Dogs from Cleveland to Houston was simply the best. However, my family and I have started flying other carriers since the merger. We've been impressed with Delta, for example, and may go there with our dollars. We're seriously considering Hawaiian Airlines and Delta for our Christmas Maui trip, and not United (let's wait and see if Southwest starts ETOPS ops. If they do, look out!). The fares are comparable, and the attitudes seem much nicer. I want my old Continental back!!!!

What United fails to understand is the old adage that every paying customer who is treated poorly will tell several others about his or her experiences, thus driving away future business. A simple, "We're sorry," would have likely sufficed. The fact that their own policy wasn't broken by the gentleman in question only lends to his credibility. Those who keep claiming that it was need to actually read said policy and FAA regulations before they spout off - no rules nor regulations were violated. The further fact that other passengers who purported to be on the flight have backed up his claims only adds to the weight of his claims. United would do well to remember the broken guitar saga, and how that cost them. Situations like this could do similar public relations and financial damage.

Look, everyone has good and bad days, including flight attendants and paying passengers. However, the flight attendant in question needs to realize that while she may well have been having a bad day, she represents an entire airline. She is the (hopefully) bright, shining face of the business. Petty and apparently vindictive actions only erode the public's perception of her employer, and that of the captain. And, if the public's perception drops too far, someone may get laid off as falling perception equals falling profit. Both need to realize this simple truth.


DH February 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Taking photos of aircraft equipment is strictly prohibited. This is for security reasons. Some people may not like this rule but it is nevertheless a strict policy as airlines delineate in their publications. I'm not judging who was right or wrong in this case because I wasn't there, however this can be a huge learning tool for passengers and airline employees alike.

Matt February 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Why are so many of you obsessed with this no photo "policy". That "policy" is mentioned somewhere in the in-flight magazine. Am I under an obligation to read the magazine page by page to find out if United has more rules than those I submitted to when accepting the T&Cs?

And before you say yes - is there a 100 per cent guarantee that the inflight magazine is not missing in the seat pocket - and if it is in place, if not some of the hundreds of passagers who have browsed the mag in the weeks before torn out the relevant page? It should be plain obvious even to non-lawyers that a note in the inflight magazine cannot have any legal relevance whatsoever.

If taking pictures is such a big issue, they need to include it in their safety announcement or put stickers on the seats / walls etc.

John February 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

You're a loud-mouthed idiot trying to get some attention. They should have had you physically removed from the aircraft by force.

Matt February 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I think this is bollocks.. Why do they need to stop you taking pictures on the plane? No goddam reason to spoil someones trip over trivial shit like this. Travelling is for our experience and it's what we spend our hard earned cash on and if we choose to document our experience what's the big deal? Tossers. I have hated United for a long time and this just adds to the list of reasons that make it suck even more. Sorry that they treated you with such distain. I'm sure you can find another airline to write about.

Nick February 22, 2013 at 01:06 pm

I'm speechless, just read your story with picture taking on United, and I can believe it in full, as I fly predominantly with United world wide when I can.
I have just returned from business in South Africa via the Star Alliance code share airline, South African Airways - what a refreshing change - staff that smiled, laughed among themselves, took care of you, and all had a happy disposition - they were more than grateful for having a good job, and most probably being paid a fraction of what a United FA would be paid. You take off and the seat belt sign (assuming no serous turbulence is off within 10-minutes and you have not even reached cruising altitude) on United it can be 30-45 minutes from take off before this happens - ridiculous or maybe just a fact of the litigious society we live in?

I digress but all they had to do was to ask you politely if they could view your cell phone pictures - end of story - FA gets disciplined and maybe taken off the plane herself. You handled this very calmly and professionally I would like to think that being in the same position as you I can do the same (doubtful though).


drybean February 22, 2013 at 01:07 pm

You should tell your story on Good Morning America, Letterman, and the rest. You could do all pax a service by forcing UA to listen to the outcry such exposure would generate.

RobFlysOn February 22, 2013 at 01:26 pm

It is amazing how flight attendants hide behind the moniker of "safety first professional" as if providing customer service was beneath them. As a frequent flyer (on a carrier that will remain unnamed), I cannot tell you how unsafe I feel more times than not - when there is hand-carried items (everywhere) blocking ways of egress, seat belts unfastened during turbulence (I have seen a beverage cart in mid-air during turbulence), what appeared to be more passengers in a row than oxygen masks, and the list goes on. It appears that monitoring security has replaced monitoring safety, as least as I have observed, and I think this is a step in the wrong direction. Funny story: Flying as a passenger in the F Cabin on Pan Am out of Rome years ago, under big security threat, delay, searches, etc....and the dessert on the menu was “Ice Cream Bombé”...and in dead seriousness, pushing the service cart to my row, the Flight Attendant asked...”Sir, would you like some bomb?” I still laugh thinking about that and the mortified (then mischievous) look on her face when she realized what she was saying!". Can you imagine that situation today? I guess along with common sense, we have lost our innocence.

Thank you for this. This reaffirms my resolve to never fly United again. I will miss Continental though.

Jim February 22, 2013 at 01:36 pm

Well, to be honest, you did violate the policy. The magazine clearly says that you can't take pictures of aircraft equipment, and you took a picture of aircraft equipment. You can't argue with that. They had the right to throw you off the plane, even if you stopped immediately.

PK February 22, 2013 at 01:37 pm

Suze says: "On the comments about saying terrorist...sure it seems silly that people can't use that word on a plane, and common sense dictates no terrorist is going to get on a plane and announce they're a terrorist, but people are sensitive to hear words like terrorist or bomb on a plane.

If there was a code orange going on, that would be understandable and even somewhat reasonable but 911 was 11 years ago. I flew the day the airports reopened and there was no cutlery of any kind (not even a plastic knife or fork) which was silly even at the time, but understandable.

Then, after a few weeks, people could cut their food again sometimes even with metal knives.

It appears that the FAs rather than keeping us "safe" are instead just using safety as a pretext to harshly enforce their corporate policies (the right to stop people from photographing anything for any reason) and power tripping over the passengers. The same passengers they hope to rely upon to help them in case a REAL incident occurs again. (After all, if you think about it, didn't the airlines after decades of attacks on airplanes fail to reinforce the cockpit doors and take action when a real emergency occurred? Didn't they fail to broadcast they had been hijacked on 911?)

Even before 911, the airlines engaged in security theater of asking everyone whether they had packed their bag. Even if you had, that didn't prevent someone from sneaking into your hotel room and putting something into it anyway so even for legal liability reasons, that question was worthless.

KLH February 22, 2013 at 01:42 pm

I agree that there is no excuse for the FA not being truthful, but take a little ownership that you should have let it go when she asked you to put you phone away and you did. Why did YOU have to bring it up again? She walked away and the incident was over until YOU decided to make a bigger deal. Who cares what this person thought of you personally. You will likely never see her again. You broke a rule, she told you, and you obliged. The situation should have been over at this point.

PK February 22, 2013 at 01:45 pm

"DH February 22, 2013 at 05:43 pm Taking photos of aircraft equipment is strictly prohibited. This is for security reasons. "

Then it's pretty lousy security since the policy allows for "personal photos." So if a terrorist (I said the word! I said the word!) wanted to take some photos back to his laboratory to reproduce an item to hide a bomb in (I said the word!), then he or she need only get a family member to pose next to the key object and snap away at leisure (or even get a crew member to help!)

If security truly is the issue, then prohibit all personal photos, period. And heck, confiscate or require all smart phones with cameras to be powered down. That's what they do in government secure environments (they even outlawed ferbies because ferbies had a capacity to record sound.)

PK February 22, 2013 at 01:51 pm

"Joe Blow February 22, 2013 at 04:37 pm Since when did blogging become a profession that warrants special treatment?!?"

Actually, Matt should consider applying to get press credentials. They are an actual document that is respected enough to get people access to special events and security often loosens restrictions against photography for them. A blogger is a freelance, unpaid journalist.

He should write to every airline that he wants to fly on, send a copy of his credentials, and then ask for a letter of permission and limits on his photos.

Peartree February 22, 2013 at 02:06 pm

I'm a flight-attendant myself for a combined legacy-carrier airline. I've never heard of this no-video policy before. Having said that, if it's before the door shuts(where electronics are supposed to be shut off), passengers can record any damned thing they want. I'm not getting into it with them regardless of the policy.

Photo Man February 22, 2013 at 02:14 pm

If taking photo's of aircraft is illegal, please ask them to stop flying over my house.

German Guy February 22, 2013 at 02:39 pm

I am HON of Lufthansa. I also fly several miles with many other, no start alliance airlines. I take pictures from time to time if I see something I like to share with others. However, I never take pictures during flight and never with other passengers. I never had a similar situation before. I had several situations with FA’s of United Airlines myself and I put UA of the “we don’t book here” list from our companies. All of my colleagues try their best to avoid to book UA for their US flights.

You want to hear two funny stories with UA? 1. Six years back. I was waiting in front of a toilet (eco flight) and an FA came along and told me that I cannot stay here. “Queuing in front of the toilet is not allowed on security reasons”. I explained that my seat is several rows away and when I would wait on my seat to get up when I see the green signal the toilet would be already occupied until I would be there. She replied that this would be my problem, but she instist that I cannot wait in front of the toilet. To my own surprise I stayed calm and told her: “Ok, let’s see how we can solve this problem. A) You find a toilet for me and keep it open for me. Please hurry as it is urgent. Or B) You give me a bottle that I can pee in the bottle wherever you give me the permission to do.” She disappeared. A minute later the toilet door opened and I had to solve the problem without her help. 2. Four years back. I was sitting (Business Class...UA First Class) in these funny seats where you sit opposite someone. I had it before with BA and I always think it takes getting used to it. Although it is good for communication if you have someone opposite you like to talk to. During start preparation I lifted the headrest manually may be three centimetre as I felt uncomfortable pressure. Suddenly a FA came from behind and hid the headrest down which shocked me and actually even hurt my shoulder. She said: “You are not supposed to…” I was shocked. But the guy opposite me was getting loud: “You know” and it was so clear that everyone of the compartment could hear it “this is the reason why no one of the World Bank like to fly with UA.” And then he started to complain for me. The purser came along and apologized. I haven’t seen the FA again on the entire flight; I guess she was banned far behind.

EuroCrew February 22, 2013 at 02:41 pm

Hi, I haven't read all of the comments but feel compelled to write when I see replies like there names should be published and the crew concerned are morons.

I am longhaul crew for a European airlines so feel qualified to comment - if I see a passenger taking pictures of the Cabin I will immediately let them know that its not permitted to take pictures of the aircraft cabin or other people - however if they wanted to take pictures within the confines of there seat they are more than welcome to. In fact I have even taken photos of couples in there seats on the flight.

I try to imagine how I would behave had I been the crew member in this situation - you say you motioned for her to come and hang your coat and got your card out.... my first thought cynical I know would be that oh great we have a demanding one! Perhaps if you had got out of your seat and went to the galley in flight and not during boarding I would think, oh wait he is a nice guy and quite innocent after all. I think passengers get out of crew what they put into it - click your fingers you will get minimal, say please and thankyou and even the odd smile I will go out of my way to make sure you have a fantastic flight for whatever reason you have decided to come. It certainly wouldn't bother/interest me that you were a blogger as I would like to think I give everyone a good service.

Picture this - you know that your not a 'threat' to the aircraft but how does the crew member? I certainly would not think joe public was a threat until they told me they werent?! If heaven forbid you were and you hadnt been ejected and something happened, I am sure the crew member concerned would then be slated as well?

EuroCrew February 22, 2013 at 02:41 pm

Hi, I haven't read all of the comments but feel compelled to write when I see replies like there names should be published and the crew concerned are morons.

I am longhaul crew for a European airlines so feel qualified to comment - if I see a passenger taking pictures of the Cabin I will immediately let them know that its not permitted to take pictures of the aircraft cabin or other people - however if they wanted to take pictures within the confines of there seat they are more than welcome to. In fact I have even taken photos of couples in there seats on the flight.

I try to imagine how I would behave had I been the crew member in this situation - you say you motioned for her to come and hang your coat and got your card out.... my first thought cynical I know would be that oh great we have a demanding one! Perhaps if you had got out of your seat and went to the galley in flight and not during boarding I would think, oh wait he is a nice guy and quite innocent after all. I think passengers get out of crew what they put into it - click your fingers you will get minimal, say please and thankyou and even the odd smile I will go out of my way to make sure you have a fantastic flight for whatever reason you have decided to come. It certainly wouldn't bother/interest me that you were a blogger as I would like to think I give everyone a good service.

Picture this - you know that your not a 'threat' to the aircraft but how does the crew member? I certainly would not think joe public was a threat until they told me they werent?! If heaven forbid you were and you hadnt been ejected and something happened, I am sure the crew member concerned would then be slated as well?

mike February 22, 2013 at 03:04 pm

You probably should never say "I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist." on a plane. Never ends well.

Jeff February 22, 2013 at 03:07 pm

I can sympathize with your horrible experience but, as a Captain on another airline, I've faced a similar situation. He maybe could have his contact with you better but the result would likely have been the same. It was the use of the word "terrorist" that likely put up a flag.

He almost has no choice but to trust his flight attendant, especially given her concern. I handled my situation something like this: "Listen, I realize there's a 99% chance that you're fine, but that 1% is enough for me not to be willing to risk it. I'm sorry that it came to this, but it's the course I have to take."

The one thing he MIGHT have done would be to ask to see the phone and have you show him the pictures. But I can see where that wasn't even the issue.

Sorry about the bad experience.

grant February 22, 2013 at 03:21 pm

I've been on 3 round trip united flights and will absolutely pay more to avoid them in the future. The FAs are, generally, less friendly than most of the other carriers, the cabin quality is substandard, and they are incapable of dealing with a special diet if you don't call them in person 24 hours prior to the flight. (don't let them know 2 weeks ahead, they can't cope with that)Every other airline can cope with getting my wife gluten free meals when we book the tickets. United is one of the worst airlines I have ever used, especially on a long hall...Chicago to Hong Kong in Economy is close to torture

The Help February 22, 2013 at 03:31 pm

Well, as long as we are stereotyping and being all inclusive with our insults and characterizations lets turn the "camera around" I have been flying airliners for 25 years and over 6 million miles. Guess who the most obnoxious passengers are....first class or business. Guess who the most obnoxious first class passengers are....the upgrades. Why? Because they are the most important person on the plane and what they want supersedes anything else. The best way to prove this is to look at the condition of the plane after you guys get off. It is amazing sometimes what we see on the floor. So while you are out complaining that the flight should have boarded already, your compadres that rode in on it caused twice the amount of time to clean it. Next time you fly look at how many carryons passengers have. One and a purse or small bag? Next time you get stuck in the back, wait and get off last and look at the condition of the floors and seats particularly at first class. It is usually disgusting. You wouldn't invite those people into your house. Hell you won't be sure if they even live in a house themselves. As for the many who HATE United. Go fly the other airlines for a while. We are all pretty much the same. The reason most fly an airline is because it goes where they want , when they want, and usually for the best price. If United meets that criteria for all of you haters then we will probably see you on board and in addition to all of your carryons you will be toting a huge chip on your shoulder.

And to the guy why says he should accuse us of drinking? Go for it. The 100+ that you really inconvenience when the flight cancels may not want to high five you for sticking it to the airline.

JP February 22, 2013 at 04:30 pm

It is most interesting to read a lot of the posts on this particular issue. I am around the same age as Matthew and have worked for airlines for the last 7 years. I have had a enough cases where I was the Customer Service agent on the ground performing the removal of a passenger. In each case the directive comes from the Captain after discussing it between myself, the captain, the pursor and the flight attendant that witnessed the erratic behavior. In just about each case the Captain did not have to be asked to leave the flight deck ( whether the flight was early or late) he was waiting at the boarding door to explain to the passenger exactly why they were being taken off the flight and what his concerns were. On the odd occasion the passenger was included in the discussion and an amicable decision was reached.

There seems to be a lot of venom and pent up anger in flight attendants today ( it seems centered around those in the US aviation industry). Though i have met in my field some very gracious and polite US based flight attendants. It comes down though to alot of them being over worked ( in the airline world, we all are), under paid (again we all are) and under appreciated (we all are). That however should not detract from the performance of your job, which at the end of the day is customer service. While a customer contact staff (check in and boarding and the like) it was a constant joke between myself and my manager that we don't ensure the abuse for the perks. We do it because we love it. When you start showing up to work just because you are required to show up to work then you have lost sight of what you really joined the airline for( applicable to alot of job fields). It begs the question as to what really were you looking for when took the job in the first place. Sorry to say but Kevin you sound like one of them who really needs to consider a change of profession. You really don't like you job. Hence you will never be compelled to enjoy the day to day and see the silver lining of i made someone smile by just saying hello ( it works, i know, i've tried it with passengers that i have checked in who were having a shitty day to begin with)

We all have learned in the post 9/11 error to not upset the apple cart and do as we are told; keep your head down and try not to be noticed. The comment has existed since flying became a Glamor job that Pilots believe they are God ( have met enough of them. they also feel they are overly entitled since " you know i am the Captain". have also met some overly entitled frequent fliers); However in this new error the new elevated Deity exists in the person of the Flight attendant. The omnipresent air, My word is law sort of mentality. For some this is there way of metaphorically throwing off the yoke of 'oppression" and hit if back to those that picked on me and bullied me and figured they were better than me.

To those that figure just shut up and put up. There has to be a limit to non sense. There is a piece i once read in regards to Nazi Germany. It spoke about the majority of German Folk that really didn't care for the Nazis and really didn't support them. They however were not interested in voicing their opinion as long as they were left alone (which in the initial stages they were). This continued until the day that the quiet German Folk no longer had a voice and Europe began falling around them.

Faisal A February 22, 2013 at 04:51 pm

Wow! I am a commercial pilot (not with an airline) and based on talking with my a couple of people, who are in the airlines, cabin crew has become draconian post 9/11 in their attitude towards flying public.

We are all appreciative of the tough job cabin crew has - some passengers are just not plain nice to deal with. However, there is an increasingly rough attitude without any reason(s) towards the flying public that needs to be dealt with sooner than later.

There used to be a charm in flying commercially. At the very least, we need to ensure that we do not have to deal with such bullying.

JeNH February 22, 2013 at 04:56 pm

Oh my gosh! Get over it! Cry baby first world problems is all I see. Do not take pics, follow the rules, do not argue and for heavens sakes.....causing any issues is reason to get booted off. Maybe you do not understand just how much abuse of the airline employees happens around the US. Also, if you are 25-26 years old, I am very sure your memory of that crazy day back in 2001 was jaded by highschool issues and not real world issues. Get over it, this is a new world buddy.

airexpert February 22, 2013 at 06:01 pm

United has a history of bad corporate culture with little regard for common sense. This incident would not happen with Continental.. no CO pilot would be at stupid.

Nancy February 22, 2013 at 06:27 pm

I was a travel agent for 6 years and worked for a major airline for over 32 years; also, my sister has worked for a major airline for over 30 years and neither of us ever heard of a policy regarding taking or not taking photos on an airplane. It's fairly common these days to turn on the evening news and see a story of something happening on an airplane complete with pictures and/or video. If this policy is only published in the on board magazine, than who would have read it before they have even set down and buckled up. And to quote hundreds of passengers that I have personally spoken to regarding their fare rules that were sent to them with their ticket "You expect me to read all of that"

As far as customer service goes it is only as good as the company. When you work for a company that treats you shitty than you give out shitty customer service. From what I have heard United has been treating the employees badly for a long time and Continental is treating the United employes even worse than United did.

Johan February 22, 2013 at 06:31 pm

Invasion of privacy, my ass! You have absolutely no expectation of privacy when you're on a plane with scores of other passengers, staff, pilots etc. What, should we now all wear blinkers in public because people we may encounter have a right to privacy? Poppycock! When will these so-called liberal democracies understand minimal interference is true democracy!

Paul February 22, 2013 at 06:41 pm

Sorry to say, but there are two sides to every story and we are hearing one side. I, for one, can not rush to judgement based on this write up.

I feel like I just wrote a story for Huff Post about a situation exactly like this one which happened to me in December, except instead of a camera it was a fidgety autistic child:

At the root of the problem is the unchecked accountability these employees feel to toss paying customers whenever they feel like it, all in the name of "safety"

Mel Marks February 22, 2013 at 06:58 pm

I would have dismissed you from the flight as well. You caused your own problem by not being able to keep your young, arrogant, immature mouth shut -- you just had to be right, didn't you? An entire aircraft full of people were put on hold because of you and your meaningless blog which -- and you better accept this in full -- do not make the world go around or the sun rise and set. I am frankly sick of young people like yourself who are entirely entitled to the world around you. Had you seen yourself as just another normal, regular human being who was told to adhere to airline policy, you would have flown to Istanbul. Next time, do as your told, sit still, drink your milk, say your prayers, and shut up.

And by the way, if you're going to call yourself a writer, blogger, tweeter, whatever -- try proofreading what you write more carefully next time. Credibility goes out the window with just one typo -- and I counted at least 3 embedded in your childish rant.

Proftel February 22, 2013 at 08:08 pm

Many colleagues in Brazil do not fly over that company. They were treated very badly. One of them said: "if you only get it, I'll drive or ship to the U.S. ..." Kkkkkkkkkkkkk!

hrishikesh February 22, 2013 at 08:08 pm

Mel Marks - Are you a former airline employee.

PK February 22, 2013 at 08:43 pm

"Sorry that the U.S. has age discrimination laws so that all of your flight attendants don't look like Asian geisha girls where they have to quit at a certain age or reach a certain weight--kind of like how the U.S. industry was in the early part of last century!"

This is hilarious because I don't think we'd mind granny FAs in business class if they really were like many of our grannies: likable, friendly, hard-working, knowledgeable and dignified. Instead, they're often just tired and nasty. Some people get better with age and some just age.

The claim that this is now post 9-11 and we should get used to air travel sucking forever and the FAs running con-air means that perhaps the FAs also should get used to "modern" ways of doing things: layoffs, reduced pay and busting their unions. Times change! Get used to it! Isn't it hilarious that the same woman who zealously enforced "corporate policy" against photos (which is NOT safety related, otherwise it would really be an FAA regulation) probably gripes when an unsympathetic HR representative informs her of corporate policies cutting her benefits?

I don't begrudge the poor "kid" from thinking that things should get better. Isn't that what young people are supposed to be doing? He appears to at least be one with his act together and doing well with his life. I'm sure in a decade or so he'll be married to a nice, pretty woman (advice sonny: Stop being too nice to the nasty ones. They'll eat you alive!) and won't spend his twilight years bullying people to try to make his life seem meaningful.

CJ February 22, 2013 at 09:03 pm

Jeff said:

"learn how to swallow your pride and keep your mouth shut". Maybe he should have a sign that sais "Do what you want to me, set me up, frame me, whatever you want cause I wont say anything"

Are you kidding me? It's a freaking camera on an airplane... that shouldn't be a big deal in the first place. The more you people keep giving in to this kind of crap with "well that's just the way it goes", the more b.s. policy's and rules you're going to see.

What's next, you can't make a call in flight? Oh yeah that's right... we already can't do that because your telephone could "crash" the plane. Here's an idea, lets board the plane with a bunch of passengers that all have potentially lethal devices on them, and then leave it up to the honor system for them to turn them off or put them in airplane mode!

Anti-Mel mark February 22, 2013 at 09:27 pm

Mel Marks is a dick bag troll.

Harsh Mel February 22, 2013 at 09:32 pm

Mel Marks is very harsh. "Credibility goes out the window with just one typo"... wow... the New York Times would fail your quality demands, Mel. I would not want to fly on an airline or a business managed by you. Hitler Airlines?

Sorry but... February 22, 2013 at 09:38 pm

1) as a travel blogger how could you even remotely think the word terrorist was a GOOD IDEA

2) as a travel blogger how could you possibly think an argument with a FA on the ground was a GOOD IDEA

3) as a travel blogger how could you possibly think that the captain had any interest in your explaination or your business card


PK February 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm

The Help wrote: "And to the guy why says he should accuse us of drinking? Go for it. The 100+ that you really inconvenience when the flight cancels may not want to high five you for sticking it to the airline."

and separately, Jeff says that a Captain often takes the position: "Listen, I realize there's a 99% chance that you're fine, but that 1% is enough for me not to be willing to risk it. I'm sorry that it came to this, but it's the course I have to take."

So using that logic, if there's a 1% chance or even ANY chance that an FA, even falsely accused, has been drinking anyway, it's the course someone has to take, right? Let 'em prove their innocence. Hope the drug test doesn't have a false positive...

Of course, I'm not in for that kind of "tit for tat" because I'm not a sociopath. But those who defend sociopaths treating passengers like cattle are showing their true colors now, aren't they? Consider: The concern for the inconvenience of the 100 passengers shows itself the moment it's due to an FA being falsely accused. But not when the 100 passengers are berated and threatened during the flight and terrified (literally) of being kicked off for not keeping their head down enough.

It's nice to know it's an option though. Makes it a lot easier to carry my head high with dignity when boarding.

Andrew February 22, 2013 at 11:40 pm

This "legacy" flight attedant really makes me sick and vomit.

I have certainly met some great United flight attendants. My recent experience was a quick trip from Calgary to Beijing via San Francisco, and brought my aging and ailing parents back to Canada from China. We all had paid business class seats in the 747-400 upper deck. Although United meal choices and options were really really bad, the flight attendants were very super friendlys and they were doing their best from what they could find and help us out.

Without my own (positive) experience and if only seeing such horrible experience Klint encountered, I would definitely swear I would curse United to f* off.

I travel globally and often fly business class seats with a few selected airlines, but it is so unfortunate to meet such a horrible FA at United.

chas February 22, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I don't know whether to admire your loyalty--or not. Never use the 'bad' words "terror-ist", or "bomb", or even "razor" on any public transportation. Bad flight--bad attendant, bad captain...bad company. Bad words=bad captain gets to kick you off and chuckle about it later over drinks with his FA's and crew.

Phil February 23, 2013 at 12:05 am

This is completely ridiculous :/ She must have been smoking some of our British killer skunkweed to be so paranoid about a freaking iPhone photo of a seat.

I don't agree with the people claiming 'entitled!' - you tried to show them your card to show that taking a photo of the cool chair is a completely reasonable thing. Flight attendants should still use some modicum of common sense, especially for a rule as unenforcable as this.

The terrorists (oh no, I said a bad word - someone please shoot me!) don't even have to bother trying to take photos, modern airliners have been thoroughly covered from pretty much every angle visible from inside the cabin. e.g.

Some airlines are still willing to be reasonable though fortunately - shoot a timelapse with a 5D, intervalometer and one presumes a tripod? No problem at all for Air France.

From over here, America is truly heading toward the point where the only acceptable passenger is a sedated one.

Avek February 23, 2013 at 12:44 am

@The Voice of Reason:

You're are such a low-life. Morehouse College? ROTFL.

This is worse then Soviet Union :(

Sorry to hear about it, man.

Hugh J. February 23, 2013 at 01:49 am

Mel Marks, you're an a-hole troll. The author was right and the stupid F/A couldn't take it so she lied to the captain. Maybe a coward like you would sit down and shut up but I certainly wouldn't even if I got booted from the flight. You seem to have a hatred for young people who don't accept the status quo without rightfully speaking up. If you are a flight attendant defending your stupid counterparts it would figure how you can have such a sucky attitude.

I will NEVER fly United again after this public relations fiasco. I really loved Continental and now it has turned to crap like United, which just about everyone predicted when the merger plans were announced. : (

Big Horn Kid February 23, 2013 at 02:55 am

As has been suggested in these postings there is definitely a paranoid environment on board US-based airlines. The only was to experience a problem-free flight is to recognize that some flight attendants will play-out their paranoia by turning the cabin into a flying police state. Accordingly, whether I travel in FC or otherwise, I limit my interaction with flight attandants. (1) I will refuse all food, drink and other cabin service. If food is sold near the gate I will bring it on board. (2) I NEVER initiate a conversation with a flight attendant. (3) I limit my responses to flight attandant questions to: (a) "Yes," (b) "No," (c) "At this time I am asserting my right to remain silent."

Lara Kanavaugh February 23, 2013 at 03:34 am

Fly ETHIHAD! They have new aircrafts and a highly professional crew. The crew is very friendly, extremely helpful, speaks 12 languages and on top young and good looking. You are not only allowed but encouraged to take pictures of the cabin, your seat, the exellent meals served and the FA. They also offer to take pictures for you! What happend and is still happing on a UA flight showes , that their staff is highly unprofessional and not well trained to handle their job. For this reason we would never ever fly with any US-Carrier.

Peter de jäger February 23, 2013 at 04:35 am

This alleged fear of words like 'bomb', and 'terrorist' is bull crap and NOTHING but an opportunity to exert power over others. It has nothing to do with safety. It's a simple, and very effective wa,y to shut people down every time there is any sort of disagreement. They've screwed your seat assignment? - you CANNOT.complain because you are threatening the safety of the flight etc.

If you want 'proof' of this? Then turn on any one of the dozen or so inflight movies... You will hear these words in great abundance. Yet? Having Sylvester Stallone say terrorist on the plane, or even blowing things up on the planes does not seem to affect the safety of the plane in any way shape or form.

Welcome to the modern police state folks. We let it happen. We deserve it.

John February 23, 2013 at 05:20 am

What were you thinking?

  1. Don't make a note the service or condition of the aircraft in any way, especially not with photographic evidence.
  2. Don't indicate that you are not evil. Not being evil is the secret sign for being evil.
  3. Don't talk to the flight attendants during stressful on-the-ground and at-the-gate situations. It's crazy during that time and you are asking for trouble talking to the team trained to handle emergencies.
Irish Stew February 23, 2013 at 11:47 am

Wow... Just, wow. There's a lot of stereotyping going on here. On both sides. Please don't let the actions of the persons involved in this incident represent anyone but themselves. I have been a flight attendant for over 25 years. I have worked with many flight attendants whose behavior is an embarassment to the rest of us in uniform. I have had many passengers on board whose behavior is an embarassment to the rest of the human race. On the flip side, I have flown with co-workers who are so eloquent and patient I am in awe of them. I have also been moved to tears by the kindness of some of my passengers.

We are all individuals. I try to treat my passengers as individuals. I realize that the "process" of flying post 9/11 is tedious at best and downright traumatizing at worst. There is nothing I can do about that, but I can smile and say hello to each and every customer as they get on board. So what if a handful of them won't even look at me. I don't take it personally and usually see it as a challenge. Not in a "what can I do to teach this rude person a lesson" way, but in a "I bet I can get them to smile and acknowledge me before they deplane" kind of way.

I give my passengers quite a bit of latitude (no I did not mean attitude). I just wish that I (and the rest of us in the industry) would be granted the same latitude. Please remember that you generally outnumber us 50:1. We aren't perfect and when given multiple requests/tasks, especially during the hectic boarding process, we are bound to mess up occasionally. Now it's your turn not to take it personally.

In my opinion, the situation was handled poorly by the flight attendant. It is also my opinion that it is short sighted to blame all of us for her behavior. Quit flying United because of one persons actions? Especially when you weren't there, or involved? Kind of silly if you ask me.

Peter Smith February 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm

the captain was 'unprofessional and weak', yet I won't name him because....

Tyler Durdin February 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Why the f would you use the word "terrorist" on an airliner? You think you're a travel professional? You're an f-ing moron.

Gary February 23, 2013 at 01:51 pm

You should talk to some media outlets about this, or get more bloggers to support you Quoting...

1. That is crazy stupid of UA. You should publicize their names if you got them. Both FA and Captain, wow..

2. I guess we'll learn to NOT argue pre-flight anywhere

3. I don't know how much you can do to get revenge, but let's start badmouthing UA from now on :)

This sounds like a great way NOT to get cooperation! It sounds like both sides should have handled it differently. Milo's message was right on!

Perhaps you should have waited until after takeoff to discuss things. One of the most stressful times of the flight is the pre-departure phase. The crew is dealing with many issues and still trying to have an on-time departure.

As far as I know, it is NOT illegal to shout "Fire" in the movie theater, per se. It DOES become illegal if it creates a disturbance. That may have been the concern here.

This probably could have been handled more effectively by NOT posting your situation on a public forum, at least until after you had discussed the situation with United Airlines.

RAFAEL February 23, 2013 at 01:59 pm

Come and fly with us at Delta. We take your pictures; we even post with you on the pictures - FUN. It is all about making you feel welcome, having fun, and creating a memorable experience for all of our customers! Looking forward to welcoming you on one of our flights (with your camera ready.)

In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, we should stop making allowances for a systematic practice of paranoid bullying. Instead of demanding an apology to this person, we should demand United change its policy for all of us.

The people who rebuked the writer for mentioning the word "terrorist" are granting legitimacy to folly. If cabin crew are so freaked out by hearing the word that they believe that is a reason to kick someone off a flight, they need retraining and/or psychotherapy.

Theresa February 23, 2013 at 03:15 pm

It's a his word against her word. He should have put his camera away and shut the hell up. He could claim ignorance until she showed him the rules. At that point, he should have said sorry and dropped it. Calling her back over- regardless of the reason- when the discussion was over and the FA obviously had things to do was, in my opinion, being antagonistic- not something to be right before take-off. He quotes himself as saying to her,

"I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog."

It is not until he meets with the GS and pilot that he identifies himself as a travel writer and is a frequent UA customer and generally likes the service. From the FA's standpoint, it sounds like he is looking for trouble and looks for things wrong with UA to write about. The FA and pilot don't need trouble on the flight.

I vote with the pilot and FA on this one.

Andrew, OBG, Lauren...those of you who were on Matthew's flight and/or anyone with a similar or worse story PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR FLIGHTNIGHTMARES!!!...We really are looking for them. Partially for the outrage, partially for the entertainment value.

Firstly, a quick check of the camera would've instantly proven his innocence and exposed the FA's lie. The "T" word was the trigger (no pun intended) and seriously one of the more foolish statements to come from an experienced travel writer no? What were you thinking?...However, I assure you all that is not the first time an FA lied to accomplish the jettisoning a passenger. And I want to publish a bunch of them on our blog: your stories. -Once a gem of the skies, United has had an attitude problem that pre-dates 911, and leaves a black cloud around them in my eyes. It began with the money troubles but it extends now to so many things it's hard to count. I have clients who have come to refuse to even fly them! I am an airfare discounter for 15 years...and I am getting a bit fed up with the stories of harassment of frequent flyers, to an FA who lies to remove a passenger to rude counter agents. Let's get it all on the table :)

Tell your FlightNightmares - I'd like to publish them all on paper when we get enough. It'll be fun. And maybe we can get some of our passenger respect back...

nil February 23, 2013 at 03:33 pm

First, I will start by saying that I think everything united did was wrong, but...

As someone who regularly flew 60k miles a year before 2001 and effectively stopped flying after 9/11 due to the new way people were being treated on the way from the car to the planes, I also really can't believe the word "terrorist" came into play at all here. I think it was really another issue.

I think the problem was that you were about to go on a very long flight, and the flight attendent has no idea how often you plan to hit that call button on the flight to further "explain" yourself interrupting his or her work during the rest of the flight.

It's pretty easy to not really know which person is taking photos when you haven't drawn attention to yourself, but once you do, every other photo near you will be blamed on you. I know I personally can't tell rows apart on a plane without squinting at the row numbers as I walk by.... and I can't tell many people apart with my bad eyesight without being within a foot or two of them... I don't think it was so much that the person lied as just saw what produced the desired outcome, an excuse to eject someone who needed two long interactions preflight on a long flight.

I am willing to bet if the flight were between SJC and LAX, they wouldn't have cared.. "just 45 minutes with this joker.. i can smile through it. I only have to offer two drink services and a bag peanuts or raisins."

You have to ask yourself one thing... what did you really want to gain from the extra interaction after putting your camera away as requested? From my reading of the story, it looks like you hit the call button just to argue and not to ask for anything role-related. I don't think in 30 years of flying regularly that I have ever had a flight attendant make a special trip to my seat except to provide change they requested from passengers (for which they wanted to give me a load of free alcohol for, but I don't drink). To me the call button (or stoping someone in the process of walking by) is more like the phone call button in an elevator. Why would you bother someone if it wasn't an emergency?

Sure, I don't think united was right, but I also don't think you were right to interrupt to "explain"

pedeKeys February 23, 2013 at 03:35 pm

I like how about half these comments are "just shut up and move on you're a moron for using the T word".

Like I'm supposed to be taking it up my ass when I'm personally wronged?

Fuck this American fear fetish culture.

Sararigal February 23, 2013 at 03:49 pm

Wow! I always take loads of photos when I am on a plane, and out of the window. I didn't know I risked getting thrown off. The world really has become a crazy place.

Bernie February 23, 2013 at 04:01 pm

What surprises me is that there are still so many people flying united if not for an absolute necessity. They deserve the Nobel price for arrogance.

Asian, Middle Eastern, Australian and most of the European airlines are just in a -very- different league as far as kindness to passengers. On board their planes they make you feel you are welcome and even when they have to ask you not to do something there is a smile on their face.

Another world.

LetshaveaKIKI February 23, 2013 at 06:50 pm

If you didn't take any other pictures and had complied why didn't you just show them your phone with the lack of pictures? You really escalated the situation for no good reason.

Bobby February 23, 2013 at 06:50 pm

No photo means no photo. F/A's also observe other behavior during boarding. You were presuming. You have expressed part of what happened....your view only. Retired F/A AAL.

Jo Andersen February 23, 2013 at 07:29 pm

I hate saying this as a Flight attendant for a major Us Airline, times have changed and so have the rules. No longer are the days where you are able to film or take video during taxing or takeoff and the FA's have ever right to throw a person off a flight if they feel that the security of the plane has been jeopardized. Now I am going to take this from the FA's point of view, instead of saying I am sorry and leaving it at that, you had to explain which clearly made the FA even more uncomfortable with you being on the plane to the point she brought it up with the Captain who has the final say of who he wants and doesn't want on his aircraft. The Airline had every right in bumping you off the flight and making you find a different way of reaching your destination. Now I am sorry this happened to you but this is the way the world is today. Next time unless you are on a aircraft that is brand new and there is a unveiling party where you can take pictures I would leave your phone in your pocket and off. All the Major airlines have new rules in place and you have to play by there rules or face the possibility of being booted off a flight.

Steve-UK February 23, 2013 at 08:52 pm

Reading this story and the comments by accident I find myself going back and forth as to the rights and wrongs involved. All my business air travel and most of my leisure travel is in Europe though I did once regularly travel on holiday to the US. Back in 1988 my wife and I had a dreadful return trip from the UK to Boston on Continental including an encounter with the rudest individual I've ever come across before or since who happened to be a FA on the return leg. It was 2005 before I travelled Continental again and that was an accident caused by code shares but it turned out fine, the crews on all the legs were great. Nevertheless the 2005 trip was my last to the US, and the only one since 9/11. It was scary how the country had turned into a state of complete paranoid overkill. It seems in 2013 not much has changed, maybe has got worse.

I grew up in a London constantly under threat of terrorist attack, had a few near misses, from being evacuated from a cinema as a kid when they targetted a cinema playing Mary Poppins, to being in a pub that got blown to pieces a week later, stayed in the most bombed hotel in Belfast, shopped in a shopping centre that got flattened, and we heard the explosion 15 miles away, and on and on. The point. We knew from little kids that terrorists win when people respond to terrorism by acting terrorised. You don't let them win, you carry on leading your life. When you are banned from taking photos on a plane the terrorists are smiling, they win. And they don't have to take photos, they can sketch anything of use. They don't have to bomb anything, they have you terrorised anyway, which was the intention. So it seems in this case, the over-reaction exactly the intent of the terrorists. And it seems there is a massive "security" industry sustained by trying to keep us in a state of terror, encouraged by Governments across the Western world. So you can't blame the FA for being spooked, that is the intention of the security consultants that advise governments and airlines, they are smiling all the way to the bank, they win. So I agree that being booted off a plane for taking photos of the back of a seat is completely stupid. The FA was doing what she has been conditioned to do though, overreact, not her fault. We vote for governments that encourage paranoia. But Continental at least was tolerant of obnoxious behaviour towards paying clients from way back, long before 9/11, and for the lying I'd do what I did 25 years ago with Continental, and withdraw my custom from United.

On the other hand, I also agree with those that say Matthew was coming across as wanting some special treatment, even if he did not intend that. That will grate, though professionals should know how to handle the situation as if it was unintentional. Saying I'm not a terrorist was silly. Certain words we know to be triggers for panic. Like shouting fire in a crowded theatre, saying bomb or terrorist in an aviation context are triggers. The person several rows back may not hear I'm not a, nor have sight of the speaker for context, and only catch the word terrorist, repeats it, causes mass panic. You just don't do it, it's not a free speech thing, just common sense. I dare say Matthew has learned that lesson the hard way. For consolation, I also learned that one the hard way when I was much younger and more naive when I said this is not a bomb and inadvertently evacuated a Post Office. The police officer patiently explained it to me, I understood, I've never been so thoughtless since.

I'm pleased to say that by experience boycotting Continental and by reputation studiously avoiding Ryanair, the largest Irish airline, I've never otherwise had nor witnessed any disrespectful or discourteous treatment by air crew to any passenger nor vice versa. I can't remember a flight where on disembarkation crew and passengers did not share mutual thanks and friendly goodbyes at the door, even when it has been delayed by hours or the food has run out or some other disaster. Sounds like if I ever do return to the US I will need to avoid United now which is a shame as in general terms the US invented the concept of customer service.

exUnitedFlyer February 23, 2013 at 09:04 pm

United is bad in service in general. It has been blacklisted by me many years ago. Avoid it if you can.

offshoreoildude February 23, 2013 at 10:31 pm

You're an idiot. Sucks to be you. I bet $1000 you're going to end up on a no fly list. Welcome to the land of the unfree - from a happy Singapore Airlines flyer!

Scotty February 23, 2013 at 11:36 pm


I have been Platinum with United for a couple of years (well technically it was on Continental but now United). I have been becoming more and more dissatisfied with United's ENDLESS list of excuses and issues! In the last two months along I have written at LEAST 3 or 4 lengthy emails due to horrible service, crew issues, etc. The only notes I EVER wrote Continental were all praises!

I'm sorry this happened to you. I am going to be VERY, VERY aware on my next flight. I have a LOT of trips planned on United this year. I'm going to finish out this year and see how things go but it may be time for another rewards program!

All the best and keep up the great reporting, love your blog!


BFrankley February 24, 2013 at 01:16 am

pedeKeys is a freaking genius. You should all fear him, and his opinion.

Anyone siding with this flight crew should be sent away to somewhere pretty, and quiet, where they'll do no harm . They have nothing to contribute to society.

Skyhigh February 24, 2013 at 01:52 am

On behalf of a lot of FA's "I'm very sorry for what happened to you". But now with that said, I've been a FA for 25 yrs and have had my share of passengers "lie" about my actions or my flying partners! Just a few examples, once I had to ask a passenger to leave the airplane due to the fact he was on the wrong flight. Before 9/11, these things happened, no big deal, right? Wrong, he wrote the company saying I yelled at him and made him apologize to the whole plane and cockpit crew. Really? Another time I made a veggie meal for a passenger whose special meal wasn't boarded, the passenger across from him wrote the company using my name, saying I banged her fingers with the cart and dropped cups in her lap. My crew verified that I never worked the cart that leg since I ran meals. I still enjoy my job and almost always the people I fly with. Some passengers and crew members alike board an aircraft with a chip on their shoulder. With taking a pay cut, working more hours and the loss of most of my retirement, I would still rather do this job than any other. Hope your other flights are much better!

Take a breath February 24, 2013 at 04:02 am

@kevin and all other Airline related industry workers. We get it, it's hard....the job, the customers, the merger, the policies and working more for less. Sounds familiar? Yes, it applies to basically every single job that's out there, executive, middle-rank and bottom ranks now adays. It's NOT about having to do what we want or don't want, it's the APPROACH. The how we do things as opposed to the absolute whys.

To those that think Matthew is entitled, guess what, I think he earned it.

Bad customer service is bad customer period, whether it is on the plane, in a restaurant or in a store. Mistakes are invaluable, learn from it and move on.

RioSmart February 24, 2013 at 05:10 am


I've flown with UA for 25+ year and have taken countless photos of the aircraft cabin and of the staff (the FA's saw me taking their photos) and never been asked to leave the plane, pre and post 9/11; a rule I wasn't aware of which I'll now abide by. Anyhow, I sincerely believe the reason you were asked to leave the aircraft was because you used a flagged word, not because you took a photo. If the latter reason were exclusively true then why wasn't the gentleman in 17C also not escorted off the jet alongside you, which he wasn't.

It's unfortunate the FA didn't approach this much differently to resolve the issue, but because you said a "flagged" word, she had to follow internal company protocol and the captain had to ensure the safety of his crew and passengers regardless. If he hadn't responded, and for those passengers who overheard what you said leaving them to wonder if you were or were not a safe person to fly with, this may have created a tense situation for all parties involved. Therefore, the easiest solution was to have you removed and rebook you to appease everyone as well as not delay the departure - clearly UA weren't too overly concern that you were really a threrat or you would've not been boarded on another UA flight at all.

I hope the company will offer some sort of statement to clarify their position and perhaps do something to retain your loyalty for the misunderstanding on both sides. It would behoove you to recognise the culpability of your actions in this situation as they in theirs.

Kittypob February 24, 2013 at 07:57 am

This appeared in my twitter timeline today and I have wasted far too much time reading it, and now replying. :-) but, as a flight attendant who has worked for both a US and a European carrier I feel compelled to reply. Some good points have been made, regarding terrorism, over-reaction, customer service, and pax entitlement. However, the vitriol is seeping from a lot of people's posts, and therein lies the problem, I think. When we can't put ourselves into someone else's shoes before assuming something about them problems can and do arise. It is sometimes the fault of both FAs and pax, because through the misery that flying has become we have become guarded and wary of each other. My own experience is that pax who are nervous, upset about security and restrictions, and sometimes afraid to fly HAVE become more difficult onboard than before 9/11, and this is true in Europe, by the way, where I still live and work, as well as in the States, no matter what some other posters have said. Bottom line- we have to be nicer to our pax and our pax need to be nicer to us. It would solve a lot of the world's flying problems. As far as the author of this blog is concerned, I wish him only well but it's always a good idea to hear both sides of the story.

David McMillan February 24, 2013 at 08:25 am

I am appalled. I am a frequent flyer (of 3 loyalty programs in the US and 1 in the UK). Being unaware of such regulation I have taken photos on board planes of close to 15 different airlines in at least 8 countries. I do not have a blog but I do have Twitter and there I have posted many of these photos.

You are very kind in portraying United Airlines as an innocent party when clearly they are not. The airline industry is one of the most regulated industries and this incident cannot possibly be an isolated case.

I only flew UA twice. Never again. Ever.

K.LP February 24, 2013 at 08:53 am

I've been a flight attendant with United for almost six years, before Going to another major carrier. My biggest pet peeve is not with passengers but with other controlling flight crew. I'm not talking about keeping things in order or on time - I'm talking about the FA who feels the need to manipulate and humiliate passengers... The very people, and the only reason we have jobs. How different your day, trip and perhaps article would have been had she simply said "Sir, I'm sorry, while Im aware you're taking a photo of the seat back, our policy lends towards not photos of equipment or crew". With that approach she also would have been gracious enough to hear why you took the picture, and not only been both professional and intrigued by your work. Had she not had the need to bully your situation and exaggerate and instead check the manifest she would seem terrorist tend not to earn a 1k miles next to their name. Had the pilot asked fellow passengers next to you the situation they observed, instead of taking a selfish lazy approach- he would have learned it was she who should be walking down the jet bridge with G'S I see this abrupt handling and sled serving passenger handling all the time. much of the time- FA escalate situations. I find a simple please, smile and a "sir, do me a favor... Power down until we reach 10,000? ... works everytime Loved your article. I hope it's flight crew who check their attitude at Main cabin door.

This article was published today at biggest press site in Brazil

Paulo February 24, 2013 at 09:37 am

I travel a lot around the world for business. I decided to never more use United... I had some bad experiences when the crew feel they have full empowerment to do whatever they want.. one of the time, one of the lady come up till me and told me to read aloud voice a security instruction card in from of the seat, while she laughed as look like "he is not american"... just for fun ! To not create confusion, I just decided to never more use this company.


Paulo Back February 24, 2013 at 09:57 am

I'm from Brazil, and very shock about this situation... it is very arrogant from the crew and company!!!

Fabiano L February 24, 2013 at 10:38 am

After the merger, unfortunately Continental met United in terms of customer service. I wish it were the other way around, but things are going to get even worth as American merges with US Airways. With less competition, airlines think they can do whatever they want with any customer.

AussieBlazer February 24, 2013 at 11:11 am

Clearly this not your first rodeo - you've traveled significantly like most of us have and I suspect you've also well traveled with UA. Therefore you should be worldly enough to know that you don't use the word terrorist at all. For future reference I'd suggest you also avoid the use of the words "bomb", "knife", "gun". On a less serious level, if you knew it was an old United crew then you'd know that there's a good chance that they're jaded and have no interest to hearing about your photos, your blog, who you know in Chicago, which meal you'd like, or anything about you at all. The captain is hired for his professional skills, and ability to get you safety to your destination. If he wanted to adjudicate issues then he'd have been a judge. And just for good measure, the reason that the GS rep sympathesied with you, is they didn't want to listen to your sob story either.

"Indeed, the terrorists have won when 11.5 years after the attacks U.S. citizens are scared of a camera onboard an airplane."

I'm sad to say that this does appear to be the case.

In the UK there are many places where photography is now forbidden for no good reason, although "counter terrorism" is the excuse that's used.

I'm sorry for your experience, especially the flight attendant lying about you. I'd like to think you'd get a good response from the airline but I'll be surprised if you do.

Jim February 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

How naive have we become??.... Before Sept 11, Al Qaeda had spent years gathering details of United's flight ops - probably including taking many pictures using cameras pointed towards the flight deck.
The "passengers" aboard the two United flights on Sept 11 did nothing suspicious - before they slashed the throats of their flight attendants to start taking over the plane.
You can be sure that they certainly did not refer to themselves as "not terrorists".
On Sept 11, the terrorists needed exactly the kind of security complacency that is being requested by many in this blog.
The United flight attendant erred on the side of safety. They have not forgotten what it takes to keep an airliner safe. Good work! United will continue to get my business.

carny666 February 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

I read this article the other day.. though to myself.. gee the terrorists HAVE won. The today I see this on reddit:

Kate February 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

It should be noted that being a flight attendant is a thankless job. Snobby passengers, greedy CEOs, fatigue, its enough to make someone blow a slide while double fisting a couple beers. Pax like to say things like "I pay your wages!" and then tell FAs how to do their jobs. There are plently of FAs that like to spend their days being a bitchface, but there are plenty that just wanna go to work, finish their trip, and get back home. So while it is unfortunate that this FA felt she had to have Matthew removed from his flight and disrupted his travel plans, lets review a few items that are being pulled directly from Matthew's article.

-"When I held the phone at forehead level to take the picture below, a flight attendant came running over and told me that I could not take any pictures of the cabin. She referenced this section of the Hemispheres magazine...looked at the FA, smiled, but said nothing, putting my iPhone away. To be clear, I did not take any more pictures—not a single one. Meanwhile, another passenger was taking pictures behind the curtain and the FA ran over to him and demanded that he stop as well." This would be where the problem started. Instead of saying, "Oh, I was not aware of that policy", Matthew instead decided to offer up a condescending smile. Because condescending smiles always make people feel good. He clearly cannot claim he was singled out, because he points out that another passenger was given the same information.
-His fake smile was then followed by "I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat." Unless he was drowning, or changing lanes, why the hell was he signaling her? Did He think she was never coming back? Not only that, what did this "signal" entail? Did He whistle? Clap? Maybe shake his coat like it was attacking him? No one knows because he left that little tid bit out. -Lastly, Matthew tells the FA "'I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist. Here is my business card [offering her one]. I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog.'" Of course she didn't think Matthew was a terrorist; she thought he was an asshole. If he were offering a genuine explaination, why couldn't he be a MAN about the situation, go to the FA and offer this information? Because he wanted to try to show her who was in charge on that aircraft. No where in section she referenced about the video policy did it say "United Airlines makes exceptions for bloggers." After she reprimanded him about taking the pictures, he made sure to try and show her up by offering his business card. Why would she care about his card or his blog? She has nothing to do with PR/Media at UA. Per general company policies, she'll never even be able to share her side of the story with the media--it will result in immediate termination. The fact that Matthew tried humilate someone while she was on her job is pretty telling. When he offered that business card, it wasn't to offer an explaination; it was to say "I'm 26, I have a blog and a business card. You're just a flight attendant. Now go hang up my coat." Maybe it wasn't neccessary to have Matthew removed, but it wasn't undeserved. Clearly, Matthew was irritated on the ground, who knows how he would behave in the air? If they ran out of his preffered wine or meal choice, would he cause a scene over the Atlantic. Unfortunatly for Matthew, the FA didn't wanna find out, and she decided to exercise her right to not be tormented for 12 hours. As for the captain, it should be noted that if there is ever an issue with a passenger during a flight, the captain and first officer are behind a steel door with a lock. An FA is the FIRST line of defense. That is why he took her word over Matthew's. As for threatening with the police, crew members go there because no one has time to repeat themselves and engage in arguments with adults. There were 299 other people on that flight, why should everyone sit there and be delayed because Matthew wants to talk to the captain and continue his bitch fiesta about taking pictures. FA's do NOT make the rules. Rules and policies are mandated by the FAA and the specific airline, but the FA's must attempt to enforce them. Maybe she was being a bitch, though Matthew never really says she was out and out rude. Maybe she shouldn't have hidden in the galley behind that curtain...but maybe she had to hide because she was laughing at the fact that she handed a snotty 26 year old hipster brat his twig and berries.

bobbcat February 24, 2013 at 01:18 pm

A cardinal rule I follow to a T: Always cooperate fully with anyone who is in a position of authority except in extreme cases of blatant abuse of said authority, among which your case is absolutely not included.

Your unfortunate use of the T word along with your DYKWIA approach which most certainly came across to this FA as a thinly-veiled "I'll show you!" forming the perfect recipe that raised her hackles. All this on top of interrupting the busiest time of her shift (helping passengers settle in, preparing for takeoff) to have her wait on you. You should know better. Let this experience be a lesson to you on what you need to do (and NOT do)to avoid this kind of thing in the future.

Bernie February 24, 2013 at 04:06 pm

a terrorist, or any other criminal, would keep the lowest profile, not taking pictures, not getting into any argument and certainly not arguing about not being a terrorist....

Unloading a passenger because he used a "flagged" word equals to the utmost lack of professionalism.

The very idea of screening people by their use of flagged word on an airplane is plain stupidity.

chris Churchill February 24, 2013 at 04:45 pm

wow i can get 500 business cards for $10.00 at any airport terminal, so what did you think your business card would get you ?

Yossarian February 24, 2013 at 06:15 pm


I can't stop laughing at the logic of those who say you removed for using the "flagged" word terrorist.

So if I understand them correctly, by saying "I am not a terrorist" - hell people, he's just mentioned the elephant in the room/flight - it means you're somehow guilty by denying it and therefore have to go.

It's a scenario Joseph Heller explained with great clarity:

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. "Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. "Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to."

Alternatively, it's the stoning scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian:

OFFICIAL: You have been found guilty by the elders of the town of uttering the name of our Lord, and so, as a blasphemer,... CROWD: Ooooh! OFFICIAL: are to be stoned to death. CROWD: Ahh! MATTHIAS: Look. I... I'd had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was, 'That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.' CROWD: Oooooh! OFFICIAL: Blasphemy! He's said it again! CROWD: Yes! Yes, he did! He did!....

MATTHIAS: Look. I don't think it ought to be blasphemy, just saying 'Jehovah'. CROWD: Oooh! He said it again! Oooh! OFFICIAL: You're only making it worse for yourself! MATTHIAS: Making it worse?! How could it be worse?! Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah! CROWD: Oooooh!... OFFICIAL: I'm warning you. If you say 'Jehovah' once more-- (a rock hits the back of the official) Right. Who threw that? Come on. Who threw that? Was it you? MRS. A.: Yes. OFFICIAL: Right! MRS. A.: Well, you did say 'Jehovah'. CROWD: Ah! Ooooh!... (Everyone starts throwing rocks at the woman) OFFICIAL: Stop! Stop, will you?! Stop that! Stop it! Now, look! No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle! Do you understand?! Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say 'Jehovah'. CROWD: Ooooooh!... (Scuffling, then a large rock is dropped on official) WOMAN: Good shot!

Either way, seriously people? Seriously?!

In the Land of the Brave and the First Amendment, you get thrown off planes for using a word that forms the basis for several movies featured in the United in-flight entertainment? So you can watch Taken 2 or The Bourne Legacy, but be very careful explaining what the movie's about out loud....

"But Captain, all I said was 'Gee Jason Bourne's good at fighting terrorists'..." (Rock hits the back of Matthew).

The terrorists have indeed won.

barry February 24, 2013 at 06:53 pm

Obviously all you people who are US citizens dont have the slightest idea of the phobia and stupidity that seems to have taken over the general mindset in the US in the last 10 years.

If you want an idea of what the Soviet Union was like - have a look into the US Mirror - look at yourselves. At the moment the main difference between the old USSR and the current USA is the level of wealth. But over the next 25 years that will slowly change and then the USA will become the old USSR. In the old USSR it was all about what the supreme council thought - in the new USA it will all be about what the homeland security people think.

And you will all wonder why much of the world dislikes the USA. Your politicians and military and corporates have been carrying on like United for years. Theyve pissed off almost everyone they can.

miche February 24, 2013 at 07:01 pm

the company that makes emptying his plane, earn money on fuel!

Chris February 24, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Gosh, I'm glad someone got kicked off a plane for saying they're not a terrorist. I feel so much safer.

You snivelling scaredy-cats really should take a good, hard look at yourselves.

"Land of the free" my ass.

Chap February 24, 2013 at 10:19 pm

This guy made flight attendants and pilots uncomfortable, so captain's decision is right.

This is sad and the ones I hated much are liars who made one appears the culprit when in truth, it was the FA who exaggerated her assumptions of you explaining yourself and giving her your business card with the "T" word cross-reference. What I have noticed also is the unilateral siding of the captain of his crew at the expense of a paying passenger and one which he is in the position to weigh everything in.

I welcome, as you wished, for an investigation into this so we ferret out the truth from the rubbish and restore your sullen reputation and erase the stigma the FA placed on us bloggers.

As a blogger myself, I took photos of the plane and its passengers while we were aground for weather reasons using even my DSLR and I have never experience this same scenario you are in, may be lucky or not, but I believe you do not deserve to be treaty so shabbily by the FA and the captain. They are both playing the upper-hand benefit to the detriment of all sane passengers.

Update us whatever goes out of the investigation. Bookmarked your site.

KIT February 24, 2013 at 11:23 pm

TO KATE (Post #706):

Wow what a bunch of defensive BS you have there. It sounds like you are that crazy FA. Let's assume all your speculation about the scene is true (I am not going to argue on that part, let's just assume you are correct), it STILL not justified for the FA to remove Matt. Let's assume Matt is really an asshole with his attitude, but being an FA its almost part of your job to deal with this type of customers. You should be professionally trained to handle this situation. Throwing someone off is just stupid. If this is justified, who know how many PAYING passengers are being thrown off the plan in every flight. IMO, the FA and captain think they are playing god here, and they clearly forgot the fact that they are SERVICING the PAYING passengers, its quite the other way around. The world has turned crazy.

KIT February 25, 2013 at 01:55 am

TO KATE (Post #706):

Wow what a bunch of defensive BS you have there. It sounds like you are that crazy FA. Let's assume all your speculation about the scene is true (I am not going to argue on that part, let's just assume you are correct), it STILL not justified for the FA to remove Matt. Let's assume Matt is really an asshole with his attitude, but being an FA its almost part of your job to deal with this type of customers. You should be professionally trained to handle this situation. Throwing someone off is just stupid. If this is justified, who know how many PAYING passengers are being thrown off the plan in every flight. IMO, the FA and captain think they are playing god here, and they clearly forgot the fact that they are SERVICING the PAYING passengers, its quite the other way around. The world has turned crazy.

KIT February 25, 2013 at 01:56 am

TO KATE (Post #706):

Wow what a bunch of defensive BS you have there. It sounds like you are that crazy FA. Let's assume all your speculation about the scene is true (I am not going to argue on that part, let's just assume you are correct), it STILL not justified for the FA to remove Matt. Let's assume Matt is really an asshole with his attitude, but being an FA its almost part of your job to deal with this type of customers. You should be professionally trained to handle this situation. Throwing someone off is just stupid. If this is justified, who know how many PAYING passengers are being thrown off the plan in every flight. IMO, the FA and captain think they are playing god here, and they clearly forgot the fact that they are SERVICING the PAYING passengers, its quite the other way around. The world has turned crazy.

IntheField February 25, 2013 at 02:05 am

I just don't understand why it is so difficult for each person to follow simply directions. She did her job, she asked, took the time to show you, and that in itself was generous, considering if you flew 950,000 miles and have been a 1K member from the age of 16, you should know better. Instead, you interrupted the person from doing her job, to explain your blog, as if she was going to say "OH SURE! You run a blog? You're exempt from that rule, the one you've been breaking for years".

Then you say terrorist, REALLY? No, REALLY? If you say Bomb, Terrorist, I got a gun, or anything like that at security, you won't be flying that day. I'm sure the Captain mis-understood or informed him about the other person taking pictures and mixed up the two. You are a adult and you are responsible for what happened. I to would have had you removed from the flight. It's not a private jet and it's not a bus, there are rules to follow, you break them and you pay for it.

So please don't sit here and blame and bad mouth the crew for doing their job!

Tom February 25, 2013 at 04:26 am

The only thing that my help is to boycott United as long as there are no consequences for the captain and the FA. If they succeed with such a behavior thing me even get worse for passengers.

Tom February 25, 2013 at 04:36 am

The only thing that my help is to boycott United as long as there are no consequences for the captain and the FA. If they succeed with such a behavior thing me even get worse for passengers.

Rob P February 25, 2013 at 08:08 am

After reading this story, I am amazed at how poorly the US-based carriers treat their passengers and am not surprised many have to merge or go bankrupt on a regular basis. I have to admit once I saw you used the word "terrorist" in a sentance, the end result didn't surprise me, but agree that how stupid do you need to be to take that word out of context and decide that the person is unsafe to fly because he used the T word... What is next?

However, I am MORE shocked at the amount of people defending this behavior due to a "better to be safe than sorry" comment OR saying his one minute conversation delayed the flight in any way... I have been on tons of flights were people chat up the FAs over a myriad of topics, and never once did it delay the flight. If his conversation was delaying the flight, all the FA had to say was "sir, can we discuss this after we are in the air?" and I am sure it would have ended briefly.

Paul February 25, 2013 at 10:32 am

So sorry to hear about your experience. I would like to cover your story on - do you have any objection to me reproducing the photograph on there, Matthew? Perhaps you could be so kind as to email me if that would be OK... thanks.

Billy Beck February 25, 2013 at 10:46 am

Kate @ #706: "It should be noted that being a flight attendant is a thankless job."

That is bloody nonsense, and my proof is the fact that you accept and deposit or cash your paycheck, you ignorant ditz.

Markroot February 25, 2013 at 11:09 am

OMG, that is very lame of UA. I would never ever fly with them again if I were you!

This is absolutely shocking. I was a couple of times reprimanded for taking pics in mid-air (on Air Portugal and Cape Verde Airlines) but nothing came of that. One more reason for us non-US to avoid flying any US carriers unless we have to.

Some Asian Flyer February 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm

English is not my first language so please bear with me.

I admire how Matt took the situation very calmly. Being thrown off a flight is traumatizing and humiliating. But his civility is outstanding. I personally interact with different people who think they are much superior than us asians yet all the outsource-able jobs are headed towards the east. Asian FAs are very admirable and patient. Yes, they even take passenger pictures or cockpit pictures with the pilots.

The fear is there, true but the only way for us to move on is to be vigilant and make sound judgements. The terrorist used in the sentence may have been the ultimate source of your demise in the flight but I was hoping the captain also listened to your side.

Probably the flight was delayed already, they should have paid for your alternate route fthough

Bill Horvath II February 25, 2013 at 01:43 pm

It's interesting to hear everyone's concern about getting pictures of the flight attendants and pilots. If you go to LinkedIn, search for "flight attendant", then filter your search by location (United States) and company (United Airlines), you can get plenty of really nice pictures of FAs. Same goes for pilots.

Cheryl Sammons February 25, 2013 at 01:51 pm

I found this story thru "The Blaze". I've never flown. Although I do have my passport, I've never had the opportunity to use it. From what I've read about your experience, I don't believe that I'll make United Airlines my first choice It will probably be my last choice. If I want to be treated that badly, I'd go to Turkey, Iran or Iraq. Sure don't need it from Americans

Keith Baker February 25, 2013 at 04:22 pm

Enough already! Everyone PLEASE stop arguing, and join me in giving little Matthew an Atomic Age Wedgie ... he DOES need his BVDs pulled up, out, and over his head.

The kid made a mistake. Cut him a break ... he'll learn when he grows up. Let's all move on, shall we?

CAL/UAL employee February 25, 2013 at 04:23 pm

I've worked with this organization for 16 years. And I honestly cannot figure out for the life of my why anyone has such dedication to such a despicable company. Sadly the FA's actions are a symptom of the corporate culture. A culture where anyone with any authority is stripped of that authority and forced to share that with the fork and spoon operators that were too stupid to make it through college. Captain have no authority. They go against the FA and then it turns into a HR issue. And speaking of FA's, I've had enough of this "here for your safety" BS. Toll both collectors, 16 year olds working their summer jobs at water parks and gas station employees have more of a direct impact to influence the safety of the general public than FA's do. What do they do...know how to open a door? Seriously? Thats all fine and well if the plane make it's in one piece. They are there to serve drinks and meals. Nothing more. Somehow there is still the glamor from years past when airplanes would actually crash and it was a dangerous job. It's not anymore. So get over it.

Otherwise I'm not sure why anyone would have such loyalty to a just downright evil and discussing corporation. They don't care about you, they don't care about your family and they don't care about safety. The only ones that do are the ones that actually touch the a/c. The pilots who want to arrive alive as well. The mechanic that signed his name. Everyone else only cares about moving revenue (because thats all you are) from point A to point B. If they cared about safety they wouldn't consistently try to farm out 40% of their domestic route structure the lowest bidding regionals! I remind you of the Buf crash. A crash because someone who couldn't get hired at any reputable airline because of his past poor performance was forced to go to a crap carrier that paid next to nothing. Yet Continental will certainly allow them to fly their feed for the right price.

Ahhh, off my soap box now.

Of course they dont want you to take pictures as they geoengineer the skies . AKA Chemtrails or SRM Solar Radiation Management .

Marlene February 25, 2013 at 08:05 pm

He says he didn't take anymore pictures but others around him were. If she was truly busy and there were others around him taking flash pics, perhaps she really thought it was HIM that was still taking photos? Maybe she didn't lie? Maybe she really did believe he was taking photos after being told not to? In this case she would be justified. I am not taking sides....but just trying to see perhaps the other side of things?

Laches February 25, 2013 at 08:16 pm

That this incident happened is not surprising. What is stunning to me is the divided reaction. I cannot believe how many apologists there are for the crew here. Under any rational, objective measure, their behavior was unacceptable and inexcusable. Going through the responses here, it seems that the arguments against Matt break down as follows:

1) They were correct to throw Matt off the flight because he violated airline policy

It's not clear at all that this is even correct, but even if it is, the notion that a violation of a vaguely-worded, rarely enforced policy buried in the in-flight magazine is legitimate grounds for removal is preposterous. If taking pictures is enough to get you booted from a plane, that needs to be posted much more prominently. I just took a flight where the inflight mag was over 130 pages. Am I to absorb the contents of this by osmosis upon boarding?

2) Matt was acting in an arrogant, entitled and confrontational manner when he attempted to explain himself to the FA

First of all, from my reading of the situation, he was not. As noted by other passengers this FA was raising her voices at other passengers for taking pictures and falsely asserting that this was a violation of FAA regs. It seems to me he was attempting to allay her irrational concerns. But even if he was acting like a self-important jerk, since when is that grounds for removal? So FA's should be able tell lies about people to get them to kicked off planes because they rub them the wrong way? Please. Welcome to the big bad world. Working in the travel industry means dealing with people who are tired, crabby and/or not very nice. If you can't take that, find another job. Don't go on a power trip and lie about them being a security risk who makes you uncomfortable to get them removed from the flight.

3) Matt used the T word!

Granted this was not the wisest choice of words, but come on, use common sense here.

None of these arguments is remotely persuasive or even worthy of being taken seriously. Matt was a paying customer. He demanded no more than the service he paid for. It's the FA's job to serve him. If she does not like that, she's free to resign at any time, and there is a long line of people who will happily take her place.

The attitude that law-abiding, paying customers should sit silently and tolerate this kind of treatment is unfathomable.

Greg February 26, 2013 at 04:07 am

United Airlines is a company like any other. To keep flying, they need to make money. The FA and Captain, and every staff member need people on the plane. to fill the seats. To keep them in a job. Don't fly with them, and they will not make money. Give your money to another airline, the would love to see the end of United Airlines. Believe me, this is how i live part of my life, it works, and makes me powerful. Money talks, and bull shit walks. Greg

Chicago Business Traveler February 26, 2013 at 01:41 pm

I would agree with the many 'comments' left on this incident. Specifically, the way you were treated by the FA & Captain, this was a very unprofessional treatment for a (any loyal business traveler) loyal UA 1K/GS passenger, to a considered 'Superior Airline' with seemingly great customer service. I due believe that an apology essential. I must say many passengers do forget what DID happen on 9/11, and it does make 'all' crewmembers more vigilant. Unfortunately, the use of the word 'terrorist' on any US airline is an immediate reason for any flight crew to remove that passenger, as a precautionary situation on any flight. Remember, I don't condone the way this was handled without a reflection of a professional approach to this situation.

tom February 26, 2013 at 07:42 pm

you think you are elite. "Held elite status."


you are better than no one else.

Brian February 26, 2013 at 09:02 pm

Some times these people who are in these positions of FA, Ticket, bag, scans, inspectors, police, guards etc, and other people in simular positions, are just on a power trip, with no common sense or courtesy at all. People on a power trip can cause havoc, in a person life.

Michael February 26, 2013 at 09:05 pm

If I was to read between the lines I would guess that more so the tone or attitude that has gotten the FA offside or upset, or maybe her will to come out on top/win, that pushed her to take it to the next level. I'm pretty sure if she said "don't take photo's" and if the the reponse was "ok sorry" then there would have been no consequence. So I believe the passenger and FA are both equally at fault. Is a shame it happened but as always it was the result of choices made. Next time be more polite and respect FA's authority when flying (even if she is a 8itch)

Perspective February 26, 2013 at 09:14 pm

UA has really dropped the ball. As a UA1K traveler, I understand the nature of this situation. Each UA FA is well past their use-by-date and usually comes with a big chip on their shoulder.

Other airlines have young, savvy, understanding FAs providing great service. e.g. Hawaiian, Virgin, Singapore, Cathay, Qatar, Emirates, etc. The captain is probably lamenting his Air Force glory days in a C-130 Hercules.

UA is losing passenger loyalty every single day.

David Langdown February 26, 2013 at 09:50 pm

How does the old saying go ?...........Only in America !

Sandy Skelton February 26, 2013 at 10:02 pm

That's disgusting. Shame on United. Now they get a review of a lifetime ... a shamful one, and justly deserved. :(

Steve C February 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm

You are obviously a fool for using the word "terrorist"! If I was a passenger and heard that I would most likely knock you out!! Think yourself lucky that you got off lightly!

Rick Molon February 26, 2013 at 10:55 pm

It sounds like you had the misfortune of coming across the biggest bitch in united airlines,every Organisation has one.

William February 26, 2013 at 11:04 pm

@Steve C: Why would you knock him out? Did you read his post on the word terrorism today?

Domo February 26, 2013 at 11:28 pm

The moral of the story here is don't fly United Airlines! I've flown all over the world on many different carriers including United and they are way down the list of any airline that I would chose!

World's Best Airlines for 2012 Top 10; 1. Qatar Airways 2. Asiana Airlines 3. Singapore Airlines 4. Cathay Pacific Airways 5. ANA All Nippon Airways 6. Etihad Airways 7. Turkish Airlines 8. Emirates 9. Thai Airways International 10. Malaysia Airlines

For the US, Air Canada comes in at #19, Virgin America #26, Alaska #49, SouthWest #51, Jet Blue #52, Delta #57, etc. United Airlines comes in at #64!!!

Matthew you're young and you made a rookie mistake - you should have flown the 7th best airline in the world Turkish Airlines who fly from JFK to Istanbul. I know you have 950,000 flying miles with them but United is the 64th best airline in the world for a reason, and you just found out why! Expand your horizones Matt and start trying other airlines - you'll notice the difference!

lexmc February 27, 2013 at 12:56 am

9/11 was a tragic event with horrendous consequences for so many people but I'm afraid that after so many years have passed, America, you need yo let it go! Get over yourselves or you know what? The terrorists have won!!

Unbelievable February 27, 2013 at 02:05 am

What an absolute joke...

I have been fortunate to fly to a few countries and the Airline staff in the United Stated (generally) has been my worst flying experience ever. I always breathe a sigh of relief when I get on a connecting flight that ins't from USA.

And to the people above posting in this thread, he said the word terrorist, big bloody deal, it was said in the right context, stating his intentions.

The phrase 'T word' is just a typical over-sensitive reaction, stop using it, its just making you look as stupid as the United Airlines Hostess.

J February 27, 2013 at 02:33 am

Reading your story, I am not surprised of the untruthfulness displayed by the FA. As a detective of police previously working at an airport, I regularly investigated offences that occurred within the aviation sector, and on flights. It wasn't long before I found that Airlines will not support any PAX over their crew, and will go to every extent, even lie on oath, to protect their business name (especially you Virgin Australia). I further found that it was quite common that FA's often abused their 'so called' authority provided through the Aviation Security Act/Regulations (keeping in mind the current over-the-top aviation security measures in place - which is extremely over-the-top with the Yanks). Yes, FA's often did and do stretch the truth of an incident, especially when it comes to being heard. All I can say is that you will not win this fight with the airline. But you can spread your experience and take your business elsewhere! From what I read so far, it seems to be already working. Can’t say I would like to fly with United!

Rod of Australia February 27, 2013 at 03:16 am

I wonder if someone sat cold stone dead quiet in their seat so as not to attract attention that they would they be deemed a threat and kicked off.

Terry Wood February 27, 2013 at 03:44 am

I was looking to take a return United Flight from Australian to the USA later in the year, based on this I'm going to look for another carrier in protest.

DarrenB February 27, 2013 at 04:53 am

This week I flew from Sydney to Amsterdam on Emirates and as I stood at the bar in the back of the A380, the staff bought out a polaroid camera, they asked if I wanted a picture. I got a photo with the crew and bar and they put it in a postcard style frame and signed it.

Great Marketing, Brilliant.

C. Morrison February 27, 2013 at 05:28 am

Time to sack the FA! Not good enough.

Dan February 27, 2013 at 04:17 pm

I don't know if anyone else mentioned this, but if you used the iPhone to take the photo couldn't you have shown it to the FA to verify that only one photo of your seat back was taken? And couldn't he have shown the iPhone to the captain for verification?

Kevin February 28, 2013 at 12:37 am

It's interesting that the captain referred to the flight attendant as an "FA." I had never heard that term until this article, but I figured it out. A mark against the captain is that he would use jargon that a passenger might not understand, during a conversation in which he's trying to clearly communicate his desire for you to leave the plane. From that alone, he seems kind of snooty, with no time for little people.

On the other hand, I wouldn't have called the flight attendant a liar. I would have said she's mistaken, or that maybe she didn't notice that I'd stopped taking pictures. I would have offered to show her or the captain my phone, as proof. No need to start calling people names in this situation.

Dana February 28, 2013 at 05:38 am

I am actually repulsed reading this and very sorry this happened to you.

I had a similar horrendous experience with US Airways, I have decided that US carriers have nothing but hate and contempt for their passengers so I try never to fly with them. Virgin, JetBlue and SouthWest have been major exceptions for me and I'll happily pay more to fly with my chosen airline over United, US Airways, Continental, etc.

You are way too nice and accomodating of their disgusting, bullying, hateful behaviour. The FA and captain do not deserve their jobs and an airline with a culture like that doesn't deserve to be in business.

The FA who made comment #38, you also don't deserve to have your job. I wouldn't let you operate a drive through at a burger joint with your shitty attitude. Maybe you could apply to the correctional facility in your state? You personality might be fitting for the maximum security population there instead.

Mark February 28, 2013 at 10:06 am

It's "Sky Waitress" not "Flight Attendant"

Alison February 28, 2013 at 10:44 am

I do not fly American based airlines unless I have to. I was shocked the first time I flew on Caffay Pacific. What a total change from the treatment I routinely receive on US airlines. I fly a lot for business. So, when possible, I choose anything other that US based as the crews are always much better.

John Maxwell February 28, 2013 at 06:40 pm

I got a link to read this article. I'm sorry to see this happened to you! That having been said, I'm surprised this was a surprise to you. You should have made every effort to pre-emptively made the statement right as the FA was returning from the conversation with the other passenger she told to stop taking pictures within the cabin. This is obviously a case of you being guilty of starting a "Monkey-See, Monkey-Do".

If they feel in anyway your, presence is a security breech, you are gone. They reserve the right to refuse service. This is the new modern reality since 9/11. To a degree, get used to it. This is the modern reality... Next time you may need to consider your approach, and seek clearance ahead of time to take pitcures for your blog, unless you want to go through what you went through here, to happen again.

For a man who claims to boast a professional blog, reviewing flight accommodations and hospitality, it a mazes me to think you would be that short sighted to think of these things. This should have all been self explanatory with the implementation of U.S. Air Marshalls now being required to fly random flights, and pack guns. Are you really that distracted by your own sense of self-importance, not to think about this ahead of time???

Matt March 1, 2013 at 01:04 am

You said the word Terrorist and were taken off the flight as expected. What else did you expect?

Steve March 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Sucks to be you, but you don't have a right to fly, it's a privilege. My guess is they didn't like your joke about not being a terrorist and your pretentious attitude because you're a blogger.

RCM March 1, 2013 at 01:25 pm

For Matt (reply 760.

Could you please give us all the master list of word we are not allowed to say on an airplane? I can't seem to find it on my contract of carriage, my ticket, nor in the in-flight magazine. Strange, that. Since you seem to be saying that the simple use of the word, "terrorist," makes one deserving of being removed from a plane, please supply us with the TSA approved master list.


Observing March 2, 2013 at 05:46 am

To people defending UA: Use your brains people- UA was out of line and obviously over reacted - he didnt deserve to be kicked off the plane because he tried to explain why he took photos or used the word terrorist. Everyone who is backing up UA is obviously ok with this treatment, UNTIL it happens to them. Oh, and stop hating on this guy because he has status and is a blogger- you just sound jealous and lose all credibility.

We and I just switched to united - guess ill stick with delta and American. At least they smile when they are condescending to you. United just sounds nasty

In the end we are customers, not a nuisance. We should be treated that way.

LEO FEWTRELL March 2, 2013 at 08:19 am

Steve #761 What a knob you must be. Where is the privilege in paying to fly?Is it a privilege to ride in a taxi? The FA, cabin crew, call them whatever, are paid to provide a service on board a flight and most successful airlines these days train their cabin crew to provide maximum customer service whilst being totally aware of any real threats to the safety and well-being of passengers and crew. Perhaps this is why most of the legacy carriers, particularly American airlines, are struggling so badly.

Bernie March 2, 2013 at 01:01 pm

can anyone among those taking the airline side explain to me how using the word "terrorist" could jeopardize in any way the safety of a flight?

Aside from the fact that you go through multiple safety checks prior boarding the plane, if there would be a terrorist on board I guess he would not stand up and explain it to the FA before taking off...

What's scary is not somebody taking pictures or discussing about terrorism, but those who surrendered even the slightest critical capability and accept whatever moronic law, rule or regulation comes from any govt. agency.

Freedom flushed down the toilet, which is exactly the goal of the terrorist in the first place...

lexmc March 4, 2013 at 02:57 am

It's no wonder that so many international travelers consider US airlines to be simply a "Greyhound bus" in the sky. If you've ever traveled on an Asian or Middle Eastern upper level Carrier or Qantas or Air New Zealand I'm afraid that most US airlines rate very poorly indeed! As someone once said "it's about the customers stupid!" which seems to have been totally forgotten by most US airlines.

Nick March 6, 2013 at 12:12 am

I quit flying UA back in 1984 and haven't looked back. I flew TWA exclusively until the merger, then switched to AA and stuck with them until I spite of the fact that more than a few of the AA cabin crew were nasty crones. I'd smile my way through the flight then call the exec. platinum desk and file a complaint.

All that said, I was denied boarding at LAX when I made serious fun of a TSA agent that called me out for special attention/inspection catching my connection from CSL to OAK. I had sailed a boat down to Cabo and was flying home in shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops. My sea bag was checked, and the ONLY things I had in my possession was a wallet, passport, and ticket. This numbskull TSA agent made me remove my floppies so she could wand my bare feet. I got booted when I suggested that she get a basin filled with warm water and play Mary Magdalene.
I don't know if it was the washing my feet thing or the thinly veiled insult that put me at the Hertz counter, but I learned that some of these people are a bit twitchy.

J Willie March 6, 2013 at 07:17 pm

United has turned into the worst of the worst. I had already decided last year never to fly them again. This just seals the deal. Thanks.

Buckeyebubba March 6, 2013 at 07:17 pm

I would't have gone easy. Let them call the cops, make a scene, make them late, piss on them. This crap is far out of hand. Folks need to stop rolling over and playing dead. The wimp factor seems to have set in to everyone these days. Doesn't anyone have an backbone anymore to challenge this crap?

Buckeyebubba March 6, 2013 at 07:17 pm

I would't have gone easy. Let them call the cops, make a scene, make them late, piss on them. This crap is far out of hand. Folks need to stop rolling over and playing dead. The wimp factor seems to have set in to everyone these days. Doesn't anyone have an backbone anymore to challenge this crap?

Dave March 6, 2013 at 07:21 pm

You have discovered that the Continental friendliness still runs through United more than a year after the merger.

Jeff March 6, 2013 at 07:21 pm

This attitude by the airline employees is a direct result of our busy-body, nanny government giving the cabin crew un-earned and mis-used authority to be important. I really wish this incident had been recorded and if the account is accurate, the cabin crew dismissed. Respect is earned, not handed to you by some simple minded political hack. With the airline consolidation underway expect more of the same treatment as the airlines know you really don't have much choice who you fly with. Unless you have Air Force One in your pocket, and everyone else paying for it for you.

H Michael Hawkins March 6, 2013 at 07:23 pm

I hate the airline industry....especially the government (TSA, Law Enforcement, FAA, etc.)side of it. I hope you can find a good reason to sue these bastards, and find other ways to make life uncomfortable for them. The pilot and flight crew sound like people who should not be flying passengers anywhere. I hope you got his name, and filed a report on his rudeness and hostility. What a bunch of anal orifices!

Craig Mc March 6, 2013 at 07:25 pm

Who's really surprised? United! My 25 year allegiance as a high mileage frequent flier with United ended this year because of similar customer "service".

BretL March 6, 2013 at 07:57 pm

Why the need to explain to the FA? Put the camera away and move on to documenting your flight experience.

Matthew, your pride created the situation: you felt that you had to say "You clearly don't understand, FA, do you know who I am?".

You should get over the "indignation" because far too many people are truly mistreated (forced prositution, slave labor, etc.). Unfortunately, the airline has to now focus on you and this ridiculous "travesty".

From one 1k (1,010,000 miles at 49 years old) to another: I hope you find some perspective on this when you are a bit older.

All the best.

Joe Rosis March 6, 2013 at 08:00 pm

Alls I can say is all airlines suck equally. They overcharge and underperform. This was an international flight to Turkey Why didn't Big Sis's thugs pipe in....... Or did they?

JD March 6, 2013 at 08:00 pm

Allegiant Air is also famous for throwing people off their flights for nothing and reporting to the police the person is combative. Don't believe me, complain about the filth in their lavatories and you'll find out. Moreover, they have NO Customer Service Department so don't bother trying to complain to a higher authority.

Sounds like United employees are not allowed to think or use common sense. They do seem to enjoy their power trips, don't they?

This is the first time I've heard of a rule about taking photos- you might think they'd announce it if it was so important. I guess they're too busy announcing the obvious, like stay seated when the seatbelt sign is lit.

Anyway, looks like you're getting some good publicity and traffic from your blog from this incident.

LT Mack March 6, 2013 at 09:21 pm

And this is why I never fly United.... there are truly evil people that work for that outfit.

Indiana Jones March 6, 2013 at 09:21 pm

It is because of incidents like this and how COdbaUA crews treat their passengers, that I will not fly them. If I am going to spend my hard earned money to take a flight, I will be damned that I am going to be treated like a 5 year old kid by some nit wit FA. This is an endemic problem with the coddled and over entitled CO crews. I fly multiple times a week for work and live in a hub city (CLE) and after about 6 months of this crap I permanently swore off COdbaUA for good. I will fly connections on Delta or fly in the cattle car that is Southwest before I ever darken the door of COdbaUA ever again!

Brian March 6, 2013 at 09:21 pm

Seems like if you're a student, and you still have money enough to rack up a million frequent-flyer miles, then you may just be a spoiled little twit from the Mainline or Chestnut Hill, but don't worry, you'll grow up sometime.

JAL March 6, 2013 at 09:27 pm

Most everyone is missing the point that the reason given for being tossed was the FA's claim that Matt refused to stop taking pictures, not his disclaimer that he wasn't a terrorist.


Me: Can you tell me why?

Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.


Refusing to follow a FA's directions gets you thrown off a flight. That is the crux of this problem.

In this case the FA lied about a passenger for heaven knows why. That's disturbing.

Let that be a lesson to you.

Stay the hell off United.

Your story here, and many others, is part and parcel of why I do NOT fly any more. I don't care for a colonoscopy administered by idiots, nor do I care to have PC flight crew adjudge an American citizen as a terrorist and decide purposely to kick common sense, rationality, proportion and logic to the curb. I do not submit to simpletons.

You took a photograph of a friggin' SEAT, for Christ's sake!


Monisha Das March 6, 2013 at 09:57 pm

Seems to me that service just keeps getting worse. It is not about honoring the customer anymore. I have had FAs who have taken a photo of me when requested. Too bad you met this one.

There MUST be a new policy of ZERO TOLERANCE for Zero Tolerance. Rules in the hands of people incapable of common sense are bringing the country to its knees in laughter and derision. But sadly the results are often no joke at all.

One doesn't have to look far to find jerks.

Rich March 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm

This is more vindication to me for abandoning United for any flights over 10 years ago.

Chuck March 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I believe your story. People are generally paranoid about cameras but people on Facebook take pictures of the most stupid things. My guess is she got you mixed up with the other passenger taking pictures who wouldn't stop and blamed you.

In defense of the captain, he shouldn't have to fly the plane agitated so he did the right thing by not looking at you. In other words, someone else should be responsible for your unfortunate event and it wasn't the airline.

Kay March 6, 2013 at 10:48 pm

There are definitely some words that will cause a red flag. The word "terrorist" is a big no no and if you have a friend flying on board named Jack whatever you do don't greet him with the words, "Hi Jack". My elderly mother-in-law will be taking a flight this March and she sometimes will says something without thinking I just hope she makes it aboard without an incident. If she got kicked off a flight they would have to deal with an elderly woman crying!

Isaack March 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Seems like a rerun of Meet the Parents, when Stiller used the B word Bomb. Yea the crew could have handled it differently but the OP should have complied and then said nothing else.

By trying to explain away I would have thought he was going at sometime start taking pics again since it seems he was so eager to explain his side and to me that implied he was hoping to get her OK to take so more pics.And I wouldnt be a bit surprised if that was his real intent

Since it seems the OP was using a GPU that meant at leasta W fare. But plenty of 1Ks have spends that are well below a 5 figure total and plenty of folks jumped on MR fares. So if a person doesnt have a Spend > $10k, Id say dont play the 1K card

Scott March 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Until people decide to boycott these prima donna airlines this kind of arrogance will persist. You'd think in this day and age with social media and the ability to spread negative experiences like wild fire they would get it. This makes me want to avoid ever booking with United. Yes, I'd be giving it to another prima donna, but we'll send messages one airline at a time.

Egeralch Gezitch March 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I hate flying.

I hate the TSA; it was Bush's fault. Someone should run for president solely on the platform that he/she would eliminate the TSA. Ok fire them just like the Air Traffic Controllers of the 80s. They would win as long as they threw in a few free cell phones too. But I digress.

I hate United cattle cars.

Now I hate United FAs, oh and United pilots.

I do remember the good ole days of flying though. Will those days ever return? Why is this business segment getting worse and worse...?

jcwink March 7, 2013 at 12:29 am

Thank You for speaking the truth.. Will continue to check you blog...

David March 7, 2013 at 01:10 am

I am incredulous that a captain would throw you off the plane for taking a picture (even if it were against airline policy). If the captain wields such power flippantly then he must be accountable and he deserves to have his name published. The FA deserves a significant reprimand as well.

Nick Lachey March 7, 2013 at 01:25 am

In the United States, I am concerned that we are beginning to accept oppressive corporate decisions as if we have no option, and that we are to be obedient citizens, and follow without question. When it comes to safety, the watch word should be 'procedure without prejudice' - that is a tolerant but clearly demarked policy - that way an FA does not have to lie in order to attain a rule compliance. If a FA feels she must lie, in order to attain safety, then something is wrong.

In this case, it was a clear feeling of POWER on her part, the ability to control people's lives by the wave of your hand. It infects everyone who is granted it. In India - the people were told they would start consuming GMO corn from the US. They said "Not only NO, but we will stop selling the US food from India." They were given the right to say NO.

But sadly, the compliant US Citizen was not even offered a choice, we were just told - You are now eating 95% of your corn from GMO seeds, obey or leave......

Corporate power over our time, money, health, and "safety" is too large. We need another 1905 Sherman Anti-Trust Butt Whoopin on the corporations which run America now.

ExecutineOne March 7, 2013 at 02:34 am

Matt: In the article that I read, it stated you are a " STUDENT" that has "racked up a million travel miles" . Your a "student" , what's your day job whinning about an isolated incident. WHY did you have to make a big deal out of something that under normal circumstances would not make a pimple on one's ass!You travelled a million miles...where do you get the time and money. Probably a little rich boy that has Mom & Dad's backing as you could not get a real job. Put away your boy's pant's , suck it up and become a man!

@ExecutineOne: Students aren't always teenagers. I work hard for my money and receive no contributions from my parents, the government, or anyone else...

But I wouldn't classify myself as a student.

Audax March 7, 2013 at 03:27 am

Matthew, get your status changed to a different Airlines or, if you want to keep your status with UA, fly international flights on UA Star Alliance partners like Singapore Air, Royal Thai, Swiss, Lufthansa, or Austrian.

Was so disappointed when the worst airline in the US (United) bought one of the better airlines (CO). As a former Houston resident CO was great for domestic flights but I rarely flew them on International flights except to Central America. International airlines, especially ones from Asia offer a much better flying experience. When I was about Matthews age and living in Chicago UA was THE airline but I never had a good experience with UA so I stopped flying on United, same with Northworst. Glad I learned my UA lesson young! (The other lesson learned young was NEVER fly in coach/economy, EVER). Then we lived in Singapore for 5 years! Guess which airline we fell in love with! Now retired and living in Europe, wifey and I travel a lot mostly to Asia and intra-Europe, lots of great Airlines in Star Alliance with great service that know how to put the customer first. With the 9/11 aftermath effecting air travel so in US we have only flown back once in the last 7 years when my father passed and I had the unpleasant experience of having my "junk" fondled by the TSA on our departure. We have no plans to ever return.

Stuart B. March 7, 2013 at 04:05 am

Your sense of entitlement is pervasive thru out our society. We believe we have every right to do whatever we want and nobody should say the word "NO" to us. If they say no, they will have to go thru a long explanation of why they denied us something, or we are due some sort of recourse.
You are not supposed to photograph the interior of an airliner, you and everyone else. That is the issue. The end. But no. You have been told by your parents or teachers or you just developed that feeling that you can do whatever you want any time you want because you are just so perfect that everything you do is perfect and no one should ever question or stop you from doing whatever it is you want to do because you are just you and you are so great! No one should challenge your judgement about what you want to do, no one. No photography of internal airline structure, period! No discussion. No arguing, no handing out of your cards. No photography of internal airline structure. End of the issue. Get over this self importance, narcissism. This will not happen because so many others are just like you and will bolster your opinion because they think like you do. I read the other comments.

Stu Wilde March 7, 2013 at 04:11 am

The larger problem is the balance of power has shifted considerably in the direction of the airlines. Years ago, airlines were falling all over themselves being nice, gracious, courteous and coming up with free extras all the time.

Maybe it was 9/11 or maybe not, but for the past decade with the consolidation of airlines and the traveling habits of the consumer, I feel as though passengers are getting the short end of the stick -- with fewer services, higher services, more connecting flights and just a general latent hostility from flight crews -- who think nothing of kicking someone off a flight.

Combine that with intrustive, invasive security checks in airports and you have a truly intolerable experience.

dave March 7, 2013 at 04:28 am

What terrible UA people you encountered!! Typical Union types, that have no interest in treating the customer in a professional manner!

@Stuart B.: No.

Why shouldn't I photograph the interior of the airline? Especially when UA's own rules say it is okay?

George March 7, 2013 at 07:04 am

My wife and I encountered a similar FA powertrip on an Airtran flight a few years ago. We were flying from Boston to Atlanta and had paid for an upgrade to business class so my wife could be more comfortable (she suffers from fibromyalgia). We were waiting to "push back from the gate when the Captain announced we would be delayed about 30 minutes. In an effort to get comfortable, my wife tilted her seatback a minimal amount. This male FA through a "hissy fit" and said the seats were supposed to be in the full upright position. When I explained the situation and repeated what the Captain had just said, he said he didn't care, just do what he, the FA said. When I asked for his name, he thrust his nametag toward my wife and stated "Can you read?". It took ALL of my willpower to not get up and trounce the little twerp. But, having worked for the FAA and now in law enforcement, I kept my cool. I knew the trouble these weak people could cause.

We get the last laugh, though. We no longer fly on Airtran and I have a very large circle of friends. The word has a way of getting out.

Thank you for your part in letting the worls know about these people who can only have control over anything because the Government says they can.

Good luck.

Flyer Bob March 7, 2013 at 07:16 am

Where's the other pics hero? You were taking other shots which got you into hot water. Mr. Bigtime blogger indeed! congratulations on your 15 minutes of fame, you'll be forgotten soon. Jerk.

Research Guy March 7, 2013 at 07:38 am

Well, this incident has caused me to change my flight plans for early April. Cancelled my flight on UA and switched to another carrier. The only way we as consumers can fight back is to take our business elsewhere. When UA runs out of money...they go out of business, or get bought or get bailed out LOL.

At any rate, UA has lost my business for such a stupid incident.

Jersey March 7, 2013 at 08:33 am

You said the word "terrorist" on a case please!

daisy the moo cow March 7, 2013 at 08:44 am

I have had a similar experience on a different airline. So I don't think this is a UA specific issue. Airlines seem to be sensitive to certain key words. Even if used in combination with the emphatic word "Not".

I have three theories about this.

First, airlines think terrorists and bomb-makers are revealed by inadvertent slips of the tongue. My question. Is there any science which suggests use of words like terrorist or bomb is, in fact, an occasional feature of terrorist conversation with flight attendants? -as in, "please be careful of my bag as I have a bomb in my luggage. Whoops." Have they ever captured a terrorist that way? Somehow, I doubt it. Indeed, I'd have guessed the use of such words was very likely an indicator that someone has nothing to hide.

Second, maybe they see certain words as like yelling fire in a crowded theater. They think they make other passengers nervous. But it doesn't sound like you were yelling. Maybe it is the FAs who become fearful in the presence of naughty, insensitive words.

Third, perhaps airline attorneys and security people have created a set of rules about use of language that are as inflexible as they are dumb. And so crew members do not distinguish between a sentence that says "I am NOT a terrorist" while holding a camera from one that says "I am a terrorist" while holding a gun. In which case, both words and normal levels of intelligence are apparently banned. But at least the attorneys and security people are seen to be doing something useful. Like when they managed to get coffee cups worldwide to include the admonition "CAUTION. MAY BE HOT."

If they have a list of prohibited words, I think they should make the list available. So we can all identify the extent of the difficulty. Maybe there are all sorts of words and sentences to avoid. Perhaps "sardine can" or "cattle" or "rubber chicken" or "does the airline's ceo make all that money because he supplies this appalling service" or "why the heck do I pay a luggage fee" or "how can I watch the movie when the person in front of me is leaning their seat back so the screen is under my chin" are also on the proscribed list.


Maxwell March 7, 2013 at 08:45 am

This abuse of power by the FA should be investigated. If she has lied, she needs to be reprimanded or even fired. UA, I will NOT fly with you any more due to the actions of a POS FA and Captain.

Aplacky March 7, 2013 at 09:19 am

Both the author and the airline over-reacted. The author was done wrong (sort of: taking pictures on a plane is creepy) but spare the drama. Until, of course, you are in court claiming PTSD and negligent infliction of emotional distress. I hope I'm on the jury: I'll award $1.00. To United Airlines.

bim March 7, 2013 at 09:22 am

Why would you ever fly United again?

bim March 7, 2013 at 09:22 am

Why would you ever fly United again?

Brett H March 7, 2013 at 09:27 am

To hell with United (and American/US Scareways). First my condolences to all former Continental employees and customers to have been relented to these utter losers. I do not and will not be a customer of thiers after years of 3rd rae service and equipment. They have the typical unionized mentality at every level. Thank god for my great experiences with Delta Airlines, one of the few remaining airline companies where the Customer does come first whenever possible.

As for the experience with your camera, even their policy is not concise nor funtional, as it is completely contradictory. As a customer, you should be at your attorney's office preparing a lawsuit againt United Airlines and the flight crew involved in the incident for their incompetence and the degrading atmosphere they createdm not to mention your lost time and costs incurred.

Jon March 7, 2013 at 09:37 am

I'm sorry this happened to you. I will be making that same flight in the near future on UA, I will not be taking any photographs.:) I just want to be upgraded to Business! :)

u600213 March 7, 2013 at 10:00 am

Congratulations on your story being picked up by media and making the front page of today's

Dave March 7, 2013 at 10:12 am

Another excellent example of an idiot flight attendant, a moron captain and lousy service from a airline, lawyer up. Don't tolerate that sort of behavior. Make them explain it in court. I take pictures all the time on aircraft, the difference being that I only take pictures to the outside, nothing inside. I would watch my wording VERY carefully these days, everybody and their fourth cousin is really touchy about the word terrorist.

ZAMA March 7, 2013 at 10:26 am

The word “Terrorist” did not “Help!” Having flown on many airlines, I have noticed the “Thrill of Flying” is not a delightful experience as it used to be. From showing up at the airport-Checking in-TSA-boarding the aircraft-the flight itself-arrival at destination-baggage claim, etc. Most of the FA’s on overseas routes have been around the block and I have found not very tentative as the new FA’s who are flying the domestic routes and are more interested in doing what they have planned at arrival destination-shopping, etc.. I too am a (Not Loyal) United Frequent flyer and am thinking of cashing in (600,000+ miles) and trying another carrier due to United’s perception/realization of their customers.

Woody March 7, 2013 at 10:28 am

I avoid UA at all costs - literally. I have seldom found their personnel accommodating in any way - with one exception where a gate agent was very helpful.

Frequent Flyer March 7, 2013 at 10:30 am

You were informed by a UA representative that you were violating the policies you agreed to by buying the ticket. Instead of trying to accomodate, you argued why you should be treated differently.

You deserved to be thrown off the flight. Enjoy your 15 minutes.

James Orleans March 7, 2013 at 10:45 am

Why not name the captain? And why not name the lying flight attendant for that matter?

Until such rude bullies are held personally (my emphasis) accountable for their behavior, it will never change.

harkin March 7, 2013 at 11:02 am

You had me till you used the word "terrorist".....then "rollerboard" sealed the deal - I mean wtf lol.

There's this really hot TSA worker in a certain CA airport. We (myself and my friends who use that airport) call her "Miss TSA". I saw her one day and used my IPhone to take a photo of her....MISTAKE.....another TSA worker rushed over and started telling me it was against the law to take photos inside the TSA area (he didn't even know what I had photoed, just that it was bad bad bad. He was looking around and trying to get someone over to either help him out or give him guidance on how to handle me and my dangerous IPhone but everyone was busy and he just said, "look, you can't do that, get out of here" and let me go on my way.

Tem Hornaday March 7, 2013 at 11:08 am

In 2000, flying Dulles to San Diego on United, I missed my connecting flight in Denver. They did not bother to hold the connecting flight gate open an additional five minutes for the connecting passenger, in spite of my requests to crew to "phone ahead." I raced from gate to gate with roller bag, only to find the door closed. Gazing out the window, the plane was still parked with doors open and catering truck along side. United blamed the missed connection on weather -- no hotel voucher or any consideration given. It was the last flight of the day, the plane had no schedule connections to make, so there was no compelling reason to not hold the plane. I wanted to ask a United employee, "You're not really in the customer service business, are you?" I spent the night in the terminal while all the United employees went home. I wrote a polite but aggreived letter to the home office. I got a photocopied form letter reply -- no apology included -- that basically said, "stuff happens" and a $70 discount coupon for my next United flight -- which went in the trash.

jms March 7, 2013 at 11:12 am

Never mess with a guy who buys internet by the barrel.

Lisa March 7, 2013 at 11:12 am

While the decision to remove you from the flight was a hugely unexpected inconvenience for you, and while I agree that the photo did not violate any staff/passenger privacy, I think that your decision to not let the matter rest after the FA's initial "reprimand", and then to use the word terrorist are the real reasons you were removed from the flight. Perhaps that's why it stings so much - as these things do with all of us; we realize how drastically different the outcome would've been, if we hadn't let our pride compromise our better judgment. Stop letting it eat at you - it isn't worth it. Happy travels.

Chris March 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

I flew United Newark to Houston last month and it was the worst experience: late flight, missed connection, delayed luggage, theft from luggage, incredibly rude ground staff and customer service agents lied to me and insulted me on the phone. I will never fly United again.

Angiela March 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm

A great illustration of why I refuse to fly a US based carrier if there are any alternatives ! Yes, using the word "terrorist" was not the ideal way of handling the situation, but quite honestly, how many of us would have done the exact same thing, under the circumstances ? And, if we're going to "forbid" the use of certain words, why not just preemptively ban anyone names Jack from boarding a plane, just in case someone says "Hi !" to them ?

This obsession with banning photography reminds me of a similar policy in effect in Eastern Europe during the Soviet era. It certainly sounds like United has adopted the friendly policies of Aeroflot of that era , as well .

Rose March 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Just writing from experience, there are a lot and I mean a lot of FA out there ( especially on the United side of the airline) that take themselves way to Seriously. As a FA on an unnamed airline stuff like this never happen to me because I refuse to treat passengers like children. FA love to treat people like that ( Granted some passengers do act like children) but most just want to get to point A to point B. I hate when I hear about stuff like this, it makes my job so much harder. Unfortunately there is really nothing you can do their Union will protect them an they will continue to treat passengers like this and worse. I'm sorry to hear this happen an am embarrassed too. I love my job and enjoy working with passenger, we are not all like this. Unfortunately we are out numbered I'm afraid.

Jake March 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Just sue them. Sue the airline and sue the FA for lying. I'm not a litigious person, but this does two things. #1 - the airline will settle this out of court and you'll get a nice reward for your troubles. #2 - if everyone sued for this type of treatment the airlines could not manage to pay out settlements all the time forcing them to rethink their rules and positions on matters.

Angiela March 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The fact that UA immediately took steps to rebook your flight indicates to me that they knew the entire situation was bogus. If they truly believed you were a threat, would they not have immediately turned you over to the tender mercies of the Volkspolezei - err, sorry, I meant the TSA, I get the two mixed up all the time !

Shawn March 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I also have to admit that this was a really stupid action on the part of the United Crew. Something I seen while in the DFW airport the other day, flying united is the express lane through the TSA checkout. I was in economy and while I walked up to the TSA security check point was directed by a united agent to enter a specific isle way. While standing there I noticed a shorter line to the TSA agent and realized that they were directing priority card holders through a short line to the same TSA security officer. Had I been cranky that day I would have said something. TSA is a government run agency and should have no affiliation with any of the airlines. Next time I am sure I will let them know that they have no authority in checking people in with the TSA. The other thing that troubled me was that I saw United customer go through a United screening and bypassed the first TSA security check point, verifying ticket and identification. I will have to do a little checking and see if there are any TSA provisions for allowing third party companies or air lines in performing some of the functions normally assigned to TSA.

David March 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm

This kind of stuff has been happening more and more frequently. It is a shame that you were treated like this. Hopefully by your experience is being thrown around the internet and linked to sites like drudgereport and nbc news, that something will happen. I have used United many times but their service and caring for the customer has really failed over the years. It is a shame.

David March 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm

This kind of stuff has been happening more and more frequently. It is a shame that you were treated like this. Hopefully by your experience is being thrown around the internet and linked to sites like drudgereport and nbc news, that something will happen. I have used United many times but their service and caring for the customer has really failed over the years. It is a shame.

John from NJ March 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Unfortunately for me, lving in close proximity to Newark Liberty, United is my hub carrier. Continental, in my mind, used to be the best of the large American carriers, which is not saying much. However, from the onset of the merger, Continental's standards seem to have stooped to the United level of service which includes angry, irritated and unfriendly staff and meals for purchase and all around unpleasantness.

Unfortunately, airline travel which used to be part of the fun has now become a struggle from the moment you enter the terminal to the moment you leave. And with the reduced number of flights we have lost all negotiation ability. These airlines have us by the short hairs and they know it.

Zain March 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I used to fly continental airlines and now fly United. I have flown over 660000+ miles with continental and that is not counting the miles before I got around to joining the frequent flyer club. I liked Continental's BF philosophy as opposed to the three class system of other airlines. When they merged with United I remember getting a survey in which I told Continental that they needed to retrain the United staff to match continental staff service. I was under the mistaken impression that Continental was taking over United. I guess that retraining never happened. Hopefully this fracas will open management's eyes on the need to retrain their staff and keep customers happy.

Joseph Blough March 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm

This is what happens when unions take over. Good luck getting any of the UA idiots involved in this debacle fired, let alone even punished. The further you remove someone from the consequences of their actions, the worse their behavior becomes.

To the few morons posting that the passenger was in the wrong here, all I can say is thank God there are so few blind and spineless obedient fools like you posting here. Grow up.

Boycott United Airlines. We must fight stupidity or it will take over.

Pat March 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm

If this is how United conducts business with its passengers, I'll be looking for alternatives with other airlines. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Mark March 7, 2013 at 01:03 pm


I am a captain with Virgin America. You are welcome to fly on us and take as many photos as you wish of our cabin and, if you ask nicely, our hot FA's as well!

Sean Alaska March 7, 2013 at 01:05 pm

I think from the way this issue was written, we have a communication problem. Let me explain; You were directed to stand down from taking photos. Shortly thereafter you were asked to deplane. When you contacted the captain, he explained what he was aware of, in a most abbreviated sense I'd imagine, and had made a decision. By you responded by telling him that his flight attendant lied. This is confrontational and accusatory. You now have effectively challenged the Captain and he has to either reconsider his decision, with some sort of cursory investigation or just keep life simple and remove the person who is not only the apparent source of the problem but is also using inflammatory language ('she is lying'). The writer doesnt 'really' know what was said, who said it and if in fact, she lied. So we loose the facts and move into assumption.

Perhaps by pleading your case in a more subdued respectful manner, you may have garnished more attention from the captain, during this busy time for him. Perhaps by softening your approach ot the captain, he may have thought twice about a closer review to your situation. A gentle plead that to look closer because while you had taken a photo, it was actually another passenger who was in arguement with a FA.

In regards to eye contact; Human confrotation is difficult for most people. While the captain was undoubtably older and had more life experience than the FA, his main function is flying the plane and not human interaction. I would not be so harsh on him making this uncomfortable decision to remove a perceived problem ahead of a lengthy flight.

If the situation unfolded as you represented, you, as a professional traveler had an obligation to communicate more effectively and understand the other side.

Good luck in your future endeavors and please consider another tact the next time your dealing with professionals.

@Mark: Ha! Thank you.

Scott March 7, 2013 at 01:19 pm

As a result or your experience I will NEVER fly United again!

Jon March 7, 2013 at 01:23 pm

Southwest Airlines even has its own blog and invites passengers to post photos and stories of their travels.

@Jon: The ironic thing is that United encourages passengers to share their onboard pictures on both Facebook and Instagram.

Diane March 7, 2013 at 01:29 pm

I don't understand some of the comments reprimanding the Mr. Klint for arguing. He didn't argue, and that was clear in this post. In fact, the passenger who did argue got to stay on the flight.

Time to outsource the entire industry to the Chinese if you ask me. I hate all US carriers and feel ashamed every time I take a US carrier on an international flight.

Mr. Klint, I am sorry for the trauma this caused you. You didn't deserve it.

Angela March 7, 2013 at 01:30 pm

All of you who are defending the actions of the FA - how many of you knew, before reading about this incident, that it was against UA policy to take photos on board one of their planes ? Yeah, I thought so.

Now, want to tell me about the photography policies of every other airline ? If UA wants to set a ( stupid ) no photo policy, fine, let them - but inform the passengers of this policy rather than bury it somewhere in a useless, often unread, inflight magazine. Or hss reading the mag become mandatory now ?

As par as the Captains behavior, I'm sure that he took the path of least resistance - had he not acquiesed to the FA's "request", I'm sure that he would have been subject to diciplinary measures and a likely "re-education" course, at the very least.

Basim March 7, 2013 at 02:13 pm

Well Done Matthew,

  1. Eight hundred and two comments. Quite a thought provoking post!

  2. Good on you for standing up for your rights (and ours) with this post. Better,p still how you handled yourself.

  3. United and the rest of the US carriers are going to continue to lose market share to the likes of Emirates, Singapore, etc. because this product is poor and service worse. There are not enough new customers for US airlines to attract to offset the eventual loss of loyalty caused by piss poor service. Prior to the UA-CO merger, I thought UA ad th best FF product. It it still pretty good, but it's such a pain dealing with their FAs. The captain probably didn't want to have to hear that conniving FA complain during their layover in Istanbul. Unfortunately, Smisek and the est of the UA head shed aren't very customer focused.

Thanks for the great post!!!

nate March 7, 2013 at 02:27 pm

Hmm, maybe do up a musical video like Dave Carroll 'United, you broke my Taylor guitar'. He went viral with it (over 12 million hits and climbing) and United was very unhappy with the fiscal results.

Youtube United Breaks Guitars

If United prefers to do business in this manner then the public needs to be aware when booking their tickets. Airline crews are brainwashed into thinking they are extensions of the criminal TSA. Being a bully and bumping someone off a flight is just a perk to those kind of people. Power, no matter how small or trivial draws humans with a mental bent towards psychopathy. This FA was just a person who can't make it to a bigger schoolyard to bully. Just a small person doing small mean evil acts. But United hires them and protects them and allows such policies so that should be exposed.

As a fellow travel "blogger" I too take pictures of the plane, all the time. I have never had the experience you had, and I hope I never due. I don't think I would have been as calm and collected as you.

Thank you for sharing you story and let's hope United does the right thing and apologize and make it up to you some how.

That is surely one flight I'd rate Not Bombastic!

Sean March 7, 2013 at 03:32 pm

UA Sux ...they ruined continental .......the probable reason for the photo policy is they dont want you or others to be able to compare amenities in various classes with other airlines

Greg March 7, 2013 at 03:41 pm

I really liked the comment from the guy that said this experience was "..beyond words..." You either do not have many words, or not very many experiences.

It's pretty clear that the blog author, Matthew, knew very well that using the word "terrorist" was a way to rile a flight attendant up. He intentionally said it to get a reaction he could write about.

Nobody here is genuinely fooled here that you were somehow slighted. At best you have some of your readers trying to puff up your story so you don't look like such a pee-pants whiner.

Jenny March 7, 2013 at 03:55 pm

That sky waitress does not have the intelligence to be in a place of authority where she can mess with people's lives. She should be fetching coffee or working in a typing pool.

John March 7, 2013 at 04:55 pm

Continental merged with United, did you expect better? Smart, experienced travelers will stay away from United now the way they stayed away from Continental.

Michael March 7, 2013 at 05:01 pm

Photography is my hobby and I love flying, ever since I was a kid and my first flight was on United Airlines (prop job) and they gave me a little blue badge, airline wings, that said "Top Pilot" or something like that.

The airplane itself usually isn't all that interesting although I went out of my way once to photograph the sophisticated avionics on a CRJ (Canada Regional Jet) and the pilot was friendly and informative. Some modern aircraft have really dinky cockpits, nothing like the huge cockpits of Lockheed's military aircraft where three people sit side-by-side (P3 Orion turboprop, pilot, flight engineer and copilot).

This comes as huge news to me that photography of the aircraft itself isn't permitted; I don't think there's ever been a flight where I didn't take a picture of the airplane I was about to board. It's a SOUVENIR. This is what I flew in!

I suspect the airlines fear that you'll spot the missing rivets or fluid leaking down the struts and with a high quality camera, that may well exactly be the case.

But it's still just a souvenir!

Michael March 7, 2013 at 05:03 pm

Never been a fan of United. I too was an elite level member of United until a flight from Albuquerque to Denver. A blizzard closed the Denver airport while we were in route and we diverted to Pueblo Colorado, an airport not experienced handling a full Boeing 757. It took two hours for the airport to find a suitable ladder to allow passengers to exit. We were all packed into the small terminal with intermittent instructions being given to us by a baggage handler. The small diner extended its hours taking advantage of its good fortune.

The crew, FA's and pilots were huddled alone in the corner with their bags, until unexpectedly town cars appeared, they got in, and drove away. About a half hour later we were told that the flight was cancelled due to weather, and United would bus us to Denver the following day when the weather cleared. We would be put up for the night in a Days Inn type motel (which I remember snow blowing into the room during the night from the crack in the door jam). The bus driver who drove us to the motel later that evening said that he was "in charge", and anyone not on the bus by 7am sharp would be left behind.

No one from United ever talked to any passenger, the crew departed without a word. On arrival at the terminal in Denver I fully expected the bus to be met by a United representative, there was none. Luggage was not aboard the bus as they did not have the equipment in Pueblo to extract it from the luggage bays. There were seniors, foreign travelers, and young kids on board that didn't have a clue what to do. The bus doors opened and we were literally alone on the sidewalk, no instructions, no direction, and no luggage. Experienced passengers gave directions to the inexperienced on what best to do next.

Customer service in Denver was not expecting us and had no idea what we had gone through. Since our arrival in Denver was over 24 hours late I booked a flight back home, having missed a meeting in Chicago. I was told that since the delay was weather related United would not reimburse me for the missed connection. Only after several letters and numerous phone calls to United's home office, and after 7 months I noticed on my credit card a credit for the entire price of the ticket. No one ever called me from United or returned any of my correspondence. So much for being elite with United. That was the last time I ever flew the "Friendly Skys".

SeaScott March 7, 2013 at 05:24 pm

The correct response to the FA would have been "Yes ma'am. Very sorry. It won't happen again."

Your windy response including "I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist" was more than enough justification here.

Catch a clue. Are you really the savvy traveler you claim to be?

P March 7, 2013 at 05:24 pm

I will never fly by United result of this episode. So shaem UNITED , why cant you give proper training to your employees

Gregory March 7, 2013 at 05:31 pm

I sure they didn't realize how important you were in your own eyes. Ugh!

PW March 7, 2013 at 05:36 pm

As long as we put up with these ridiculous insults to basic human dignity and rights this is what we will get. There is a direct correlation between the open groping by TSA (complete joke of "security"), govt utilizing secret kill lists and executive orders that do away with all due process and open the door to drone kills on Americans, and this constant abuse by large colluding corporations of most major industries. We are creating a disgusting freakish insane culture that has lost all sense of decency and common sense.

Why give your money to control freak, fear mongers that make your travel a living hell? Pathetic really. only thing these freaks understand is the bottom line. Fair enough. Good riddance United.

just as we can make the predatory banks irrelevant that prey on eveyrone via their very own money by going elsewhere, we can set the tone via 300M people in this country by how we manage each and every purchase choice. Make the freaks irrelevant.

The govt and corporations have shills that troll the internet responding to all criticism. its simply another cost center in these entities. If you see ridiculous illogical comments you are simply viewing a shill's self-serving response or someone without common sense....more likely both.

United Sucks March 7, 2013 at 05:49 pm

What idiots. I'll never fly United. It's bad enough having to fly American out of DFW, thank goodness I don't have to jack with United.

ImChiquita March 7, 2013 at 05:53 pm
  1. Because of 9/11, I actually wanted to fly United and American. I knew it wasn't their fault that they were chosen by the terrorists. Remember how many Americans were freaked out to fly? Flying didn't bother me. UAL's service did. I'm a military daughter and spouse, so all of my air-miles are racked up in the MAC/AMC terminals. When I fly stateside, I take my business to SWA, because not once did I have a pleasant trip on United.

  2. Matt's age (26) came in to question about "being too young" for 9/11. Are you kidding me? Adults who lived in Pearl Harbor in 1941 that were 3 or 4 still remember the sounds of the Japanese fighters and bombers, and the acrid smell of the smoke. My soon-to-be-18 year old was 6 1/2 when 9/11 happened. He was far more affected by the planes flying into the World Trade Center buildings than my 10 year old. Don't ever question someone's age, whether or not they are younger or older than us. Age had nothing to do with this scenario, unless you yourself don't like young people.

  3. I read somewhere, it feels like in the past five years, that it's an "Us vs. Them" scenario in the planes. Reading MOST of the comments from captains and FAs, so it would seem. The article about "Us vs. Them" was more about during in-flight emergencies and how much information should or should not be passed on to the passengers for fear of panic. Here's my opinion, as if it will ever go mainstream: the crew indeed holds a lot of power. But how much of that power was "institutionalized" before they ever got in the air? How much of their training were they told that the passengers can't be trusted, that TOO much information would cause a panic. Thanks to Hollywood, I feel that much of the opinion of the crews hold that opinion, especially because they do have to deal with idiots on a daily basis. (Hey, I work retail - it's a universal fact that idiots surround us) But don't ever assume that the majority of your passengers are mindless robots; give humanity some sort of decency in that we'll follow your orders to disembark the plane in an emergency, or use the oxygen mask or use the light strips to find our exits in a smoky scenario. I truly believe that panic ensues precisely because the Crew wield the power of bottlenecking information.

SeaScott March 7, 2013 at 07:12 pm

I suggest everyone take a step back, and a deep breath to realize that we all have the power to control our own attitudes. And that attitudes directly affect outcomes. I hope everyone who has expressed outrage will take a moment and read this:

Oh, and by the way, I'm not even signed up on United as a frequent flyer - the last time I flew United was the SEA-ORD-LHR portion of a mission trip to Africa in 2007. Because of thunders storms outbound, we circled Chicago for almost three hours, and then had to refuel at MDW before making the ten minute run over to OHR. United held the connection to LHR.

Mr. X March 7, 2013 at 08:55 pm

That flight attendant and captain were a-holes.

The policy they have is ridiculous.

But guess what? I fly thousands of miles per year, many of them on United.

I take photos ALL THE TIME!




Jason March 7, 2013 at 09:52 pm

I get how you could be indignant with such a small incident escalating to a war of lies and walk of shame off the plane to await another flight.. but seriously, it doesn't matter how important you are, and how great your blog is, using any phrase even remotely associated to terrorism is reason enough for the crew to boot you.

That aside, keep up the work and better luck to you in the future!

Mary March 8, 2013 at 12:56 am

All this talk claiming he got kicked off for saying the word "terrorist" is really dumb. If that had been the issue, don't you think he would have -- at the very least -- been frisked when he got off the plane? Perhaps, check his luggage? Nope, instead, he was immediately re-accommodated onto a different flight. It's pretty obvious to me that it wasn't the "T-word," as you people say, that the FA was challenged. Perhaps the notion that he was a travel writer AND taking pictures scared her (were you going to be judging her the entire flight? taking pictures of everything she did?). She didn't want to deal with you, she got rid of you.

It's REALLY stupid that it happened to you or that it happened at all. She sounds like a really immature, insecure person, and would probably be terrible in emergency situations. If I were the company, I'd shave that fat.

Witheld to Prevent United Retribution March 8, 2013 at 02:32 am

Dear Matthew,

Welcome to the club of those of us abused by United Flight staff. It's a long, long list you've joined. I've been smacked, verbally abused, bumped out of seats, out of upgrades, lied to, harassed, and subjected to seats of shame, walks of shame, waits of shame, overnights of shame with no compensation and more. As you approach multiples of millions of miles you'll simply accumulate a lifetime of such abuse. The problem is that many of the airline's overworked and overly tired staff, have taken their exhaustion, and their own abuse by management, out on us during flights, at check-ins, at bookings, at, in short almost every place the airline faces its customers. I won't include the idiot MBAs that implemented the voice system for customer service in the belief that they save money, by offloading work to customers. Indeed, they probably save pennies, but they've lost dollars in our time, and dollars in business, through their statistically true, mindless belief in business economics.

Sorry you had to join our exclusive frequent flyer (abused) club. Sincerely, Truly Fed-up

PS, your abuse sympathy by management went into the trash bin among hundreds of thousands of the rest of us who have been abused and you're now a marked man on future flights for sharing your experience.

PPS Enjoy your useless coupons for future flight discounts. I've never been able to use a single one of these effectively useless responses to reported abuses, or other bad service from UA.

PPPS Racing through some of your other posts above, I had to wonder how many disgruntled UA employees, have written in, in disguise, to make you feel bad for your entirely reasonable use of a camera. Next they'll try and stop you or otherwise prevent you from recording your conversations with your pilot and flight crew, so that there will be no factual record of their abuse. No wonder they won't allow cameras, you'd have photos of them gathered in the kitchens, yakking too loudly all night, keeping us awake, filling designer water bottles from the central water reservoir tank, and standing around planning their parties on arrival or dealing with their personal gossip, instead of looking after customers.

Joe F. March 8, 2013 at 07:46 am

Dear Matthew,

Instead of writing flattering pieces on your travel experiences, why not write about the police-state mentality that has seized our country? Your recent experience on a United Airlines flight was your wake-up call. Don't waste it.

@Joe: Believe me, I have--I do it often and I've seen it--particularly with regards to TSA--long before this United incident. I'd invite you to check out many of my past posts on the topic. Here's a couple of them--

Jay March 8, 2013 at 11:37 am

Jetblue seems to have FA's from the same class that your United girl went through! A difference with my experience was that ground crew members were equally rude. With airlines doing financially better and with them charging for anything and everything that they can think of, obviously they really aren't interested in repeat consumers!

REJI March 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm


United Airlines: Scum in the Sky March 8, 2013 at 04:05 pm

That you should have to kowtow to this lying scum -- from the legs-spread-in-every-city FA to the weasel-from-the-military, 6-figure-overpaid, BUS DRIVER -- goes to show the nanny-state, punks-with-power environment that pols have instated in the skies.

Flyer rights? FU, United Airlines customers! Corporations will rape you in the way they prefer and while continuing theatrical "safety" punishments.

ROCruiser March 9, 2013 at 01:23 pm

Wow! And you kept your cool after that unfair treatment. I don't understand the big deal of picture taking on board. When we flew on CX, the FA suggested that he take a picture of us in the F cabin and on the return flight, I had a picture of all the FAs in F and myself by another FA from the C cabin. What difference! If it's really for security reason, at least they should get the facts straight.

Chase March 9, 2013 at 03:18 pm

I don't think you sound entitled at all. As an avid travel blogger, I can understand why you would want to present your biz card to substantiate what you were telling her. I am no longer surprised when I hear stories like this one. Does anyone remember when air travel was actually something to look forward to?

Steve March 10, 2013 at 07:27 pm

This is why I don't fly ANY American Airlines! Cause they are simply shit! The have no common sense of Customer service! You should stick to a European/Middle Eastern/Asia airline. Let all these American Airlines go down the drain, then they'll learn a thing or two about Customer Service. Don't fly them!

Steve March 10, 2013 at 08:57 pm

I don't really get why anyone would frequent United. I fly United when I absolutely must, but will avoid them even more now. I, too, have had customer service nightmares with them. This other FA who posted is ridiculous. She invokes "safety first," but what is she really talking about. Your FF status should matter, as it substantiates how often you have peacefully flown United. This was no safety issue. Nor was this an issue of trying to get the plane out on Tim, as this no doubt increased the delay. This was a case of one of many miserable hags abusing her authority and a captain who doesn't care. We need to let more airlines fold instead of taking away the disincentive for bad service.

Shelly March 10, 2013 at 09:23 pm

This is very interesting. I took some pictures on a United flight just last weekend. The pictures I took were of a women being thrown off of the plane. Her crime was non-existent and the flight attendant LIED to the captain and everyone involved. In my opinion, the flight attendant felt she wasn't given the proper respect and used her power to make this woman day difficult. It ultimately impacted all of us on board because the woman, who rightly felt she was being wronged, refused to get off of the plane so our flight was delayed. The gate agent came on, then they tried with customer service, then finally the authorities. After reading your story, it makes me wonder if United has a bullying and hostile provoking atmosphere. This is the first time in maybe 15 years that I've flown United. I was not impressed. By the way, several of us took pictures of her being forced off of the plane. We probably got away with it because the flight attendants were hiding while the authorities were doing their bidding and so they didn't see us taking pictures.

United Airline Frequent Flyer March 10, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Unbelievable behavior by United Airline Flight Attendant. The Flight attendant should be terminated.

So often, with the protection of the airlines unions, the flight attendants and pilots who are most incompetent are protected and continue to hold a position they are not qualified for. This flight attendant could perhaps be a very good candidate for a job that did not require people skills. United airlines has little flexibility in terminating problem employees such as this. You are correct to focus the problem on the flight attendant and the pilot.

I would like the names of the pilot and flight attendant to be made known.

Kachonka March 12, 2013 at 09:14 pm

You can't Boycott the Airlines. They're just like the crooked banks. Only the monopolized ones are usable and if you were to even attempt a boycott they'd just filefor bailouts and grants because they are part of international travel. Look how bad it's gotten since the feds took over ATC[air traffic controllers]

You probably wouldn't be able to sue them either because they'd just get a passenger list and throw around some air miles to get someone to say they witnessed you being a problem and they were in fear too. That's why they are probasbly not making a statement so they can reach so FF's and add a a few hundred K to their FF card for a favorable statement.

terry March 14, 2013 at 06:37 pm

I am not the extensive flyer that you are but I do like to travel in a window seat - I took some very nice pictures of the pyrenees and cantabrian mountains on my last flight to Barcelona. I am a geography nut so I like to be able to see topographic features of regions. Is taking pictures of the outside from the plane window tabu as well>>>

Jess March 15, 2013 at 04:45 pm

sounds like the FA may have been the Captain's side piece and he had no choice but follow her lead, lest she spill the beans on their relationship...

Lane March 15, 2013 at 05:17 pm

I agree with your discontent and assessment of the situation. I also understand how taking the "walk of shame" would be embarrassing. I personally would have been rather annoyed and angry. But you felt the situation was also "traumatizing"? That's a bit much.

Robert March 15, 2013 at 06:47 pm

I had a very similar experience on a Continental flight from Newark to SFO. I politely told the flight attendent that half of the bins in the cabin were empty and that it was not necessary to check my bag which is a big inconvenience for business travelers.

Shortly after I was called to speak to the captain and he threaten to put me in jail. I complained to Continental and all I got is a letter that they will investigate not even a $50 voucher. That was my last flight on Continental.

Calven March 17, 2013 at 09:12 am

Well, even though I am an Asian but I am not siding any Asian airlines. Airlines industry is part of the hospitality industry as well, it's all about service, service and service... Switch your US airlines to any other airlines, you pay for you get unless that was a budget airline. Give a chance on Asian airlines such as Japan Airlines, and ya, Singapore Airlines~! Trust me, you will never get disappointed... And even if any problem happened, Singapore or most Asian countries would definitely address the problem very quickly and mostly they won't put all the blames on the passengers. There is a slogan back in Asia, "customer is always right, unless there is some harsh or unreasonable request, that's the service standard"... Just make a complaint if you were right, then you will realized the difference in how they sort out the problems efficiently :)

Roxy March 17, 2013 at 08:51 pm

Sounds like the FA was power tripping. A lot of them do that these days. I'm elite on CO/UA, but was a legacy CO customer. I've noticed the UA FAs are more combative.

Any follow up from the airline after all this?



disgusted March 22, 2013 at 10:44 am

Sad - when people with small minds, but are in a temporary but necessary position of power (the dishonest FA), can diminish the quality of life of others in order to validate their insignificant lives.

*** NEWS FLASH UNITED ***** You should be more concerned about quality control, crew-client communication, and FA training. Guess what? I won't be flying United any more.

Jeffrey March 25, 2013 at 12:31 am

Is it possible the captain and the FA has a secret relationship?

Maggie April 1, 2013 at 09:23 am

I travel a lot and have run into power hungry FA before. Once on Delta from ATL to Paris I got reamed by a FA that thought I went to the bathroom in the first class cabin. I was in tears when she was done. Everyone around me defended me but she kept yelling at me.
The problem is that since 9/11 there is no lines of defense if you are accused on a flight. You just have to sit there and take the abuse or they will throw you off. So thank you for writing this post. I hope United sees their wrong.

HANS HIMMLER April 6, 2013 at 01:35 am

Buddy , I gonna tell you , those FA's 2 me aren't nothing more than air waiters. Nothing else. Those kind of people like 2 demonstrate their power and authority over the passengers, nevertheless. I do think that somehow you make that FA very angry and the FA make sure to show you that who has the power. Those people are so stupid.... Notwithstanding, on my point of view you had been unluck on that situation. Take care.

HANS HIMMLER Best wishes from Germany

Tiff April 6, 2013 at 05:02 pm

"I hope you don't think I'm a terrorist." = Get off the plane. None of the rest of your story is relevant. "I hope you don't think I'm a terrorist." = Get off the plane. Save the long explanations for your therapist.

Clancy DeBanks April 6, 2013 at 05:32 pm

be serious, who's the captain gonna believe, a hot stewardess or a doucher

Banx Out

@Tiff: See this post--

@Clancy: Hot stewardess? Maybe 30 years ago...

Up in the air April 7, 2013 at 07:42 pm

The defenses of this flight attendant and the pilot are outrageous. The notion that anyone who even questions or inconveniences a flight attendant is somehow a threat to the safety of a flight is just nuts and is proof of just how insane our society has become since 9/11. In this case, both the pilot and the flight attendant in question should both be fired and their future in aviation ought to be wishing for a job at the airport Cinnabon. Both pilots and flight attendance are there for passengers' safety and that means exercising judgement, something this pilot and flight attendant clearly failed to do. If the unions have a problem with their members behaving in a professional and courteous manner, maybe we need to break the airline unions.

donna April 8, 2013 at 04:02 pm

No wonder United Airlines was voted worst Airline.....

Pim April 9, 2013 at 08:37 am

Newark is my home airport, but I try to avoid UA like the plague, which isn't easy. My last two flights were out of JFK on JetBlue. I hate UA that much, even though the drive to JFK on the Belt Parkway is almost as ghastly as the flight attendants on UA flights. They are extremely rude and treat the passengers like cattle.

Unless you get a written apology from UA which they allow you to publish on your blog and take action against the flight attendant and have her provide an apology to you WITH the $225 you had to spend on the last flight I would continue to rake them over the coals until they do all of the above.

I predict you will get no satisfaction. Your blog post is more proof that UA is an atrociously run airline. JetBlue gives you one bag free, the flight attendants are generally friendly and polite, and the seats have far more legroom than the cattle cars UA provides.

The best thing is to book your future flights with another airline as much as possible.

N. Mahmud April 10, 2013 at 03:42 am

This is a sad story. In my opinion, it is very much well written however, completely one sided, emotionally biased. No wonder why so many people are reading and commenting on it.

The fact is the FAs are doing there regular jobs, most of the cases those are heavily procedural. IF anyone claiming a nearly million miles traveler and then cannot address this issue in a more sophisticated way than this; rather chose to make a walk of shame-there are reasons to doubt the whole story and motivation behind it. Therefore the whole story boils down to the fact who is bullying and why? One last but not least point, the traveler chose to miss the connecting flight, make a walk of shame, but did not show the phone to the captain, who is the justice in the plane!

Larry April 10, 2013 at 08:52 am

@N. Mahmud

Did you read all the comments? Other passengers have come forward to corroborate Matthew's story. This was an FA who was having a very bad day and took it out on Matthew.

Lee April 14, 2013 at 01:38 am

You should use the pants off of United Airlines. Those lousy idiots!

Lusitan April 16, 2013 at 03:26 pm

Anyone who supports the notion that merely saying the word "terrorist" on an airplane is grounds for being kicked off is a moron. It is such a common word nowadays (all over the newspapers, television, and part of our everyday lives) and moreover, what idiot who actually is a terrorist would go around talking about "terrorism" or "terrorists"? Are we really that stupid of a society such that we cower in fear when someone says magic words like "terrorist" on an airplane?

Even more hilarious -- even assuming that FA/Captain thought this traveler was a security risk, what did they do? Just kick him off the plane AND PUT HIM ON THE NEXT FLIGHT? Oh, gee -- that would really help if he was a terrorist.

Sum Wun April 22, 2013 at 10:54 am

Tough Luck.........

The Captain has the authority to put you off and he used it. You are not going to change that.

We live in a world of mistrust, fear and stupidity by people who, for various reasons, get some pleasure for their jerkoff reactions using what little authority they have.

That said, people make judgments, mistakes, and you were on the receiving end of one.

The Captain was under time pressures and your ticket is barely enough to count. i.e. Customers are expendable, up to a point.......

Personally, it seems like this is a rule that most passengers would not be aware of and would be unreasonable........but, the airplane belongs to UNITED and you have few choices.

a. Do what they ask and get on with it with the least inconvenience as possible

b. Learn to fly and buy your own airplane

c. Ride with another carrier from now on (recommended)

d. Write a petition on CHANGE.ORG and complain

The last suggestion might have a real effect.

Molly Klatchpole did this and made Bank of America back down when they started to charge $5.00 to use their debit card. She did it again with another big company.

Molly got hundreds of thousands of pissed off customers to threaten to take their money out of Bank of America and they got the message.

Thomas Jefferson said "The sword is mightier than the pen"......

I would expect that many travelers feel as you do........ and you might make an effective protest that upper management would listen well as our other leaders if you put him on the mailing list of people to get copies of people protest.

Eventually, things might go back to normal, but only when enough people stand up to the overreaching laws that are written........

Bin Laden made a statement in 9/11.......

The US government took offense and made a statement to Bin Laden with our SEAL team...

Ditto for a guy named SADDAM..........

Were we really told the truth by our news media..... who really knows?

Politicians lie.....lots of people lie....

But the Flight Attendant made a decision and the Captain backed her took the consequences of that decision.

You don't have broken bones and you arent in jail. Your feelings are hurt....start with a with soomeone else from now on......or drive or walk....

And, personally I would recommend that you protest.
Peacefully but make yourself heard.....This is a national issue and you might be able to make public office on the platform.

Your problem is, so far, a personal one, but one that probably offends most of the traveling offends me.....

If you should go the CHANGE.ORG route, you will be able to let off some steam and let millions of people know.......

These are all people who may, at one time or another, need to fly somewhere......and if they decide to fly on another carrier, then UNITED doesn't get the money........and if it happens enough, then the UNITED President may not have a job and UNITED pilots may need to find another airline to fly for....and lose their seniority and paychecks......

This sort of arrogant treatment, over time usually ends up in a bankruptcy....... But like any protest it is the numbers that count.

So sending a message, via a group like CHANGE.ORG really makes the most sense for peaceful change. Remember what it did for the blacks with Martin Luther King leading......and the results he got....some good...some bad (for him).

I would suggest you take this approach if you really want to be heard........ visit

Write a petition and ask people to help with your protest. THEY LISTEN. THEY WRITE LETTERS. THEY ARE ORGANIZED.... THEY ARE AUTOMATED.... THEY GET THINGS DONE.

As for the Captain and Flight Attendant....they made a decision had the authority to make it and they used it...You are not going to get the law changed........but the President of United can speak to his employees and ask them to think things through more, next time because a lot of people object and have told him they are going to fly on another airline if the policy is not changed...... He can make changes and might do something.

Ignorance can be fixed......Stupidity is forever.....

Steven Weix May 5, 2013 at 03:21 pm

honestly, the pictures weren't the problem. i can only assume your use of the word 'terrorist' was enough to get you thrown off the flight... while i agree with everyone that your treatment was absolutely ludicrous, i also must say i would NEVER say that word on an airplane.. yes, i know there probably is no written "rule" for that, but i suspect, given the ridiculousness of airlines in the states, it won't matter how many years lie between 9/11 and the day you need to get somewhere, they will use that excuse to do what they want to do with you. p.s. take Asiana when you can- i have never had a better biz-class experience-- seat, service, food.. IFE was terrible, but everything else made up for it.. and i took dozens of pictures... even the "forbidden" one that you took ;) (they're partnered with United so you'll still accrue your mileage appropriately, etc)

Tony May 7, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Matthew, this was a well written story. Your reaction in comment #142 says more about what likely happened than anything else on this page.

Tim N. May 8, 2013 at 03:03 am

After 900 comments, I'm not sure what I can add to the conversation. But I could never understand how the conflict escalated to the point of the captain booting you off the plane.

A similar situation happened to me when I was boarding an OZ flight from ICN to SPN. My partner walked ahead of me as he walked through the door, past the business class galley, and onto the business section. I took a picture of him walking in the front with the galley and a flight attendant standing nearby. The greeting FA saw it. She told me that I was not allowed to take pictures of the interiors of the aircraft and the staff and asked me to delete them. Naturally I asked "why" and she gave some generic and dubious reason like "security." Incidentally, the same reason was given when I was stopped from taking pictures of the bloody food served in the OZ Business Lounge at ICN. So I was extremely unhappy but I complied and deleted the pictures and showed her the camera screen. That was acceptable to her, and that was the end of the conflict. But it put me in a grumpy mood for the rest of the 4-hour business flight, even though it was very good service on a 5* airline on a new route.

I understand that she was enforcing a rule that she had no control over but it's clearly stupid and illogical one. I was wondering at the time if FAs had discretion over how or to whom they can enforce the rule, e.g. how a passenger looks, dresses, and behaves. After all, I am a short, skinny, little kinda young looking Asian guy traveling in business class (although the FA might not have known that at the time). If I were white, big, tall, older and with a more typical businessman look, would she have said anything? I don't know.

If the captain didn't believe your version of the story that you stopped taking pictures after being asked by the FA, you could have showed your iphone's photo album. If the pictures were not there, then you told the truth. If you already deleted the pictures, then no harm was done. Perhaps the picture taking was also part of the story. Maybe the word "terrorist" might have done it. And that's just absolutely unacceptable the way these UA employees understand the concept of aviation safety and passenger management. But given the already sad state of UA service quality and reputation, what can we do? Sigh ...

Tony May 9, 2013 at 04:20 pm

Sadly, I try to avoid United at all cost. Last time I flew them on an antique 757, the safety announcement sounded like a military speech, and with an attitude to match. Cramped in the back of the 757 tube, I promised my self not to be treated like so ever again. And to this day, I've not flown on United, ever ! It's been 5 years since that United flight, I stick with Southwest with all domestic flights because their FA are just plain friendly. The human factor is the only thing that makes or breaks a flight, since all domestic airlines take the same minimalistic approach to service. Another airline I avoid is US Airways. An FA gave me a stern warning with a stare to kill, "Do I have to tell you again?" when I was finishing typing the last text. I admit, I should have shut the phone off as soon as the announcement was made. But to behave in such surly manner, you won't get my business again. All I can say, let your wallet do the talking, and hopefully, this will catch on. (Somehow, I doubt it, as United is too big to care.)

Nels May 14, 2013 at 01:29 am

I am not a frequent flier, but I would like to add my two cents to this thread. To those who say the writer should have simply kept his mouth shut, or that he clearly has some unrealistic sense of entitlement, I disagree. Based on his relating of the sequence of events as they unfolded, it sounds to me as though he was very deferential and gracious, and that the FA was undeniably in the wrong for fabricating falsehoods about his conduct. Sadly, I actually sort of feel sorry for her, because that is as important as she will ever be, in her entire life. That moment is the height of her significance, and that is sad. Lastly, I will say that because of reading this account, I will never, and I do mean NEVER, ever fly United Airlines again, no matter what. The treatment of this man was unacceptable.

Jason May 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

Everyone should avoid flying United. It is deemed the worse customer service airline. Please do not purchase from this airline again, and we will see it go bankrupt.

Skycap May 16, 2013 at 03:14 am

@SeaScott #853 I like drones like you! I snap my fingers and tell them to sit and they sit. Tell them to bend over oh they bend over.

John May 18, 2013 at 02:03 am

@skycap #905 - everyone loves free spirits like you - damn the rules and make it hell for everyone else. You're the one who brings one too many carry-on and wonders why they are harassing you. Follow the rules or walk to your destination.

Seats-7J&7A May 20, 2013 at 01:31 pm

I flew out last week, Tuesday night from Washington D.C., Dulles Airport to Kuwait City, May 14, 2013 on Seat 7J. I came back on seat 7A Sunday Morning, May 19, 2013. I read this particular blog two weeks before my departure as I was searching the type of seats in the business class section on this type of aircraft.

Sir, and to everyone who blogged "negatively". I disagree with all of you; original author included. I have never had such pleasure riding an international airline for 12 hour flights more so than United Airlines, thus far. Mind you, I flew to Africa, Middle East, and Europe, with other major American and non American International airlines; non came close to the hospitality these men and women, flight attendants, have shown me.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems to me all the replies to the original blog, in my opinion, were based on emotions and sympathy instead of "personal" experiences on the same flight or similar flights. The people who sat on seats 17/18 who vouched for the blogger's story, in my opinion did not truly relay the full truth as they too commented from an emotional point of view and sympathy.

Regardless of the rules and FAA regulations cited and recited on the aforementioned trip by the Blogger and the flight attendant in question, I found the crew to be extremely welcoming, and were very business like. I personally took offense to word (terrorist) used during the initial conversation when the flight attendant asked our esteemed blogger not to take photos during the initial preparation of the flight. I happend to be a Muslim, and the use of the word Terrorist was indicative of a religious slur uttered by the original author of this blog in which he used to fend off the flight attendant, as if all non compliant passengers who will not stop taking pictures inside the plane are terrorists who might use the pictures for harmful purposes!

On my return flight, I experienced the same curtsy and hospitality by the United Airlines crew members as did on my flight out of D.C.; Yes, this was a different crew.

My desire to write a response was emboldened due to the comments made by a first time Kuwaiti Citizen flying United who said: "I never thought this long flight could be so comfortable. It is my first time flying United. I think I will always fly United in the future to the US"!

Suffice it to say, I recommend United Airlines to anyone flying to Kuwait City, especially a twelve hours flight. I only ask that any passenger flying such long flights to keep their attitude and entitlement checked-in with their luggage.

@Seats-7J&7A: Thanks for your comment, but I see it as a bit of a non-sequitor.

I had a great flight on United from Washington to Kuwait City after being kicked off the Newark - Istanbul flight. Just last week I had a tremendous flight from Paris to San Francisco and a great flight from Chicago to Frankfurt the week before. I LIKE United!

This is not about United Airlines, a carrier I have flown nearly a million miles on and am very happy with overall. This is about one rogue crew member and one weak pilot. The fact that others on the flight backed me up is not "emotional" -- that is an insult to them!

I don't doubt you had great flights and this is not surprising: I usually have great flights too. But this particular flight was not great and your two good flights does somehow diminish my experience.

Alfred Vachris May 21, 2013 at 12:59 pm

so much for the customer service

Dummy May 22, 2013 at 01:30 pm

You shouldn't use the words terrorist or bomb in any flight. If you use either one, it's grounds for removing out of the plane. Come on man

RamF May 23, 2013 at 02:31 am

I'm 1K/1Million miles. I had almost identical experience on a flight from FRA to IAD in business class this February. Bad flight attendant so I asked for purser. Ignored, and when I told him I will record the conversation (didn't know it was prohibited) he told me I am a risk to the flight and eventually was taken off the flight. Captain was useless: obnoxious with attitude and sided with the FA ("Its your word against his"). They also removed another women from the same flight - she was coming back from her mothers funeral and they decided her crying and teary eyes were a security risk.

Can't stand flying UA anymore. trying to shift as much of my intl flying to Singaopre. But domestically, being based in SFO I dont have any real choice.

Paul May 29, 2013 at 06:33 am

I am going on my last flight with United this year. Had to use my miles. There is nothing I like about this airline. In three flights, I have lost luggage, have put up with rude crap from stewardesses, flight delays, computers down. They are a cluster ^$%# I will say there were a couple of people that were really nice but they really need to do a better job of screening their employees. It's such a pleasure flying on Asian flights... nothing like American flights. I would rather pay extra money if that's what it takes. Worldwide though, we are paying too much for fuel and for airlines.

dbot May 30, 2013 at 07:09 am

I too am a million mile flyer with United and have flown about another 500,000 with other carriers. Every crew varies and I've had my share of bad experiences with FA's, but have never been removed from a flight. The arguments used to defend the FA are flawed. If what you have stated is true then the reason they gave you was based on a lie. I think most of you would agree that's wrong, unacceptable, and unprofessional. You would think they would avoid the situation all together and only go after those really breaking the rules. As with most AMERICAN (I'm one so have the right to slam my own) service industries they still continue to treat adults like children. The practice is annoying and condescending to say the least. This sort of situation would never happen aboard on an ANA flight and I'm sure others can say the same about other international carriers.

Seats-7J&7A May 31, 2013 at 07:30 am

If the issue is one flight, one flight attendant, as you just indicated in your response, it was not clearly stated from the get go of this blog. It has been almost 6 month now since your unfortunate flight experience. By now, United has probably read this blog and perhaps talked it over with the flight attendent in question and captain, hence your endless pleasant experiences henceforth thus far.

The question now, is, why continue the charade!?

My fellow bloggers on this channel seem to just read the main heading, Thrown Out of United.., as they search for United Airlines main Website, and are joining in with comments irrespective of the "one" incident, that happend almost 6 month ago! Believe me when I say, I am sympathetic, and emphatic in my believe, that you were emotionally hurt and perhaps wrongfully dealt with. Consider it a slap on the face; turn the other cheek!

Isn't time to move on!? Learn to forgive, and forget. Life is too short to sweat the little things!

If the issue is one flight, one flight attendant, as you just indicated in your response, it was not clearly stated from the get go of this blog.

Have you seen this post from last week?

David Spearman June 5, 2013 at 07:41 pm

My friend, right or wrong, when you said the very word TERRORIST (considering you flight origin) you blew it.


See this post:

douglas pickering June 6, 2013 at 12:06 am

Crazy story. If they did get excited about using the word terrorist than that is just idiotic. That does nothing to help anyone. And re the no photos policy, that is obviously selectively enforced. And what are these people going to do when Google Glass is popular? Statements from other passengers confirm that this FA was acting very unprofessionally. There's no reason to doubt Mathew's story and ample evidence to conclude this FA made some mistakes.

RFY June 14, 2013 at 03:35 pm


PJ June 15, 2013 at 12:42 am

Holy cow!!.... I just had the same thing happen to me. The difference is that I am a 50+ granny! This power crazed FA started yelling at me for my bag that I just had taken on the EXACT same plane the flight before. When I asked to see her badge and credentials, she said it was none of my business what her name was and THREATENED to kick me off the flight, because SHE was rude to me? I don't think so. We as passengers need to stand up to these power hungry juveniles acting as US representatives on flights. I am going to call and call Amercan Airlines, of which I am am almost a million miler, and complain until they do something. How dare these over zealous attendantsthink they can treat people with such disrespect. The pilots are scared of losing their jobs as well and will do whatever the FA Union tells them. Road Warroirs of the world.....stand up for your rights!

Chris June 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm

He wasn't kicked off for taking pictures people, he used a word he shouldn't have and got kicked off for security reasons. If he is going to argue with a flight crew member on the ground, then who says he wont do it in the air.

For "security reasons". That's rich...

claude June 23, 2013 at 06:39 am


what are these security reasons? Using the word terrorist endangers the flight in any way?

Are terrorist presenting themselves as such when boarding the plane???

If the guy was such a dangerous individual, why was he allowed to take the next fly?

Your remarks are as ridiculous and narrow minded as the behavior of the FA.

Gavin June 29, 2013 at 07:40 am


for fecks sake....he used a naughty word! It's not even really that bad a word. What the hell is wrong with you people. What power does that word have.

David Spearman quote 'when you said the very word TERRORIST (considering you flight origin) you blew it.'

Who on this entire planet would honestly believe that saying some word really is going to cause an event? Terrorists certainly wouldn't say it so where is the harm?

Picture yourself on an aeroplane and some idiot in front says terrorist in a statement. What do you do.....if you are a little uptight or ignorant you get all huffy and jump up and down but do you really believe he is a terrorist? It's a word you shouldn't use like fk and st and has about the same impact. Maybe you should be told not to say it but it isn't something to use to kick a person off of a flight! So lets stop this defence of the cabin crew.

I used to work as a pilot for a major airline in the Middle East and we often had crew saying (about a painful customer) 'go on, say the T word' so they would have an excuse to make a huge scene and throw their weight around.

It's a power play in no other shape or form!

Gary July 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Its funny the games people play when they get on an aircraft. What were you really trying to say to the FA when you called her back?

You work for me - "Hang my coat up" I know more about flying than you - "I write about flying, I have a card" Sorry I had to laugh when I read this, I could almost feel your "Im important listen to me" vibe from here.

What happened was a bit extreme but she played a better game on the day.

@ Gary, if you think she played a better game, well...

What a horrible experience, and what stupid rules they have printed on photography on board the aircraft.

However I am afraid I am with quite a few of the other repliers on this. I doubt the photography had anything to do with your ejection from your flight by itself. I think you did something really stupid in hindsight by using the word terrorist. You had no reason to include that in you conversation whatsoever. That is undoubtedly what made them suspicious of you.

Emmett July 4, 2013 at 02:03 pm

I recently flew with United Airlines and I took dozens of photos with my iPhone as well as a Leica DRF. The flight attendants were extremely courteous to me and even gave me a free meal.

Just your bad luck I guess. I'd definitely fly United again.

Never fly United July 5, 2013 at 01:47 am

I see several issues with your story:

First, you're flying united which in many people's opinion is the arm-pit of airlines with non-caring FA. I'm sure you realize that by now. Second, you assumed that being a 1K member, may bring upon some level of respect as superficial as it may be to a passenger. Well, shame on you to assume that a FA may give a hoot about your flight status. Third, you tried to be rational and reason your explain yourself to the same FA you did not give a hoot in the first place, just to show that you may be some kind of gentleman. Again shame on you for assuming that.

I flew united on an international flight 3 years ago, and they "stole" my camera. Yes I said "stole" a $2500 camera. I won the suit but the judge failed to rule that it was intentional and limited their liability to $1500. I have sworn to never fly them again and I have not. Used all my miles to get an Xbox instead and closed my mileage account.

Take it from me, they never cared, and will never care about me or you or anyone else who flies on united. Sad to think that way but true.


J July 5, 2013 at 07:39 am

welcome to the United States of Dumb.

Tina July 6, 2013 at 09:41 am

I used to be loyal to United, until they turned into the worst, cheapest, and rudest airline of them all. This year I decided to NEVER fly with United again.

jimbo July 7, 2013 at 06:30 pm

UA screwed me out of $800. I called to work it out, talked to a person in perhaps Pakistan or India who offered me a couple of bucks instead of what they owed me. I suggested that person do something with the money they probably found impossible, so got nothing except the satisfaction of calling out this creep. Hey UA, I'm will never forget. Be aware, fly UA and something similar will happen to you, in my opinion.

DECIDER July 15, 2013 at 01:33 pm

What photo? You call that a photo.

Do you remember the Space Shuttle's final voyage?

A female took an amazing photo from her seat on a plane of that shuttle as it cut through the clouds.

If photography is an event that triggers terror, this woman must be executed.

You on the other hand need to learn photography.

I would ask for a million miles more to be added to your account.

She labeled you based on the flight destination.

You should ask for justice.

Norma von Doehren July 18, 2013 at 07:21 pm

I have found United Airlines the worst airlines to use if you are a family traveling with a small child. United will constantly move the parents and put 2 strangers sitting with the child. If you call and complain, they might move the parents back with the child, then United will wait awhile and move the parents again. This happened over and over again when we book a flight on Sept. 17,2013 for a round trip to Alaska on July 7,2013, returning on July15, 2013. The last time they separated the family, they refused to change the parents back to be with their child. Then they tried to separate the parents. We tried to explain why the family needed to stay together, but the agent told us we were being ridiculous. Our reason was that the wife is diabetic and was experiencing blood sugar problems and she needed to be with her husband, since he can recognize when she needs help and he would know what to do. The daughter is afraid of flying and needed the comfort of her parents.

Ryan Patterson July 29, 2013 at 04:36 pm

I just had a very rude lady check me into a flight at Newark. As I was walking away from the counter I took her picture. She came flying over the counter screaming that it was invasion of her privacy to take a picture --a security guard came over and said you cannot take a picture. I pulled out my iPhone and deleted the picture in front of her. She screamed that she was telling the captain. She underscored the fact that if I did not like her service I could complain. What is it with United Airlines? This will be my absolute last flight with the carrier.

Ex UA FA August 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

While she may have lied...bottom line, she was upholding the guidelines that UA set forth and published in the inflight magazine. she was only doing her job! Take up the policy with Jeff smisek! If she didnt say anything she would have been fired. You all don't know about ghost riders do you? United employees secretly placed on random flights to make sure you uphold the UA guidelines, if you don't you get fired!! S take a chill pill already, what happened to you was a UA thing not the FA!

E Jackson August 7, 2013 at 08:05 pm

I to was put in an awkward and humiliating and costly position when I took a photo of an agent prior to boarding. I received 2 replies from my complaint to UA. The first sounded like they took it seriously and my complaint would be investigated if not vindicated. The second reply made me realize it is an empty apology with no action intended.

1st Response:

Thank you for contacting United Airlines.

I realize my apology cannot erase what happened, but I hope it helps to know we take your concerns very seriously. At United Airlines, we believe all customers and co-workers are to be treated with dignity and respect. This philosophy is deeply woven into everything we do. The behavior you described would not be acceptable under any circumstances.

Please be assured your comments will be forwarded to division senior management for internal review and necessary corrective action.

We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.


Jason Lovett Customer Care

2nd Response:

I am sorry however we do not provide reimbursement for this situation.
You are not supposed to take pictures of any airline employee. If you do, then the supervisors have the right to remove you from the flight and have you travel another day or ban you from flying again. I am sorry you feel they were rude and your comments have already been forwarded however there is nothing else we will be able to do. I hope this information is helpful and we ask for your understanding.


Jason Lovett Customer Care

My Incident as reported to United:

I have been traveling the world over for over 25 years and during my last United flight in Denver I had the most horrible travel experience of my life at the Denver airport because of one United agent and the events that transpired by her actions and inactions. I truly hope United does not condone the actions of the agent/agents and will make amends to the damage she caused. The events were humiliating and I never want to see Denver airport ever again especially Denver United. I have always been treated with respect by United and even more so with Continental. I do not have an English degree and I am not a lawyer but I know without a doubt that this is not the kind of service that United would like to be known for or would condone. I have come up with several alternative actions that could have been taken by the agent or other United agents but no one took the time to listen or to intervene or offer an alternative solution up to and including the Denver Operations Manager. I will leave it to you to decide what other actions could have been taken as I have taken the time to supply you the information.
I was awaiting an oversold flight that was delayed multiple times. I was minding my own business and waiting patiently when I was called to the United counter where there was only one agent present. She requested my boarding pass proceeded to type away without a word and then handed me a new boarding pass. This had a new seat assignment much further back and not the one I was originally given (row 7, I believe was my original seat assigned to me during my rerouting thru Denver. It was on a window in front of the wing and I am happy whenever I can sit there as I relish the opportunity to fly and observe landscapes, I am a geologist and flying is a great opportunity to learn and see what cannot be seen on the ground).
I asked why she switched my seat and she replied that "a mother had to sit next to her son". I felt it was wrong to have switched my ticket without asking me and done in a rude manner. I hesitated for a few seconds without saying anything and decided to hold my breath and not say anything and sit down as I was very tired and wanted to just get home even though I was disappointed. If I never would have said anything than it appeared that the agent never would have said anything either. The flight continued to be delayed until at some point there were multiple open seats (I assume because the delays caused missed connections and these passengers did not continue with the flight). A second agent began calling the extensive wait list people and began assigning the newly opened seats. Several of the seats were the same area I had been forced from. I approached the counter and asked the agent if I could have my original seat assignment given back to me or one of the other open seats. She said she did not know what I was talking about and when I explained the actions of the other agent (who was now at the gate area); she did not want to help me and said I would have to speak with the other agent. I reminded her that she was in the process of assigning the empty seats that I was inquiring about to standby passengers.
At that time the agent who had taken my original seat returned and asked if I needed help. I explained that now there were open seats that I would like to be reassigned my seat or a similar one on the opposite side. She said that I had already agreed to switch seats and was therefore stuck with my current seat assignment. I reminded her that she had switched my seat without asking me and her response in front of the other agent was adamantly denying what I said and responded in a louder voice that she first asked my permission and I had agreed and so she changed the ticket. I reminded her that she had actually changed my ticket without asking me and I had asked her why she took my seat after she changed it and her response had been to place a mother with her son. She responded again saying Sir, you requested it! I said you’re lying and she replied "If you continue I can deny you boarding". I said I am not going to argue any longer, "Please give me your name so that I can take up the issue with customer service". At this point I was humiliated that she was telling me rudely and loudly that I was the one lying and I had done absolutely nothing to deserve such treatment and I had been waiting patiently and quietly for my flight along with everyone else. I was astonished when her response was to flip her hair in front of her name tag, blocking me from reading it. I tried to ask the other agent to help me and to give me the agent’s name (the first agent preceded to the gate again) and astonishingly instead of trying to intervene or help solve the issue she also covered up her name badge. I never asked for her name in the first place.
At this point I felt they were both collaborating in trying to hide from the fact that there customer service approach was appalling and did not want any complaints with their names attached and passed on to United. I took out my camera and took a picture of the second agent and proceeded to the gate and took a picture of the first agent so that I could report the horrible incident to United along with some form to I.D. them.
I then proceeded to the other side of the terminal and requested directions to customer service from another gate agent. I proceeded in the direction of customer service and saw someone that looked like a United representative leaving the service area in which there was a lineup of people. I asked if he could please help me and he proceeded to verbally abuse me in a loud and threatening manner "did you take photos of the agent"? "Did you have permission to take photos"? He would not let me say anything about the incident and began to tell me to give him my camera to delete the photos or he would deny me boarding. I said no and he said delete the photos or you will not be travelling. I felt that this behavior of the agents and then customer service could not be the behavior that United stands behind. I felt they were using their positions to abuse their standards or work ethic and treatment of passengers and at my detriment. I felt they were reacting so strongly they were going to do whatever it took to prevent me from exposing them. No one took the time once to try to resolve the issue, I was only told I was lying. The service manager said I was now banned from the flight. I tried to call customer service on the 1800 line and was followed and told by the customer service rep that I was trespassing and he would call security. I left and I repeatedly responded I had done nothing wrong. I tried to get to any location where a united representative other than this monster could help me. He followed me to the bathroom and down the united terminal as I tried to use the public telephones to call united. He prevented me from using the public airport cart.
Security arrived and without asking me what the problem was asked me to present my boarding pass. When I did so security passed it over to the United customer service representative. They then told me I do not have a reason to be in the area because I do not hold a boarding ticket. I was escorted to outside the secure area. They advised me I had done nothing wrong but that I did not possess a boarding pass. Later I was told by 1800 United to proceed to the ticketing counter and to re-book a flight for the following day. I was greeted by a Pawel Korowajski, he asked me what was the problem and as I began to explain he cut me off and said he did not need to hear anything more "when he was on the phone he had heard screaming in the background and I was escorted out by security therefore and this was therefore a case closed". I have no idea what screaming he was talking about; certainly I never heard screaming in the areas I was in. He did not take the time out to listen to what happened as no one had. I told him that now looking back I could have not taken the photos and proceeded with a customer service complaint as an alternative to what I did in the heat of the moment but I also asked him to consider the many opportunities the agents had to solve the issue before it ever became a problem, I feel there were multiple people and opportunities where I was ignored and my problem ignored before I began to be insulted by United staff. Pawel Korowaljski was not interested in what I had to say and told me my ticket is now void and I would be welcome to purchase a ticket for future travel. He also advised me that I never paid for that original seat which I felt was another humiliating stab at myself and I felt I was about to throw up I felt so bad that this had turned into such a nightmare. To think about United Denver and really Denver airport and Denver in general now makes me sick to my stomach and I never want to see either again in my entire life.

I feel that the whole United Denver acted together to back up the horrible agent and her selfish act of lying about her actions in order to look like she had been following protocol when she knew she hadn't and went out of her way to destroy my trip for her pettiness.
I realize United is a big company but please respond in a real way. Please restore my faith that this is not the new United and United does not condone the actions of the agents.

Bill August 15, 2013 at 07:18 am

You're an idiot. The minute you said "I am not a terrorist" you sealed your fate. As an airline captain, I would have removed you also, but I would have looked you in the eye and told you exactly why.

Use some common sense. There was no need to explain it to the underpaid and overworked cabin crew. You highlighted yourself as a problem child by doing that, and no one wants to deal with a problem child at 36,000 feet.

Bill, because it's not like I was just thoroughly screened by the TSA just 20 minutes before, right? It's not like my name wasn't checked against a secret gov't do-not-fly list when I checked in, right? It's not like my 1M miles with United showed that perhaps I could be trusted and that the FA was wrong? Right?

Bill, do you think the terrorists have won when even that word becomes off-limits?

John B August 15, 2013 at 02:22 pm

Bill, unfortuantely you have been proven to be the idiot here. I do hate it when people with zero experience of travel try to give advice about the subject. Clearly Matthew has done nothing wrong here. He said "I am not a terrorist", it is a factual statement. Why should one be prevented from telling the truth or stating the obvious?

Matthew, I cannot believe they would treat a trusted, loyal customer like this. The world has gone mad!!!!!

Kelly August 28, 2013 at 03:28 pm

You are flying to the middle east and your trying to argue with them about taking pictures. They don't want to hear your excuse's the rules on there flight is what it is. I won't fly on there airline now that I heard how stupid there rules are I always take pictures and video sometimes even while landing because I like watching the engines. I fly US air all the time they don't have stupid rules. I don't blame them for kicking you off today you just can't take chances with anyone.

@Kelly: Istanbul is in Europe.

Steve Smith August 30, 2013 at 08:26 pm

Iya? Smitty!!!!!!!!!!!!@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@Help!

Matt September 4, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Kelly is borderline illiterate and has a very poor understanding of geography. Fortunately, she takes US Airways, so she need not know much about the world!

This nonsense about terrorists winning is missing the point. I have had innumerable flights on UA with horrible crews. And I, too, am a young 1K that defected and then returned to UA. I think you're giving the FA far too much credit. It is more likely that the FA simply disliked you: she hated that you were (1) young; (2) in business class (and hence doing much better than her--or at least seemingly); and (3) asserting yourself. This is really sad; indeed, pathetic. However, I don't think terrorism had anything to do with it, either in fact or in false justifications. It was sufficient that the "crew" did not want you on the flight because you challenged the FA. Bullshit nonetheless.

Johnson500 September 12, 2013 at 02:59 am

Hi there thanks alot for the post....

Neville Smith September 15, 2013 at 07:33 am

Good story, but please don't advertise yourself or fool the public into thinking that you are a professional Journalist, and that you are a professional travel writer- which you are NOT. What you are is an aviation enthusiast who loves flying and traveling. What you are doing is a hobby, it's not your job to be a travel writer - that would be an insult to professional Travel Writers and Journalists who do write for a living. Get your facts right before you call yourself a 'Travel Writer'. Other than that you seem to have a good hobby going for yourself.

@Neville Smith: What constitutes a travel writer is no longer determined by degree or publication--that train has left the station. And considering that I do this on a full-time basis, your statement that "it's not your job to be a travel writer" is wrong. So I would invite you to separate your facts from opinion before opining next time.

Paul September 16, 2013 at 02:43 pm

Domestic airline you pretty much have no choice but use American airlines, but why, for God sake, do you use American carriers?

I never, ever use American carriers for international flight. They are rude, unprofessional and over all have 'know it all' attitude.

Please, I'm sure you already know, use Asia based air carriers such as JAL, KAL, Asiana, Thai Air, etc.

I've got a couple UA reports coming up and I really do like UA--they can be good when you get a good crew. I'll also have a flight report on SQ with a sour review.

bpr September 16, 2013 at 08:14 pm

You said the word "terrorist". That is a federal offense, and you could have spent jail time had the cabin crew warned the authorities.

Wow. AND you were going to Istanbul. Joking about terrorism on a flight to the middle east..are the rest of these commentators totally blind to that??

Please tell me you are joking. Please.

Jeff September 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

You whispered "terrorist" to a flight crew member - not a very smart idea. Next time, just keep quiet.

Will September 23, 2013 at 03:20 pm

Anybody defending the UA flight attendant on this site is probably a flight attendant that thinks they are right about everything. This flight attendant clearly doesn't understand customer service and is one of the reasons I avoid United whenever possible. Their service attitude is disgraceful and demeaning.

numbbum September 26, 2013 at 09:19 am

Matthew used the word terrorist in the context of "I am not a terrorist" . Everything and everybody smarter than a tomato understands this. And the difference. If you deal with below tomato IQ things get always weird.

I fly around 300000 miles every year in Economy with many different airlines and I can see big differences between companies. Not many airline companies treat me like a valued customer. A few still do. Even cheap ones. I often make pictures or aircraft features like terrible seat arrangements or big boxes where your feet should be. In case I want to complain I need documentation, right? I never complain, just suffer and wonder how airlines get away with how they "terrorise" me, the customer. I never knew I am not allowed to take pics. I see many people take pics inside planes.

If a terrorist wants to make pics of an aircraft interior, fitting or crew he would not use his Iphone. He would buy a $ 70 spy cam watch from Radio Shack and do it all day, every day undetected. In HD quality with close ups of everything and everybody. Am terrorists smart enough to know this?

A FA with attitude, I would not expect them at JAL, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, CP, ANA, Etihad, Thai Air or even Virgin. They would be nice, friendly and if necessary to the point. But at Delta, Quantas or United they would not surprise me. So , Matthew, take my hint. I had a similar incident with PanAm back in the days and in the end, its us, the customer, who has a smile. Time will tell.

Foenix September 26, 2013 at 07:11 pm

Good for the FA! Point blank, you did not like being told you could not take any pictures, (I think there is more you are not telling: why would the FA need to warn you if you “politely & quietly” put the cell phone away?). I think you were bothered and this is evidenced by your next move to signal the FA to come back and ask her to hang your coat. You really showed her who’s in charge! You also proceeded to insult her intelligence by saying “I want you to understand why I was taking pictures”…offering the business card made you seem like an even bigger ass. This is who I am and this is why you should be ok with me taking pictures.
Nobody cares who you are, particularly the flight crew. As a fellow passenger who flies regularly; I, like everyone else on board, expect to fly with the least amount of distractions and hassles. This requires that all follow the rules and it is part of the FA’s job that fools like you are kicked off the flight. Good for her and hats off to the captain for backing her up!!

Steve October 2, 2013 at 08:56 am

I don't think you took enough time to think about the events that lead to your being removed from the aircraft. This could be Monday morning quarterbacked all day long and seen from a billion different angles but a quick decision had to be made and unfortunately for all of the parties there was plenty of wrong to go around.

Following crew member instructions is part of your obligation as a passenger. When you are asked to stop a certain behavior and you comply it should be over and done with. Explaining your actions and or who you are is where you went wrong.

You went to the source which was the statement in the on-board magazine and found that the flight attendant was technically correct although many would argue that a seat area is not really equipment.

But here is where I think you went wrong, challenging her authority. I am guessing Newark to Istanbul is a 9-10 hour flight. The flight attendant needs to size things up pretty quickly and I am guessing that in her experience people who are asked to comply and then get defensive and try to explain "Who they are" and or attempt to defend what they were doing, could become difficult passengers down the road.

In the event of a real emergency or security situation, crew members want people to comply and not challenge their instructions plain and simple. Just like using your cell phone and being told several times to turn it off and people just ignore the instructions and keep on typing away. The flight attendant probably thought you were one of those type of passengers.

The flight attendant should have remained present during the interaction and the captain should have looked you in the eye, I would agree. A decision had to be made quickly and sometimes it is better to err on the side of caution and risk an unhappy customer experience than it is to get to 35,000 feet and realize that you should have gone with your gut!

Lane October 2, 2013 at 08:01 pm

I am a flight attendant for a major airline. While it does seem that there was a strong overreaction on the part of the crew in this instance, there is a reason those rules about no photography are in place. Prior to 9/11 crew/airplanes and procedures were photographed by the terrorists during their "dry-runs". I know first-hand, I was on one of those flights. Although we are 12 years post 9/11, flight attendants, especially those who have been around prior to 9/11 are constantly "on alert". Whether it was because we were somehow involved, or lost a friend that day as many of us did, please understand the 9/11 is always with us. I can't speak for the crew on this flight as to why they reacted the way they did, but perhaps it will give you a better understanding the next time you fly.

matt October 28, 2013 at 02:57 pm

Dude, you said TERRORIST on a plane. I can almost assure you, that is why you were removed. You should have said, 'oh sorry' and gotten a glass of red.

Rob November 5, 2013 at 02:01 pm

Letter to United CEO:

Dear Mr. Smisek:

I have not done this myself yet, but I am very tempted to do so for 2014.

Delta has a "Status Match" promotion at We simply need to email [email protected] or fax all current United information to Delta at (404) 773-1880. Alaska Airlines also has a similar program on-going.

I have two work associates; one that has over 3 million miles on United and the other has 2 million plus miles on Delta. My Delta buddy is always "harassing" us with all of the benefits that he receives. After my 24 years of flying Continental / United, I am ready to "throw in the towel," as it seems that the “new” United is trying to "weed out" a lot of us "old timers".

After Continental and United merged, United’s Million Miler frequent flyers were promised that they would continue to get annual upgrades. Almost immediately, though, those were taken away. The ‘new’ United increased change fees on award tickets. The “new” United has prioritized individual transactions over long-term loyalty by giving single trip full fare elites — even Silver elites — upgrade priority over 100,000 mile flyers. The “new” United is selling cheap upgrades to anyone at check-in rather than upgrading elites; and the “new” United prioritizes ‘supported’ upgrades, such as mileage upgrades, over elite upgrades, so a general member with a co-branded Visa could upgrade ahead of an elite domestically.

What’s more, United’s computer systems remain very broken. The “new” United’s upgrade processes are broken as they do not run waitlists properly or continually. Savvy flyers using supported upgrades can ‘jump the queue’ by watching for space to open up. United’s new computer system doesn’t even consistently properly ticket award travel on partner airlines pushing through ticket numbers to partners (meaning that award reservations can wind up mysteriously cancelled because the partner thinks they weren’t ticketed).

The one true improvement since the merger is the elimination of partner award blocking or throttling, where the airline denies that partner airlines are offering award seats even though those seats are available, but now with these new changes, those seats have gotten much more expensive

Mr. Smisek, whatever happen to your quote “changes you’re going to like?”

When you took over, United rebranded “Mileage Plus” as “MileagePlus” Now I think perhaps the better term would be “MileagePoo.”

I have complained to the “new” United many, many times over the past couple of years. I get an email back for a phone call from KANA, always telling me to be patient, as all of the problems eventually be worked out. At this point the problems continually get worse instead of better.

Parodies such as this are not too far off the truth:

Unfortunate however November 11, 2013 at 07:22 pm

Although there may have been some over reacting on the flight attendant's part you did say the word Terrorist and as a supposed frequent flier I would think you, of all people should know better than to use that word. It had nothing to do with the picture taking but the word terrorist. I guess an expensive lesson learned.

Wow, that is a crazy story. You got a tough deal there from United when a crew member took a dislike to you.

I flew with United on Sunday and also took a few pictures including the exact same one you have. Nobody said a word to me and I was unaware of the policy you mentioned.

Victor November 17, 2013 at 09:47 pm

First, as an airline pilot (for a different airline), I will say although the word terrorist may have not been the best choice of words, it certainly did not warrant the reaction received. Many F/A's today are just incapable of making rational decisions. The true problem lies with who the airlines hire and for the task which they are hired. A F/A's job isn't the front line of defense for our country! They are not hired to filter out select words and rearrange them in a paraphrasing comment to the captain so as to paint a negative picture! As a captain, I am paid to make rational decisions. Some based on the observations and comments of my crew members and others made solely on my assessment of a situation. This captain did not take the time to properly assess the situation let alone make an unbiased and knowledgeable decision derived from all the facts. You see.....flight attendants do lie! They do exaggerate and they manipulate the facts in some cases. It is up to the captain to gather the facts, support his crew when reasons and situations warrant support and then and only then, render a competent decision. He did none of this and I find him liable for making a poor judgment call by supporting his F/A without hearing the side of the "high value customer"!! You think the captain didn't have time to do this?? You are wrong. The captain has all of the time! He owns the aircraft! It doesn't move until he is ready! And he will NOT suffer the wrath of a late departure! It is our job!

Yes, the F/A lied but the captains inability to properly assess the situation and render his own decision which would have opposed his crew worse. I find him liable! Let me give you one example worse than this situation! Put yourself airborne and the same situation arises. If the captain comes to the same decision and opts to divert the aircraft to have the pax removed (which is what would have happened to get the pax off), the captain would have put everyone at risk on the jet! For what.....?? Taking a picture?

I'm sorry. As an airline captain, I fall on the side of this pax. He was totally mistreated by United and United should fix it! Have the Captain apologize to the pax!

Victor, thank you for weighing in!

KevCarrico November 19, 2013 at 08:47 am

awesome photo of the seat.

SV November 19, 2013 at 11:05 am

He was direct - "The captain is not comfortable with you on this flight. You'll need to gather your things and we'll find another way to get you to Istanbul."

'we'll find another way to get you to Istanbul.' - meaning they were not happy with him on THIS plane but it was ok for him to travel on a DIFFERENT plane? What screwed up logic is that?

It seems like the FA was not happy with you being on the plane just wanted you to get off (reason, taking pictures or using the T word, was irrelevant at that point)

alvernariston November 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

Wow, a nice picture of the airplane seat is a major security threat to the aircraft such that the passenger has to be removed from the flight. What logic! An obviously retarded FA that deserve to be fired and a jerk captain. I take a lot of pictures on planes (thankfully not united) and never once have I been reprimanded like that. Seriously?? For a friggin picture?? Dude u should have gotten the name of the FA and get her to give u an apology, or even a acceptable reason for what u got. Not blaming the whole of United, but u must have gotten one of the worst FA in the airline...

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Jules December 13, 2013 at 03:21 am

I wonder if the FA ducked this dude 'cause he was douche-y and intimidating?

One paradigm to consider these events through might be the role gender and class play out in our interactions always. The author of this blog is an upper-middle class, white male. The FA is a working class woman. In the situation described, the author seems to deliberately (if subtly) challenge the FA's authority here. Simply by "mansplaining" why he "was" or "should be" taking photographs - why he felt authorized to violate a rule - he was letting that FA know how "silly" or "wrong" her reprimand was. And by saying, "I hope you don't think I'm a terrorist", our author here was being patronizing. The FA didn't think he was a terrorist - and "Mr. Rich-White-Dude" knows this and has the privilege to make a flip comment like this in order to make light of the FA's directive and the airline policy. (Poor, brown folks in the cheap seats probably wouldn't have been so cheeky - we don't have that luxury.) I'm not sure blog author deserved to be booted off of the flight - but I do think he might need a few lessons in how his white/class/male privilege works and how he is working that privilege in some obnoxious ways.

As a female professor who came to my current class identity from a working poor childhood - I am often uncomfortable with how many of my "public ivy" undergraduate male students question my authority as their prof. by "mansplaining" why my grades, policies, or perspectives are "wrong". And often they make very subtle, patronizing jabs at these perspectives in order to remind me that I am "silly" - or even that the university-required study of rhetoric is "silly".

Now, and I cannot speak for the FA agent here, but I am not one to need authority or a sense of power over my students. . .but it does get a little exhausting dealing with rich white guys who almost never have anyone tell them "no" - "no, you cannot take photos, no matter what your job title is or what class of seats your ass is in." or "no, you cannot turn your paper in three days late and still get full credit." or "no, you cannot talk to me as if you know better or as if my authority here is not legitimate." See? Matt - is that your name? - maybe next time think about how to accept a "no" answer. One of the things growing up female and working poor taught me is how to get good at getting through situations and systems in which someone else's rules (usually rich men's) - stupid, unfair, and silly as they may seem to me - have authority over what I can and cannot do. Borrow a lesson from those of us who have learned to smile, put our head down, and save our outrage for larger issues of social justice that actually matter.

Prof. Warren, is that you?

Jules December 13, 2013 at 03:31 am

Yes, Matty - it is. And while your writing skills have improved, I am disappointed that all those lectures and bell hooks readings about identity politics and privilege didn't make quite the impact I'd hoped. :/ and ha.

Jake December 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Found a relevant story here. Guy got thrown out from a UA flight for asking a rude FA her name:

Tania December 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

@NyRon - You are absolutely RIGHT- Im an FA too.. and if a pax starts arguing even before take off it sets alarm bells off right away.. thats our training! If you are like this on the ground imagine at 40,000 ft???? It usually it only gets worse.. My adviceto both FAs and PAX leave EGO behind at home.. Theres a reason we tell you something.. never mind the delivery? Really? You used the word Terrorist?????????? And you Really a Frequent Flyer?

Emmanuel Goldstein December 16, 2013 at 05:11 pm

Part of me sympathizes with you Matthew and thinks you should have sued all involved if possible, emotional distress, or something like that.

But you carelessly used an Orwellian WOT trigger word that has been programmed into the masses in the wake of the 9/11 False Flag Terrorism attacks of 9/11/01.

It doesn`t matter the reference which it is used; any use of the word "terror, terrorist, terrorism" is going to get you a sharp response from airline or airport personnel.

Travelgirl December 21, 2013 at 09:41 am

I don't know but it sounds weird to me that you would want to just take a picture of a seat when you can Google that aircraft and have a picture of the whole plane. I'm just saying.

Every airline has this rule about photographing on an aircraft and if you don't want to follow their rules then drive your own car so you can take pictures of your own seat!!

But then there is always 2 sides to every story isn't there....

justsayn December 26, 2013 at 01:31 pm

People who start off the conversation by saying (I'm not a Terrorist) usually are. That was your first mistake, also bothering the FA by trying to explain yourself after she already told you to stop is a red flag meaning this guy is annoying, let's get him off the plane. Sorry but this is not 1975, you can't just do or say whatever you want. When you were told to stop, you should have let it go right there and then, but you couldn't just let it go could you. These days, the Capt of the plane can't afford any risky passengers, that's just the way it is. It amazes me how there will be people who still try to take things on board that they know is not allowed or they will say words like "bomb", "terrorist", etc on a fricken plane, come on..

Ann Ledbetter January 1, 2014 at 07:26 pm

On December 26th, American Airlines mistakenly accused my daughter (according to Indianapolis TSA manager Denman and customer care agent Rene Harris), Aeriel C. Robinson, an active duty Coast Guard service member, of having a gun in her checked-in luggage (pulled the wrong passenger off the freaking plane by AA manager) and threw her off her return flight (actually, the first plane at 5:40 am was cancelled due to engine problems, the