Update: United Airlines Responds to Photo Incident

Hi all—I've been amazed at the interest my story has produced and hope it can be used as a catalyst to both clarify United Airlines' photo policy and guarantee that what happened to me will never happen to another onboard guest.

Keeping up with all the comments, e-mail, and media requests has been difficult as I traversed through the Caucasus this week with limited internet access. I am now back in the Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul preparing to fly back to Newark this afternoon—on United.

United has reached out and I had a 25-minute telephone conversation with a representative in the PR department yesterday. We reached no settlement, but did have time to discuss the issue in depth and I am comfortable saying this—United is taking this issue seriously and has launched an extensive internal investigation.

At this point, United has not offered an apology and frankly I am not expecting one. An apology would reflect horribly on the pilot and FA and I do understand the delicacy of corporate apologies in general. United did express an appreciation for my loyalty and a desire to see me continue to fly on the carrier.

I will not tar and feather United Airlines as a whole based on the unfortunate actions of one FA and one pilot. Our 10-year relationship means something and I am not going to split because of one bad day. Having said that, United must now earn my trust back. More importantly, I want to see the airline move in a direction that no passenger is ever again put in the position that I was.

*     *     *

With over 500 comments on my account of the incident, it is easy to lose track of a few pieces of evidence that strengthen my argument—

Every person who was on that flight and has weighed in has backed up my account of what happened. NBC News has independently confirmed that other passengers have corroborated my story.

Here's some of the words from others on my flight--

I was actually on this exact flight in the BusinessFirst cabin of UA904 (sitting 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…I'm actually shocked to read what ultimately transpired and see the actual photo. In fact, I'm happy to post MY photo of the flight map showing the flight path from EWR-IST which I took from my seat, uploaded to social media and was not thrown off the plane for taking. The gentleman sitting next to me in BF actually 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 don't know what happened in many private conversations, I can assure you there really was no ruckus or disturbance to the BF cabin beyond the initial outburst by the FA.

I was on the flight, and while I didn’t see the blogger get removed from the airplane, I did witness the interaction between the FA and the passenger in 17D who took a picture of the BF cabin. The passenger took a pic, and the FA screamed from the front of the plane “Who took that picture?!?!?! Who took it?” When 17D admitted to taking the picture, she verbally reprimanded him, yelling that it was against FAA regulations (which it is not, to my knowledge). The passenger gave a look of disbelief and said, “really?” and then put his camera away and really said nothing else.

The lack of respect for the passenger and overall rudeness displayed by the FA in this instance was pretty alarming, IMO. It obviously got even worse when the blogger was removed from the plane. 

That was me in 17C.

I didn’t even get to take the picture before she lost it. My metering light went off. She demanded to see 3-4 pictures that I had taken previously not believing I had taken it.

She then proceeded to tell me it was against FAA regulations. I asked her since when? And she then laid down a whopper on me saying that they don’t make up FAA regulations. Ironic. After sitting down and putting my camera away the Purser came by to have another talk with me.

[A]s far as I remember, there were no loud or hostile comments coming from the front cabin, so I can’t imagine it being a threatening scenario to begin with…

*     *     * 

This story will die down in the next few days, but before it disappears I am convinced we need to have a frank national discussion on the use of so-called "taboo" words onboard airplanes. The hundreds of comments on the matter show that this is a divisive yet important question and as you might imagine, I have a very strong opinion on this topic. Look for that in the coming days.

As United and I continue our conversation, I will keep all of you informed on what transpires. I look forward to resolving the issue and moving on. Thank you for the many who have supported me and thank you everyone for voicing your opinion.


Hope you find a suitable resolution. I just love the irony of your photo that says "Welcome Aboard. Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight."

I used to fly United exclusively for a dozen years. I finally became fed up with the in-air service from their FAs, as well as the persnickety gate agents. I burned all of my miles for two tickets to Europe and have since flown other airlines. I will say this, United (and others) better look out for Hawaiian Airlines. They have many Pacific Rim flights (Oz, NZ, PI, JP, etc.) from Hawaii, and several to the mainland (including New York) from Hawaii as well. Their service is absolutely TOP NOTCH.

Get your act together United! There are other alternatives...

Thanks for being a voice for the many others this has happened to.

Robert February 22, 2013 at 05:18 am

Hello Matthew - I'm going to approach this from a business point of view: You should stop reiterating your loyalty to United Airlines (it makes your position weak). Stop with the 25 minute phone calls. Tell them that you no longer trust them and that any further communication will be in writing. Do not say that you don't expect an apology, tell them that an apology won't cut it. Tell them you're going to publicise this far and wide as often and for as long as you feel like it. Do so. Sit back and wait...

Jon February 22, 2013 at 05:33 am

Glad you heard from UA but sorry it was from the PR dept. whose sole purpose is to get past reputation issues. This FA needs to be terminated.

Glad they're taking this seriously, well, at least making the right noises about it.

The situation is Kafka-esque, and it certainly sounds from the other PAX on the flight that the FA in question should very much be in another line of work pronto.

Did their "expression of appreciation" include anything tangible or any form of compensation?

Timmo February 22, 2013 at 08:38 am

I just can't take you seriously. Honestly, you lost me during the original story when you "motioned her over, asked her to hang your coat" then began to tell her who you are and why you are allowed to do what you like.

You're right, this story will die down. In fact, if it ever became a story at all, it has died down. The only people that seem to care are the people reading your blog.

john park February 22, 2013 at 08:45 am

I still want to know what united says the official reason for you getting booted off the plane?

will they say that it Was that you were taking pics or will they confirm that once you said the word "terrrorist" that is why you got booted?

A travel agent for 23 years February 22, 2013 at 08:49 am

Delta will happily match your status and you will receive much better service than that airline based in Chicago.

Fred February 22, 2013 at 09:35 am

I'll bet your experience on Turkish Airlines was much more pleasant. Americans just put up with all of the crap they're dealt, so you get treated like cattle. In Argentina recently, an airport security line was experiencing severe delays- the crowd waiting finally became inpatient and simply stormed the checkpoint- several hundred people said- enough! Did they close the airport? No, did they arrest everyone? No, they fixed the checkpoint and moved people faster.

Conor February 22, 2013 at 09:59 am

You know, I used to be a loyal Continental flier. Im not a business traveler, but I fly 2-3 times per year, and am just now getting to where I can afford first class tickets.

My first flight after the merger I was flying first class. My originating flight was delayed 1 hour 15 minutes because of a mechanical issue with the plane. Im ok with that. I had a 1:30 layover.

We got to Houston and I had 20 minutes to make my connection. The FAs refused to radio the gate, they refused to use a service cart to get me there faster. So I sprinted the length of 2 concourses and made it in time to watch my luggage get loaded on the plane. But "the door was just closed" so I could not get on! The supervisors refused to listen or help. I headed to the club lounge to talk to customer service, they didnt care. So I had to sit at the airport for 8 hours waiting on the next flight, and got put in coach because first was full. And no one offered to do make any adjustments or refunds.

No one cared. I had dealt with similar situations with Continental, they handled it right. But once United was involved, hell no. That was the last time I will be abused by United. And sadly they've now missed out on about $15,000 worth of ticket sales that have gone to other airlines.

Santastico February 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

Why keep the loyalty with UA? You can get status match in any other airline and I am sure they are more mdoern and will treat you better. I agree that US airlines are in the stone age when comapred to Asian airlines but I would guess AA and Delta are ahead of United by many years. UNless you live in a UA hub, dump all their miles and never fly them again. Why bother???

Debra February 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

This has just become the second example from United to make it into my PR class examples of "Companies behaving badly," behind the infamous "United Breaks Guitars." Ten years ago, I was a very loyal United customer, but their CS failures have led me to American Airlines. They are my first choice for everywhere but the East Coast, superseded only by Jet Blue, which has even better CS. Not a good move, United....have you learned nothing in the intervening years?

Josh February 22, 2013 at 10:29 am

This is the sad current state of travel. I've experienced the best - and worst - of flight attendants. I used to live with a Continental flight attendant before she and her peers were furloughed in 2001/2002. It's not an easy job, but that is NO excuse for lying - or in cases I've witnessed, being racist (both ways).

I've nearly been kicked off myself, but it was for verbally taking exception to small computer bags in the overhead bins. Instead of GS reps, it was the Delta Red Coats (who are generally speaking, useless).

As a matter of advice, the "T" word is something you probably shouldn't use onboard an aircraft...

Joe February 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

I am not a freq flier however, like many people, on occasion I deal with important clients/customers. Regardless of the situation, at minimum UAL should apologize to you for having a bad experience. I can certainly see them not wanting to admit any fault initially however you are an important customer to UAL and an apology should have been the first thing out of their mouths. In my line of work (IT) if you treat an important customer the same way you were treating Matthew, well, starting updating your resume because you just fired yourself. I can say that among the handful of airlines I have flown, UAL has the worst FAs and it is not even close. In my experience, they treat passsengers as if we are getting in the way of their workday and they would be happy as clams if there were no passengers at all. I have read lots of reasons as to why this seems to be more common with UAL and I truly have no idea but clearly UAL has a customer service problem. I imagine it would be hard to dump UAL for another airline especially if you frequently fly out of a major UAL hub. Also I can imagine it would be a rough go of it if you left UAL and went to another airline where you have no status. IMHO, reading a lot of your previous posts, UAL does not deserve your business or your loyalty.

RYP February 22, 2013 at 10:49 am

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For airlines, United has the highest number of consumer complaints. http://travel.usnews.com/features/Americas_Meanest_Airlines_2012/

Andy D February 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

I took a picture of my dinner yesterday and want to turn myself in. lol

Wow... I'm interested to hear what else comes from this.

PK February 22, 2013 at 11:27 am

I'll re-iterate my advice from the previous page which is to ask for a letter of permission and authorization to take photos in flight as part of your blogging duties (member of the press, which is what this is.) You need this to ensure that an uninformed crew member never threatens you again on this matter.

Let's put this into perspective: Imagine if you were in front of a courthouse and snapping photos and you worked for NBC and the local security told you to put away your camera and you complied and presented your credentials to explain and boom, you're dragged away and arrested.

Courthouses aren't planes, but the scenario demonstrates that first amendments rights should still be respected. You've unintentionally revealed an issue where many FA's and captains think that passengers have NO rights on a plane, whatsoever, in the name of safety.

On January 29, 2013, the New York Times ran a story about a similar incident on United Airlines.

Search for: "In the Air, Minor Tiffs Can Escalate Fast"

In short, I had an incident with a Purser during the flight while standing at the very back of the plane. I was asking him about a sign posted on the Economy curtain that asked passengers not to pass through the curtain. I was as far from the curtain at the time as one could get. I videotaped him. He forcefully confiscated my phone, I was tackled by two Federal Air Marshals, and detained upon disembarking.

At the time of the incident the only accusation was that I had not complied with flight crew instructions but I was never given any instructions. They would not tell me at the time which specific instructions I had not complied with.

Following the incident, weeks later, United is telling me that they have reports from flight crew that say that I didn't return to my seat; didn't stop taking photos; and that I wouldn't move away from the curtain. All of these accusations are false.

United refuses to apologize.

Ben L. February 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

PR dept seriously?

bluto February 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

You are letting United and the FA off easy. I'd accept nothing other than an apology from the FA. I wouldn't even be interested in any other type of compensation.

I hope this story goes viral like that “United breaks guitars” thing a while ago. UA deserves all the bad publicity for allowing something like this to happen. 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. And simply saying that you’re NOT a terrorist should not trigger a negative response since that is not like making a false threat.

Joe Smith February 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm

You are such a Pu$$y! a 25 minutes phone conversation that ended in no compensation? ARE YOU SERIOUS? I would of told them to bugger off and make sure this story went viral, even more so then now. So you realize that in the end nothing is going to happen. The FA will continue to work at United, she may be a little bit more reserved for a while but will go back to normal in a few months. If you think that you, as one person and your blog made a difference at united then you my friend are one nieve little boy. Next time you speak to them, grow some balls, do it in writing and not a phone call... Demand some sort of compensation.

It's a little ridiculous that the PR department contacted you. To me, that says they're only interested in how the event looks in the media and not trying to fix the issue or make you feel better about it. And in my opinion, they absolutely owe you an apology.

Ryan February 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I agree with Robert. Publicize this hard so that changes are made, and the rest of us don't have to go through this. Otherwise, the PR department sweeps in under the rug and nothing happens.

I'm a 20 + year United flier, retired now but put on a lot of miles when I was flying for business. I've watched UAL go down very slowly (but surely) over many years although I gave them some slack because all the other US airlines were going down as well in various degrees. Then the Continental merger happened and things took a serious turn for the worse: the web site went from bad to worse, the routes and times (domestic) have gotten worse, and all of this with customer service worsening.

Here are two ways to get companies like United to change:

Vote with our business; take it elsewhere and let them know why. For example, I try not to buy things manufactured by companies that Koch Industries owns. My parents and people of their generation didn't buy Ford cars because Henry Ford was a rabid anti-semite. If this doesn't get resolved to your (and my) satisfaction I'll start burning miles and dump my Explorer card and be done with them.

Get the media (60 minutes?) to latch on to your story. My guess is there are many stories like yours (on other airlines as well) and they need a broader audience, as in a TV audience.

I think both are needed in this instance. United needs to know that they can't just smooth this over with a phone conversation with a PR person.

Tim February 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Norm: I got a plane full of people saying you threatened that stewardess.

Greg Focker: I was not threatening her. I was just trying to get my bag into the overhead storage thing...

Norm: You were acting like a maniac and you threatened her with a bomb.

Greg Focker: No, I said I didn't have a bomb.

Norm: But you said bomb.

Greg Focker: I said, "It's not like I have a bomb".

Norm: You said "Bomb" on an airplane.

Greg Focker: What's wrong with saying 'Bomb' on an airplane?

Norm: You can't say 'Bomb' on an airplane!

Greg Focker: Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb. You gonna arrest me? Bomb bomb bomb bomb! During the war I was a BOMBadier!

Norm: You assaulted an airline employee and I oughta put you away for years!

Matt February 22, 2013 at 01:02 pm

"The situation is Kafka-esque, and it certainly sounds from the other PAX on the flight that the FA in question should very much be in another line of work pronto."

Prison Guard? IRS?

Drew February 22, 2013 at 01:12 pm

First of all, I agree with Robert comment #3. Stop trying to reason with United personnel and prove yourself as a nice guy. Tell them instead that violating a contract of carriage by re-scheduling and re-directing a passenger pulled off of a flight already boarded without cause is entirely unacceptable no matter how the circumstances are described. The captain enabling a quite obviously emotionally disturbed flight attendant who, according to other passengers, had raised her voice and became angry and berating over a non-existent "FAA policy" is entirely unacceptable.

Tell United that you will continue to engage in public discussions about the authority and the anger used against customers on board aircraft because we've been seeing and hearing about more and more of that in recent years. An apology and some kind of compensation is inadequate- entirely.

What is needed in addition to compensating you for having to remake your routing is a recognition that flight attendants ARE there to take the coats, to fluff pillows and serve drinks and fine dining in Business and First, and overall to be kind, professional and to ensure comfort of all passengers while representing the airline's brand. A captain ordering a passenger off of a plane without citing a specific policy or regulation that has been violated is a matter that must be attended to. Besides the emotional positions of a captain and/or the rest of the crew, there is a contract involved when a passenger has purchased a ticket, either with cash, with credit or by using mileage points.

Safety and emergency procedures engaged by flight attendants are NOT a matter of intellectual assessment and decision making. Emergency procedures are a matter of drilled commands and automatic responses. Flight service crew are trained NOT to think while performing emergency procedures. Unlike pilots, flight attendants are not engaging in calculations and trying to determine the mechanics of an aircraft.

Flight attendant training entails drilling into trainees their automatic responses and verbal commands in order to operate equipment and evacuate aircraft. It is not brain surgery.

Separate and individual decision-making in any emergency situation results in chaos, and the FAA and the airlines have always known that. Flight attendants use very specific words and commands in emergency situations and perform emergency tasks according to what's been drilled into them during their trainings.

Customer service, however, requires relating to other human beings based on each individual circumstance and moderating behavior and self-expression based on providing a positive experience. Customers are not commanded as if in an emergency during normal operations and are not yelled at unless it's to evacuate the aircraft.

Any and all flight attendants who insist to passengers, the general public, to their supervisors and to management that they are only there in case of an emergency and not to provide consistently kind and professional customer service, including catering, comfort and all on-board services as per their training and policies- should be fired.

If flight attendants want to continue to insist that customer service, food and drink and other comforts and engaging in the branding and services that management had decided are all part of the product are not what their job entails- then fire them. If in the face of supervisory counseling and customer service training flight attendants continue to insist that their job is only about emergency procedures- then fire them.

Getting emotional, raising your voice, citing non-existent FAA policies, and jabbering at the crew about frustrations with passengers before the door is even closed indicates an emotionally disturbed individual. It is she who should have been removed from that flight.

United management can't control all personnel all the time and prevent all mishaps with customer service at every moment, but an apology and compensation doesn't cut it. You should be reimbursed for the ticket you had purchased, you should receive some other nicety as an effort towards customer retention, you should receive a written and a verbal apology. But that's not all: you should then continue to iterate that being a flight attendant means providing kind and professional customer service with on-board services just as management had designed as the airline product and the company brand. The continued insistance that the job is only about being there in case of an emergency should be an offence that requires supervisory intervention, re-training and perhaps dismissal.

If United does not clarify precisely what their policies are in regards to on-board photography and the removal of passengers who had already boarded, then the matter will not be settled. So, stop being the nice guy.

You said and did absolutely nothing wrong despite a lot of preposterous comments on your original posting. You can say "I'm not a terrorist" and not violate any FAA or airline policy. You can show your business card to flight crew. You can request to speak to the captain when told by a flight attendant that you're being removed, and you can blog about whatever the pluck you want. And... you can also request that a flight attendant in Business or First hang your plucking coat. You can also tell said flight attendant that McDonald's is always hiring.

That said, I think that most flight attendants like their jobs. Most flight attendants have a lot of scheduling flexibility and more time off than the normal job allows. Some flight attendants even enjoy aviation, travel and the airline business. There are even some who continue to enjoy interacting with people and giving them stuff, like beverages and smiles.

The idea has gotten into too many, however, that customers should expect little to nothing. Some even believe that passengers should not request water but bring their own. They forget that making travel arrangements, packing, ensuring the safety and maintenance of their homes, getting to the airport early enough, navigating security and trying to get onto the plane are all very stressful for passengers. Not every passenger can always ensure that they have enough of their own personal drinking water supply with them at all times, let alone that they fully comprehend what to expect when flying these days.

Flight attendants can have compassion, too. I don't agree with comments about this incident that insist that we should be sympathetic to the flight attendant. If she needs the care of a psychologist or a psychiatrist, I am compassionate as long as that's not evidenced on the job by abusing customers. If managment has been unfair and took away pay while promising future repairs to compensation that were then ignored, then I have compassion. But while they're still on the job and still being paid according to their union contract and/or employee agreement, then they are there to do their job, not to decide that their job description has changed because they're not paid enough or treated well enough to abide by policies. Personnel can protest and voice their frustrations off of the aircraft, not after signing in to work. If there's a work disruption, that should be coordinated with a union and with the employee group as an effort to improve work conditions, not as a matter of taking out frustrations out on people who only boarded a flight to get to Istanbul.

Employees are there to carry out company procedures and policies, not to determine FAA and airline policies on their own according to their mood of the moment. That flight attendant was in a bad mood, and the door hadn't even closed yet. Stop making excuses for her. Stop trying to be nice to management.

Tell them that the situation was entirely unacceptable and violated the conditions you had agreed to with the acquisition of your ticket. Tell them that this entire paradigm of mistreating passengers because of he-said-she-said scenarios that are not backed up by regulations and company policies is not something that you are going to let go of.

Don't feel sorry for United. Don't feel sorry for her. Don't listen to these naysayers claiming that you shouldn't have called her over to hang your coat and explain your interest in photographing the on-board product. There is much more to be resolved from that incident than an apology. The incident evidences a very severe misunderstanding of the relationship between passengers and crew, and it's getting worse unless somebody stands firm and insists that something is done about it.

Extremely Frequent Flyer February 22, 2013 at 01:13 pm

This is not an isolated case. Anyone fly as often as I do will witness similar problems due to bad United FA attitude. To do my job, I fly often, actually very often, about 400K miles a year. United FA seems thinking they got all the power by linking any issue with flight safety. Similar to rude TSA personnel at security check point and luggage screening. This 9/11 incident turned US into a police state, at least at airports and on airplanes. Once I complained to the United purser about sloppy meal services in BF from Dubai to IAD, I was immediately labeled as a threat to flight safety for the remaining flight and FA avoided any interaction with me to the point that they did not even offer me breakfast before landing. Another time I complained about my seat assignment being changed without my consent. The gate agent simply said that she would not allow me to board if I said another word about the change because I threatened the flight safety. Once I asked to use the lavatory in Global First class cabin because one of the two in BF was broken and the line was long. The purser not only lectured me for 5 minutes about TSA rules and followed me each time I got up from my seat. I merely asked for permission and she really freaked me out.

We cannot let this thing go on like this. The country is not at war. FA can do anything to protect the safety of their own and passengers on board, but not to the point to get excuses to abusively overpowering other people at any place.

Dave February 22, 2013 at 01:17 pm

@Robert: I agree. Until you get a call from the CEO, PR words mean nothing...

Regarding the F/A: She needs to decide if she is cut out to be a flight attendant. If she is going to live in a world of fear and paranoia, this is not the job for her. Her employer failed her when she got a job with UA. If she lies and is deceitful.. citing a federal agency for a rule which does not exist.. being rude as she is doing it.. that is cause for the employee to get retraining and the employer can determine her state of mind then. She needs to allow the oversight system to work. She needs to let aviation security work.

I work in government and I work with numerous statutes... I have a simple rule. Don't let the law and common sense become crossed. The police deal with this everyday.. they settle a problem down and everybody goes about their business. No tickets, fines or an arrest. Te captain had the power to settle this down and chose to not listen to reason. A highly trained and polished professional. He was more interested in the words of a fellow employee and an on time schedule than he was to use his training to calm a situation. The hostility coming purely from a boiled over F/A who should have maybe called in sick that day!

Chris February 22, 2013 at 01:19 pm

Admittedly, I don't fly United often, but ironically the catchphrase that I have in my head whenever I hear United is "United breaks guitars". You'd think UA would learn their lesson when something so blatantly wrong happens that they would apologize profusely from the get go so it doesn't snowball.

Brian February 22, 2013 at 01:22 pm

I have to say I feel your pain. I am a Gold Club member of United. I was with Continental but since the merger this type of service seems to be the standard. United is now at the bottom of my list for service. It amazes me how this merger destryed a decent airline. United employees are the reason IMO. I hope this goes a little towards changing this but unfortunately in these days of unions it probably is forgotten.

Frequent Flyer February 22, 2013 at 01:35 pm

I'm baffled. Airline staff walk you off a flight in humilating circumstances, disrupting your travel plans, and you insist that you continue to fly with them? Clearly the airline loyalty programs have you blindly handcuffed. In this case, you have your eyes wide open... caveat emptor!

Sean February 22, 2013 at 02:03 pm

You are a blogger who has some exposure and clout, and you're just rolling over and accepting this because the PR Department called you and said nice things. Seriously, I was about to become a reader of this blog until I read this. Sure roll over and take it... don't worry about the rest of us who have little exposure and no recourse.

Ron February 22, 2013 at 02:36 pm

Great story on the majority of crappy FA employed by United. I find the worst service by United is the ground staff at SFO, a real bunch of turds who wouldn't be suitable as K mart or Wal mart staff. I recently flew from SFO - SEA and the male attendant in FC was extremely strange, telling everyone the single hot cookie/scone was "baked especially for you". Although I am a 1K status flier on United, there is nothing about UA that earns my respect.

nancy February 22, 2013 at 03:22 pm

There are certain words you should not say on a plane. If you recall 9-11, United lost family members that day. Just looking at this from another perspective, but that FA may have lost some close people to her and does not take someone simply throwing that term around lightly. I doubt highly she thought you were an actual terrorist when you took the picture, she was simply asking you to comply with the rules. Which, I should mention, is what is against FAA. (Failure to follow order of the flight crew is against FAA policy and can actually get you arrested if it escalates to that point). Why you felt the need to add that tidbit of information in your explanation to her, is beyond me, and it was not necessary. That is more than likely what sent the situation over the edge, and created worry among the flight crew. There are reasons you may never have been told to stop taking pictures on previous flights, which is not your fault, its an inconsistency in rule enforcement on part of the company, but that can happen at any company. What should have been done, was you apologizing when she first asked you to stop, and stayed quiet. You could have talked to the purser later in the flight and explained yourself and the situation to him (avoiding trigger words), and once you landed, used the flight number and called the company to voice your issues to them. A report would have been filed and then the FA, and rest of involved flight crew, would have been dealt with. This would also have brought this issue at attention to the company, which could then put out a bulletin to employees on this rule and other rules. I just feel like you went about this in the wrong manner the minute you felt the need to state your status and try to tell the flight crew 'do you know who I am,' type deal.

Flight Attendant February 22, 2013 at 03:44 pm

Some of you obviously don't work in the industry... I guess since all of you "fly so much" you are all experts on security and safety. I would have done the something if someone is taking pictures in flight... Its a damn plane not Disney Land. Y'all need to grow up and stop always trying to get something for nothing. That's what this is about, and it sucks that our carriers actually allow you all to do this. Everyone knows you all BS about your loyalty, you will fly any airline that has the cheapest fare. Those of you that make it to FC only got there because you are upgraded, not because you paid full fare like the person next to you. Go ahead and talk crap about flight attendants, yes we are there for your service... safety is first and will always be first and if we feel you're jeopardizing our safety as well as the people sitting around you... bye you are off... want to take a picture??? go take one of a TSA agent, see how that goes for you!

Rob February 22, 2013 at 03:47 pm

Never say anything, even in jest, at an airport.

I was kicked off a British Airways flight merely for wearing a 1-inch button that said "Suspected Terrorist". See http://freetotravel.org/terrorist.html and http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1048323/suspected-terrorist . While on the ground at SFO, the FA insisted that I remove it. I declined, remarking that in our country we have freedom of speech. She escalated it to the captain, both insisting that I remove the button. The captain told me that I was endangering the safety of the flight. These are the magic words that apparently get him carte blanche to do whatever the fuck he wants. I did not believe him and did not comply with his request, and he turned around the plane, which was taxiing toward takeoff position under control of the first officer, returned to the gate, and kicked me off -- AND my companion, who was sitting ten rows away, reading a newspaper and minding her own business. She was kicked off merely for knowing me, apparently.

Of course my FA was making an invalid request to me, and freaking out about nothing. It's not like they are highly paid executives; they make bad calls sometimes. The problem was that the captain didn't use common sense to resolve the non-issue, and even worse, lied in order to cover his ass, by claiming falsely that the flight was endangered by wearing a political statement on a 1-inch button. (We flew the next day on Virgin without incident, wearing the button, and I haven't flown on BA since.)

If you really want to ensure that nobody ever suffers a similar thing again, you will have to find out where this "flight safety exception to every sane rule" comes from, and get it changed. I tried to get various lawyers and civil rights groups to sue the airline over it, and not a single lawyer would take my case. They all claimed that the captain is the master of the ship and, as far as safety is concerned, can do whatever they want. And guess who gets to decide whether safety is implicated in your innocuous activities? That needs to change; Captain Blighs who abuse their legitimate power to safeguard their flight need to be slapped down, and the sooner the better. If you'd like to pursue a legal challenge, I have the funding; please get in touch with me or with the Identity Project (papersplease.org).

Jann February 22, 2013 at 03:49 pm

@Drew: GREAT posting! I could not have said it any better myself.


I am so glad you wrote about what happened to you!

I just cut up my United Airlines Visa Signature card. I called Chase and told them to cancel the Visa Card. I also called UA and told them to cancel my FF account. When asked why, I answered: Read the "Live and Let's Fly" blog entries over the last few days. I also told the (very nice) Mlleage Plus agent: "Be prepared to read for a few hours, because the comments are what you should be paying attention to!" She actually asked for the website address! :)

You know what is funny? I just, in the last week, considered moving away from my Southwest Visa Card and begin using my U/A Mileage Plus Visa Signature Card because of the "Signature" benefits. Not kidding! On Thursday afternoon I had called Chase (they hold both cards) and asked for the differences, earning potential, etc. I was about a day away from it when I ran across this link on boing-boing that referred me here. I am so glad I read my RSS feed for boing-boing yesterday!

I will be staying with Southwest for trips that their airline allows me to take, and going with Virgin or BA for overseas flights.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a 1M Miler or anything, but I have "reach" with other family and work friends. They have all gotten the message about United.

Do not let them gloss this over! Stand up for us -- and for the mistreatment of other PAX! So many of us do not have the clout to make these kind of statements.

Jacob February 22, 2013 at 05:13 pm

Not that I am telling you how to run your blog, but you should update your original article to reflect developments

Ron February 22, 2013 at 05:15 pm

If you don't expect an apology, you shouldn't be flying United again. You're enabling the bad behavior you just got put through.

Read that again. If you don't get an apology, along with some kind of compensation that acknowledges the wrongness of their actions, and you contniue to fly United, you're part of the problem.

If they can get away with doing this to you it only emboldens the crewmembers to do it to anyone and everyone.

Dave February 22, 2013 at 05:42 pm

I went to http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/Contact/default.aspx and "Asked Alex" a question - how come they do this?

Dialog: Alex: Hi, I'm Alex, your automated united.com guide. I've been designed to make your time on our website as fast and efficient as possible. Just type in a question, keyword or phrase below and I'll take you to the information you're looking for. You Asked: How come you guys boot innocent people off flights? For taking pictures? Wow. Alex: What I look like isn't that important, however I'm pretty smart and can answer lots of questions. What would you like to know about our airline?v

Wow again!

Jay Murray February 22, 2013 at 05:54 pm

Hmm, touchy United Flight attendants. Quick story. I flew economy to Hawaii from Denver (NOTHING to eat--7 hour flight; new definition of economy!). I was remiss in turning off my blackberry, and as we were preparing to taxi (probably 3-5 minutes after being told to "power off hand-held devices"), i cursed myself for not listening, and grabbed my BB, and pushed and held the power button to power off, and lo, whence upon me came . . . the crazy stew from the Meet the parents movie--or a reasonable facsimile, and was alarmed by me holding my device, and said straight out, "i'm getting the captain, your device is suspposed to be off." Holy F%$# w hat's happening? Not even time for an accusation or a warning or anything! I'm alarmed, but the cap'n never showed, thank goodness. Touch-ee folks.

dan February 22, 2013 at 05:56 pm

Wow, I can't believe you can take all of this and still have level headed

I wish this goes viral and UA look at this more seriously and give an appology

reading the story outrages me LOL

Phil Sheridan February 22, 2013 at 05:57 pm

I have over 3 million flight miles to my credit, but I gave up on United a long long time ago because I felt the staff to be rude and disrespectful. I can still vividly recall the day I made the decision to avoid doing business with them.

The FA and the pilot should both be ashamed of themselves for putting you through this ridiculous situation. While we can't hope for true justice by having the FA fired I hope she has a stern talking to and feels a great deal of remorse for her actions. She has certainly reinforced my already low opinion of the airline and will no doubt cost her company some business as a result of her actions.

On the plus side I'm really delighted to hear that corporate has reached out to you. Given the corroboration of your story by your fellow flyers there can't be any ambiguity about what happened and where the blame lies. I'm glad that United is at least making an effort to repair the damage that was done.

Best, Phil

John February 22, 2013 at 05:59 pm

I have to agree with Richard, I flew with UA for a long time but watched them decline in value, standards and service. I stopped flying with them, but they still treat my email account like a communal dumpster for themselves and anyone they can sell access to. It makes me laugh when I get the semi-regular emails begging me to buy my status level back up. As if.

I can handle bad service, but I get disgruntled because we're legally obliged to comply with crew instructions, but they seem to think they can make up any bogus rule and misrepresent the law (e.g. FAA). There are never any repercussions for them like there is for police or other government officials.

Since the foreign military actions, the only two groups I feel terrorised or threatened by are some airline staff and the TSA. The chance of a real bad guy doing something on a plane is extremely low, but I actually feel at greater risk from the airline staff and TSA.

Foreign airlines (like Qantas, etc) and airports have far better perspective. The US is half a step away from McCarthyism. We're tearing ourselves apart and we don't even recognise it. Flying has become a miserable experience.


Reading this article it is clear you are United's B*tch, they treat you like shite and you continue to be their customer?

Grow a pair.

roger February 22, 2013 at 06:27 pm

United is paying attention because the situation is all over the media. In regular ocurrances, United doesn't answer e-mails and is very difficult to get a human on the phone.

The author seemed a little crybabish as well. He is right to be annoyed, but the argument that the FA is pure evil because she lied seems a little overboard - it's like calling the police at lunch because your fries are smaller than in their picture...

Alex February 22, 2013 at 06:28 pm

@Flight Attendant

Are you sure you are a FA fro a COMMERCIAL airline? Are you sure that the airline you work for is still in business? Is the airline allowed to fly outside North Korean airspace? Leaving joke aside, this is 2013, not 1985 in Russia.

You are paid to do your job, and BS like safety of the flight being affected by people in business class taking photos with their iPhones has absolutely nothing to do with flight safety. What would you be afraid they could spot, other than stains on seats and mechanical malfunctioning seats?

I sympathies with people who lost love ones 12 years ago, but that was 12 years ago. If that does not allow you to do your job now, then get another one, period.

Let me challenge you with a question: in several European languages, candy is spelled "bomboana", "Bonbon", etc. Kids under 5yrs pronounce the short version - "bombo", which sounds EXACTLY like BOMB. What would you do if you hear a conversation between a mother and her child, where you hear the child asking repeatedly for "bombo"? I'm not even going further thinking about the father with a mustache being involved :D

People need to grow-up, and the excuse about "forbidden" words on airplanes is just BS. BTW, excuses are for losers. UA and other airlines need to look up to Asian and Middle-Eastern Airlines, who are slowly taking over the skies with good service. For them the FAs are service providers, not prison guards...

@Matt - If you really want to trigger a change or at least a discussion around the topic, you can't stop here and settle for calls with PR department... You have witnesses, and your experience in being in planes and writing about them qualifies you to take part in a real discussion. You have the cards on your side, it's not the other way around...

Multi Million Miler February 22, 2013 at 07:00 pm

United was crossed off my list a few years bad. I was saddened to see Continental merge with them. Continental was a very nice airline. Unfortunately the United culture now dominates the combination.

Like several of you have expressed, the best thing to do is vote with your feet and your pocketbooks. If United can't address their falabilities then they don't need to continue to exist. There are other airlines who would be happy to immediately match your status at UA... and appreciate your business.

Continue to update all on the outcome and push for resolution. Being cooperative and nice now won't force United to take a stand one way or the other.

To the United Captain and the FA who caused this debacle, it's time for you to find a more suitable occupation. Obviously it's not with an airline.

Thanks for re-enforcing my decision NOT TO FLY UNITED.

Bob February 22, 2013 at 07:01 pm

Wow, it sounds like you were really affected by this. You should get a lawyer. Oh wait a second - you broke a rule that was visible and that a 4 year old would understand. So sorry.

Tyler Lyman February 22, 2013 at 07:26 pm

A 1K member as well, last year after mis connecting with my family of 6 in SFO en route to Shanghai we had a snarky agent trying not to assist. I commented on how ironic the opening message by the CEO was given her lack of respect for a $20k worth of tickets. Her exact response "You are right, if I were you and could fly any other airline I would. United service sucks!" How do you respond to that.

Buster McCanihan February 22, 2013 at 07:31 pm

There is no justice until that FA gets shit-canned.

Dewey February 22, 2013 at 08:07 pm

After reading this I couldn't help but think of the people wrongly convicted and imprisoned for decades who eventually get released through DNA testing.

Given the injustice you've experienced you would probably have no problem relating to these folks.

Flybill February 22, 2013 at 08:37 pm

Extremely Frequent Flier (#30)has it right, and its reinforced by Flight Attendant (#38). Airline travel these days is on the wane because it is such a horrible experience, because of the crew. Pre 911 I was 1k on United; now I hate flying so much I don't even keep my mileage on any airline and have reduced my travel to <50K.

Nancy (#37)has her head so far gone that she doesn't see the problem. It's a service business. We are customers, not threat units to be contained.

But its Flight Attendant (#38) that really is speaking truth. You can hear them relishing the power to kick people off the airplanes; forget about this being a service business. It's much more satisfying being flying cop, because then I don't can pretend I'm not a sky server. For FA#38. passengers are just happenstance. You say "we are only in FC because we are upgraded?" How about all the times we have to be degraded by the likes of you, flying the mileage it takes in shitty ass seats with zero service and surely airline employees, spending $800 a ticket, to get 3 1/2 hours of quiet. FA#38 uses the safety line to stop doing their job - which is to be nice to customers, get them beverages, treat them well and remember they are spending the money which pays your salary. Wonder why we aren't loyal to your airline? Because you hate your customers and it shows. We look for ways to avoid you so we change airlines. But you're everywhere. You know those really crazy passengers who flip out and cause you real grief? Guess what, you earned them with your horrible attitude.

I have a wonderful vision - I quit my job and work as a night clerk for an airport hotel, a hotel that FAs use frequently. I'm working a night shift and a crew comes in. I recognize some of the personnel like the classic FA #38 above. I look at them and say that there is no talking in the lobby, that they are not allowed to use their cell phones and that the only rooms left are efficiency rooms - the ones hotels give you when they are sold out because your flight has been cancelled after being delayed for 6-hours because of mechanical (and that only sold 3 seats); rooms that don't have a bathroom in them. If the FAs complain I explain they have to leave the hotel because they are a safety risk and the shuttle bus will not be able to take them back to the terminal because they're hostile. They need to walk. If they argue, I call the police and have them arrested. After they leave, I sit back, crack open a little nip bottle of whiskey and drink a toast to their backs.

gb February 22, 2013 at 08:43 pm

This incident reminds me of the UNITED BREAKS my guitar video that is posted on YOUTUBE. PR didnt get it then and management doesnt get it now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

You would think they would learn. Perhaps you need to contact the folks who made the video and several others to see if they would like some new material.

What really transpired here was not the photo itself of the screen shot but the paranioa of the FA that her job performance was being watched by company management. The Captain was just supporting his fellow UNION FA and knew it was BS. There is lots of discontent at UA and Cont. These mergers never work.. there is always a 5th column always longing for the past.. Look at Eastern and American..took decades and still is simmering.

The game has changed the public has a very large forum now. It's kind of poetic justice.. that for years we the public have been abused by all number of businesses and now we have the ultimate check and balance.

We can commnuicate with millions in text and video and vote with our wallet!! We can impact business performance and financial results. The public is just getting started .. its a new day and a totally level playing field.

One day a Gen Xer will become the CEO and then maybe things will change as a new reality becomes the norm... or a new airline will thrive doing it right. Watch out UA .. Virgin is right around the corner. Totally differnt culture.

Perhaps they should invest more time delivering a service for which we pay instead of staying up all night thinking up NEW FEES they can charge us. Nothing run operated or designed by committee is ever good.

Leslie February 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

OMW!!! I take photos all the time when I fly; always out the window though. I had no idea!!!

theblakefish February 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

You acted like an idiot...anyone that says the word "terrorist" should get booted, and you got exactly what you deserved. The fact that you tried to talk big about your meaningless blog makes you a dork just like Ben Schlappig of the "One Mile at a Time" blog.

Rob February 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

As a long term frequent flyer who has lived and flown in Asia, Europe and the US, I continue to be staggered by the extremely rude, obese, tantrum-throwing FAs and cabin crews on US carriers, who seem to think the world owes them a handsome living just for showing up. The FA in question would not last a month on any self-respecting carrier anywhere, but in this 'lets gang up against passengers' and management saying'let's do mergers and cash out and to hell with customer service", what can one expect, really? The FA who posted earlier is a classic case in pint, hello lady ( loose definition) do you think those people got upgraded even if every single poster did by sitting around on their backends or flying with deranged FAs like you on UA? Get a life, or get out...

As several g'men( accurate definition) pointed out here, the best way is to vote with our wallets and put these fat crazy cows out to grass once and forever.

gsvt February 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm

After reading comment after comment about how you should overreact, I appreciate your pretty well reasoned approach. I'm 1k so obviously fly United a lot and have had my share of horror stories, but fortunately none to match yours. Everyday I get more and more frustrated with United, and think more and more about jumping ship, but also know that there is no "magic" airline that make me completely happy.

Shortly after Unitrd's post March 3rd SHARES meltdown, I had been upgraded to first into row 3 of an A320. Then there was an airplane swap to an A319 that didn't have a row 3. Instead of putting me back int coach, SHARES bumped me off the flight, put me on standby, and cancelled me off my nest flight. The agent in the MSP club did all she could which was to get me a middle seat in coach, and back on my next flight Then when she thought I was out of earshot, I overheard her say to another agent, "you heard him, he was nice, and it's bullshit how we treat our customers now." For every horrible FA like you encountered, there are employees who really care. On that night, her comment that I wasn't supposed to hear made more difference than any excuse United could have made or any compensation they might have offered had I tried.

That said, I think how United handles you situation will indicate whether United succeeds or fails. If they decide that the actions your FA and pilot are tolerable, then the efforts of their good employees will be for naught, and the frustrations of people like me will get to the point where we will bail. For now, like you, I keep flying, but it does get harder every day.

Capt. Morgan February 22, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Drew #29 laid it out perfectly. And you should have not 'removed' the Captain's name. He said it, so tell the readers. If, for example, Lindsay Lohan had been on the flight and you had a conversation with her that you wanted readers to know about, you certainly would have put her name in the copy. The pilot is no different. He transports the public and has no expectations of privacy. Same for the FA psycho.

Tell the world who these people are. Call them to the carpet on their decisions. If you are unsure, then post their first name, the flight number, day, date & time, destination and physically describe them. The people whose opinions they care about; their peers, co-workers, family - will know who they are. Journalist rule #1: Know the source. And unless you began your conversation with the FA and the Captain with "Off the Record" - its not.

I quote the following from an article for which I posted a link to, at the end of this comment:

"No pilot wants to face an FAA investigation or to have to respond to a safety complaint that could result in a black mark on his or her safety record and jeopardize his or her pilot’s license and job. Pilots regard a complaint to the FAA as a “nuclear option” for safety violations, and are extremely reluctant to rat a fellow pilot out to FAA safety inspectors or help anyone else do so.

That’s precisely why complaining to the FAA may be one of the most effective responses to an airline’s threat to ban you from a flight on the pilot’s say-so, piercing the pilot’s immunity and making him or her defend his or herself against a regulatory investigation that will cost him or her time, lost income, and in the worst case loss or suspension of his or her license to fly."

What most people do not stop to realize is that when you step onto an airplane, you are entering what has become a 'Totalitarian nation'. And until there is a ground swell of pushing back from the public, this negative, totalitarian attitude from on board flight personnel is just going to increase because the more they get away with, the more they get away with. What is even worse, is that TSA is trying it's best to append airports to this "nation". ( http://www.ksla.com/story/21303241/tsa-pat-down-try-of-disabled-girl-raises-parents-ire )

Pre 9/11 that flight attendant would have taken the time to engage in conversation with you in order to resolve the issue, if for no other reason than a positive, polite "Image" was important to FAs. Now, I believe, due to society's appetite for 'reality TV's' negative reinforcement, flight attendants take more pride in being rude.

The fact that you have not pushed back hard indicates to me that, "bless your heart", either your self esteem is really low, or that you were raised in a very polite household and simply have not learned that being polite doesn't mean you can't draw attention and stand your ground...so Matthew darling, which is it?

You have good exposure to the airline's BEST customers; brand loyal, frequent flyers. And if THIS customer is willing to take this type of treatment lying down - well what chance does the consumer, who perhaps has saved for years for the exciting trip of a lifetime and begins photographically documenting their trip, only to get tossed off the flight, have? And God forbid if the passenger is not a white, Anglo Saxon...

And 950M miles dude? I'm only at the half mil mark & my voice has gotten several free flights and numerous upgrades simply by taking names (and I mean this literally; write the name on a piece of paper in front of the offending employee & for maximum effect, ask the employee for a piece of paper to write on) and forcing my way up the 'chain of command' within the AIRPORT***. 90% of the time I have done so in a very polite fashion (The other 10%... well suffice to say getting nasty can work too, but it does consume more energy).

On the PLANE, as I said, you can be inconvenienced in the worst of ways (get arrested) for simply saying "I disagree", but once your foot landed back in the airport, you should have been up every employees backside until you had been, at the very least, given a dining voucher. And in regard to re-booking you to your final destination, you should not have had to pay for any ticket - on another airline - or not.

And screw the PR department - they don't get paid on revenue results. Find the regional marketing manager and regional VP of sales and write them a letter. Their pay is tied to revenue. And your story affects their bottom line.

In regard to the legality of taking pictures on a commercial flight:


Note: I could not find ANY reference to United's Picture/Video policy on their websites. Nor any reference that passengers should read the in-flight magazine to review all in-flight policies. I didn't know this about pics until your article....

So for those that want the legal scoop about this issue of being tossed from the plane, as well as all things that concern a person's "Freedom To Travel" - check out the website link below.


Your mission, should you choose to accept, get a travel voucher out of this and a refund for the $225.... and if you can't, then lay off United for a couple of months. (Besides, speaking from experience, it is better to have another ff program as backup.) And every time you book a ticket on another airline, send a copy of the receipt to the regional marketing manager and the regional VP of sales and post it on your blog. Trust me, you will hear back from them.

And finally, to all readers that have Twitter & Facebook accounts: TWEET and POST. And in your Tweets & retweets, be sure to include hashtag: #unitedairlines

Steve February 22, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I am sorry you are taking the martyr route. United Airlines is a great airline, and they do need to take responsibility for the damage they have done to the trust and good faith of their passengers via this experience of yours. If you do not insist on getting compensated for at least the extra fare you spent, and any extra costs that was entailed because of your situation, you are playing win-loose. You posted your blog for all of us to read, and we became part of your experience, because we may all encounter the same thing. Come on Matthew, stand up for all of us also.

It should be imperative that United makes it clear to ALL passengers that they don't allow ANY PHOTO taking on the plane, up front, before people board the plane. I would hate to have my grandmother read the riot act if she decides to take a photo upon boarding. An experience like that COULD RUIN ONE'S WHOLE TRIP! They should also make a list of words and terms that should never be spoken! This should be posted at the gate so no one innocently gets thrown off the plane if they use them.

This is not an issue for the PR department, it's an issue for the CEO, and or your lawyers.

Lorenzo February 22, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I was United Global Services for 3 years. I now fly Virgin or Southwest or selected international airlines anytime I can. The quality of service at United on the plane and the planes themselves are appalling.

BB February 22, 2013 at 11:38 pm

I don't think it's overreacting to expect compensation for the flight that they caused you to miss. And I agree with the others who have questioned your loyalty to United. The pilot and FA clearly didn't care when you told them you regularly fly United. Obviously United doesn't have loyalty to you, so why bother? At the least they owe you compensation for the $200 you're out, but if they want to appear to care about loyal customers, you should get an apology from corporate, not PR.

Andrew February 22, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Sadly Klint believed that United was taking this matter seriously....I hope United does, but from all these incidents, the corporate culture does not change much, and the phone call from the PR department is about covering the ass.

Lewis February 22, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I have almost 1 million miles with Delta so I am definitely not a novice flyer. I had hoped to start flying United to give myself another airline to build with. This will be my last flight with United. I even have a $1000 credit that I may let expire. Their lack of customer first attitude goes top to bottom. I recently called their customer service 12 hours before my flight as I noticed that the assistant from another company had booked the flight with an error to my name. I spent 2 hours exhausting myself asking the customer service manager Rahul in India to please help me. He said "I understand your situation and have the power to help you - but I won't." I understand there is a policy about name changes but the ticket needs to match my name on my ID. Rahul suggested I quickly purchase alternate ticket - I considered it and asked if I can get credit against the same flight I was about to book at a mug higher cost - but was informed I was going to get no credit. He also told me a lie which said he had no numbers that I could call to speak to someone in corporate escalations. It was painful and then I tried calling sales in the US. The agent tried to help but could not and told me to try calling AMEX travel which I did many times but was then directed back to United as they were the only ones capable of changing names. The most comical part was United tried to cross sell me on an Avis car rental for a flight that they would not help me get on. To sum it up, eventually an AMEX agent did a warm exchange with Kim in the Philippines. Kim helped me in 10 seconds. I was shocked. After reflecting - all that pain and time wasted on my part was just levels of bs by a single United employee that was an arrogant ass. Had I gotten Kim the first time, I may be singing a different tune and try to reach a million miles with United. I feel bad for your story and stand up for the rest of us without that voice.

Gary February 23, 2013 at 12:05 am

Please, everyone, stop flying UA, immediately!! Then, do me, and all the other crew members a favor and stop flying AA, too. You will not be missed.

rob February 23, 2013 at 12:24 am

comment #38 sounds like the FA in question. i wouldnt want that woman(presumably) "servicing" me for 2-3 to 12 hours. id rather be in flight with angry bees than that awful sounding EMPLOYEE

spartacus February 23, 2013 at 01:43 am

so BFD, I got to my former gold status,which means nothing since even a 3 hour flight from Vegas to Ohare cant give you an economy plus seat, because GUESS what? they dont have them. Yes folks, just first and the sardine can from hell. I have had more luggage lost, more rude FA's and gate agents over the past 10 years of my 30 years flying usually 2-3 trips a month, I've lost track. I expect it will be its usual greyhound bus nightmare and it always is, even in first. The last FA I had in first overheard me discussing my upcoming sinus surgery with 2 friends sitting behind me. He actually touched my nose and said it didnt look that big and I could skip the nose job. He then proceeded to forget every order, almost dumped the bowl of repulsive soup (what the hell in in that anyway...cream, tomatoe and scrapings of someones heels) served with my DELISH cheeseburger which makes mystery meat something I now crave. After the mop up, trying to read, he approached again and asked me what I was reading. I said a great book about serial killers and he finally left me alone. NOT one thing I ordered showed up, coffee or any beverages I requested. If united is now employing the senile and feeble minded. I think its great. Perhaps they could help with the door greeting and smiles which I have not seen in years. Like a walmart greeter! it would so fun to see someone that didn't look like they just had a hot poker shoved up their ass. BY FAR THE MOST AWFUL BUYING EXP I HAVE EVER HAD. PRETTY MUCH EVERY TIME. OH YEAH AND MR CEO OF UNITED, WE DONT GIVE A CRAP IF YOU CAN TRANSPORT ASPARAGUS. PERHAPS YOU SHOULD STOP TREATING HUMANS LIKE PRODUCE!!! STOP MAKING THOSE STUPID SMUG VIDEOS, THOSE OF US ROAD WARRIORS ARE WAY OVER YOU. FIX THE PROBLEMS AND SOON OR YOU WILL LOSE MANY MORE CUSTOMERS. THis is an epic failure to fix a huge problem. Bravo!

Buckleup Poweroff February 23, 2013 at 02:30 am

Respect your objective approach and loyalty to your airline.

For me, buh-bye United, hello Delta and American (US Airways). Yes - we have a choice. Though small - now that we are down to 3 powerful major carriers, ...best to split the loyalty investment. Any of them will match your status (at least for those folk, in the higher mineral levels of the programs.)

Shame on the Captain, really, ...a premium cabin customer. Bad. The FA emotional stability and exajeration affecting the well being and travel plans of a revenue customer. Bad.

Full circle, forward - we learn, queue quietly, do not engage, smile, speak or acknowledge a crew member on duty - unless spoken to first, and always power off the electronics. Anything you say or do, at an airport, or aboard an aircraft, may be used against you. Passenger rights, the armrest, seatback (as long as it is in the upright position) and under the seat in front of you. We will get to our destinations, safely, calmly - but the fun is officially gone. Bad.

What can we do? Feel for you has humiliation - must have been just one part of the emotion scale.

May we all have better flying ahead. Hope UA comes around for you.

Next in line. Bu Po

JettSetter February 23, 2013 at 03:10 am

In the original story post I commented that I was a 1.5 million mile traveler when I stopped flying with United & that I would never fly United again due to not one, but several poor flight crew experiences similar to what most people here have described. But ultimately it was United's refusal to handle the situation in any way shape or for that resembled "service" good, frequent customer.

For the past several years, I have been flying Asian carriers almost exclusively, [Thai Air, Singapore Air, China Airlines, etc] with a couple exceptions like Aeroflot, Oman [great service], & Emirates.

The difference in the way you are treated as a customer is jaw dropping. I'd rather be a travelling in a dog carrier on Thai Airlines, the first class on United. The service is better, & so is the food!

Bottom line: Customer service on U.S. carriers is piss poor or non-existent.

Still in doubt? Just review "Flight Attendant"'s [post #38] to get a clear perspective of at least one flight crew member's attitude & how they view their paying customers. I find to be typical of flight crews on U.S. carriers as a whole.

For the record:
In more than 500K+ miles over the past couple years, I've had absolutely ZERO problems on any Asian carrier.

@Flight Attendant: Put that in your Disneyland flight camera & snap it!

Thomas Costa February 23, 2013 at 03:15 am

Terrible service, terrible airline! The management are weak and lack vision. Unless they communicate to the people working at UA that disrespecting customers is not acceptable they will never move forward. The staff at UA think the airline is there purely to create jobs for them! They need to be told that the airline exists to make profits for its shareholders and to do that it needs many happy and returning customers! Simple really

Just fire the attendant. It looks like no excuse from another tired and legacy employee who doesn't respect her job or customers. I try my hardest to never fly any domestic carriers and stories like this only confirm my displeasure with rude and ungrateful employees. I know they deal with the same in passengers but this was business class - and a different level of service is expected.

SIEM February 23, 2013 at 07:55 am

@Gary #69

Gary you will miss us when you have no customers and are out of a job. Given your lack of empathy for your customers it is likely you will not get another job elsewhere. I would go far as to say you would not have your current position if it was not for the Union infestation in the Airline industry.

Customer services reps like you that do not give a damn about the customers ARE the problem.

The problem here is the airline unions. These flight attendants get away with everything and don't have to answer to anybody. The amount of fat lazy and crazy flight attendants is outstanding. These people should be GONE.

Helen February 23, 2013 at 11:34 am

You people don't get it!! UNITED is just a name on an airplane. United has no say so on anything. The airline was bought out by Continental and therefore any and all decisions are made by Continental.

Mike Busier February 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

Stop complaining. Get even : boycott United and tell about your bad experience as many times as you can. Major US airlines with the exception of Southwest have gone bankrupt several times. This industry is protected by the US authorities and since 9/11 the situation has gotten worse. As long as the industry is sheltered from true competition ( letting foreign airlines to ferry passengers inside the country ), the level of service is going to deteriorate. For the past 20 years I only fly Southwest in the US and will try to catch a foreign airline to leave and come back to Houston. Inside the US I will rent a car if the city is not served by Southwest. My company ,which is one of the largest financial company in the country, recommending flying Southwest whenever possible.

Bob February 23, 2013 at 11:45 am

Well, if the comments in post #38 representthe attitude of US-based flight attendants, then I feel utterly vindcated in stating that US carriers are amongst the worst in the world for service. The arrogance of these jobs-almost-for-lifers is at times breath-taking. The contemptuous us of the "Y'all" in addressing those in support of the original poster simply points to what an odious person 'Flight Attendant' is.

Just avoid US carriers, DEFINITELY avoid LAX (rudest air hub on the planet) and if at all possible, avoid the US. Stick to Asian carriers for service and the rest of the world for the sights.

Seth February 23, 2013 at 11:54 am

I fly often and due to my home town and usual international destinations United is the best choice for me. The airlines have twisted everything around. Due to their ability to rely on the government to save them every time they make a mistake and the fear they have used to make it unlike any other form of mass transit turns what used to be and should still be an enjoyable experience with competition in service AND price into a nightmare. This nightmare turns its 'customers' into subjects they can control to their whim and we go along because there are simply no other reasonable alternatives in most cases. When it comes to domestic travel I drive 9/10 times, even if that means driving from the coast to coast, instead of flying but what am I supposed to do when trying to get to the Middle East or South America from the US? Take a boat?

The only way to change things is for Americans to stop patronizing companies that are convenient but otherwise overpriced and lacking in customer service. If convenience is all you care about, by all means go ahead. But if you care about customer service and paying sometimes double the cost, take that European airline with a connection in Spain, Germany, UK, etc. I am a business owner and value supporting US based companies however sometimes the only lesson an organization will learn is the hard one. The fact that I got a letter from United essentially stating that they were a terrible airline to fly in 2012 is a sign that they at least recognize that they need to change, perhaps some more pushes in that direction will create a lasting change.

Regarding your situation Matthew, I can't believe that you have been so calm and are still trying to find the good things in United. It is admirable. If that had happened to me I would have demanded a refund, booked a flight on another airline, and blown up* the internet with my tale. You have taken the higher road, good job.

*Sorry for the bomb reference, please don't kick me off my next flight United

Dennis February 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Sure Gary #69. We will all go to other airlines (or stay home). Guess what? UA and AA won't need you anymore when their planes are empty. Grow up!

Tim February 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Fire the bitch. Seriously. United really needs to fire that FA. She absolutely deserves it. If lying about the behavior of a passenger to his detriment is not grounds for termination, what is?

Dan February 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Sounds like the same old United that I gave up on in the 90's. I was one of their frequent flyers with over 450,000 miles and transferred my miles to another airline. I would rather walk than fly United. And so the next time they file bankruptcy it will be their last gasp before they go out of business forever. Why have big companies forgotten that customer service matters?

Tick-tock United the next great recession is now upon us and time is running out for you.

John V. February 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I flew several times a year to Europe and Asia on United for about 15 years now, and I have to say, the service has really taken a dive. Continues to get worse, after reading this article.

This past year, I had to cut my trip short while I was in shanghai, so I was booked on ANA (Japanese airline) from shanghai all the way to Seattle. I felt like I was in another world, great service, nice (and nice looking) FA, drink service, meals, and all this in Economy. Then I hit Seattle for my final leg home, and it was a huge shock. I was crammed into a flight, that charged for beverages, and for the first time, in flight entertainment (some direct tv tablet). The over sized cabin attendant barely fir down the aisle, and bumped her behind into me walking by.

I did not have any issues with the flight, as my expectation have been so tightly managed flying United, I just wanted to land safely and hopefully on time. I am also happy to announce that I have burned the last of my accumulated miles. From now on, I will fly ANA or Korean Air to Asia (Cathay is also a great airline). Lufthansa and Virgin to Europe and Virgin domestically.

I will now introduce an alternate view of this situation as I did not see it presented by anyone else. About 20 years ago, I was involved in mediating a union dispute. It seems the Union did not have much to bargain with other than a strike, and pickets. Since most of their members were unskilled, they could be easily replaced should they strike. So an alternate strategy was introduced by the unions, passive aggressive company profit shocking. During the busiest times, members would call it sick, customers would be treated the worst way possible under the law. The plan was to create so much problems, that management would face firings them selves.

This maybe the case here, I won't blame the unions, as each employee has to make the decision to alienate paying customers. But they (the employees) don't like the merger with Cont. they don't want to loose any more benefits, so they choose this passive aggressive way to driving away bread and butter loyal customers. Then the stock would suffer, and demonstrate the merger was a mistake, maybe even get execs fired. Great, but in the mean time, what the hell do you think happens to an airline that is constantly losing money. They won't need to layoff, as they will be in bankruptcy.

And in my final note, I chose to fly Taca last year to Columbia. I noticed the flight attendants and gate agents provided customer service. When illiterate customers couldn't fill out their customs forms, the FA filled it out for them.

CAROL IACOVIELLO February 23, 2013 at 01:55 pm

On December 19, 2012, we flew United Airlines from John Wayne Airport to Philly. On Friday, Dec. 21, At 8:23 pm, the night before we were to fly from Philly to Des Moines,IA, (via Chicago) United sent him an email advising our flight from Philly to Chicago had been cancelled. He called United immediately to ask why, (they gave no reason) and told him the next flight out of Philly to Chicago to Des Moines that they could get us on was on Christmas day. TOO LATE FOR US! The United Rep on the phone couldn't do any thing better for us so he asked to speak to her supervisor. The Supervisor had an attitude of "that's just the way it goes sometimes". My husband was furious!!! Since our flight from Philly was cancelled on Sat. Dec. 22, we rented a car in Philly and drove 18 hours straight through to Des Moines, IA. Now an extra expense to us of over $1,155.00. Then on Dec. 25, my husband checked our return flight from Des Moines, IA to John Wayne Airport (via Denver). There was no flight reserved for us. Now he immediately called United and they informed him our flight was cancelled because we did not take the Chicago flight on Dec. 22. He told them it was because United had cancelled our flight to Chicago on Dec. 22. He got them to book us a return to John Wayne on Thurs., Dec. 27, seating in middle seats in different rows. At no time during any of his phone conversations with United did any one show any compassion or concern for any of our issues with United canceling our flights. My husband generally flys other carriers because he has had many horrific issues with United in the past. His position at work puts him in airplanes flying not just this country but to many other countries at least 2 to 3 times a month. We booked the United flights in December because they offered us times and dates that worked with our Christmas holiday schedule. He is so furious with United that he now states he will NEVER fly United Airlines again. We are so fed up with the way we are treated by the staff of United Airlines and there are plenty of great airlines available for him and us to travel. He has Gold and Silver and other upgrades on other airlines and will continue to fly them and NOT United!!!!! After I read this story, I am also furious with this airlines, the captain and the FA. Liars are as ruthless as terrorists!

David February 23, 2013 at 02:38 pm

There are two outrageous parts to this story.

The first part is the sadly very familiar and way too common example of a flight attendant lying outrageously, and then being automatically backed up by every other airline employee, and with the airport police ready and willing to join in the fun too.

But the second part is, to my mind, even worse than the first. Your statement that you understand that it would be unreasonable to expect United to apologize!!!!

Excuse me. That's beyond ridiculous. You complain - fairly and appropriately - about the event, you miss flights, meetings, and are out of pocket, but after 25 minutes of talking to a lowly PR flack, you're now happy and have gone over to the darkside. You don't expect UA to apologize????

I suppose you don't expect the flight attendant - and captain - to be disciplined and hopefully fired, either.

Your attitude is what empowers these people to act the way they do. Because you roll over and meekly accept it.

Of course United should apologize, and doubly, of course there should be - there must be - consequences to the pilot and flight attendant for their actions. Until such time as a proven lie has negative consequences not to the harmed flier, but to the flight attendant making the lie, they'll continue the way they have in the past.

Maybe you're now happy with the situation, but you surely owe it to your fellow fliers to help minimize the chance of this happening again in the future. All you've done so far is empower these dishonest little dictactors.

John February 23, 2013 at 02:40 pm

As another commenter stated, I'm surprised, yet not so surprised that you were contacted by United's PR dept. PR is concerned about customer satisfaction only to the extent that it affects their reputation negatively. If the airline were GENUINELY concerned for your well being and your future business, someone high up in the Customer Service department would have called you instead. I don't know the exact circumstances; whether your accounting is completely objective or not. But that doesn't matter. If you are as frequent a flyer as you stated you are, the very least the on board crew (read: Captain) should have done was to run your name thru their database...so he could know he was being curt to a long-time customer. That probably would have taken all of five minutes, which on a long flight such as yours, would easily be made up in flight. But instead, he simply showed no concern. A company that becomes too big to care about their customer base (particularly a HIGH VOLUME customer who apparently raves and writes about them on a regular basis), is a company that is doomed to fail at some point. Sure, you can be rude to LOTS of customers if you are United...you have millions of them. But at what point have you exceeded your welcome and the word spreads?

Like I said, I can only remain neutral with regard to your individual event...that's why I think I would make a pretty good judge. However, the end result that happened (supported by your fellow passengers' claims herein) seems way out of proportion for the "offense," particularly as I previously stated...for someone who is one of their high mileage travelers. If United does not take more serious action to rectify the situation (you stated an "investigation" in in progress...that's a start), I would seriously rethink frequenting a business that would "allow" this type of customer treatment to continue without some kind of reprimand (or at least a redirect) to the on board crew who were involved. What a case of "customer disservice," regardless of the exact details that occurred. Whew! I see a travel agent claiming that Delta would transfer your status...that's a serious option to ponder if it's true that Delta would do that...and an excellent tool to use in your negotiations with United. Throwing someone off an airline...particularly as you stated with consideration to the lasting effects of a terrorist act so many years later...is an option that should be restricted to the grossest of situations...obviously violent, uncooperative, mentally unstable, etc. I hope United is reading...and LISTENING to all the feedback herein. You are NEVER too big to treat your customers unfairly. It's a cancer that will spread throughout the company and will backfire on you eventually.

JK February 23, 2013 at 04:45 pm


I'm a Flight Attendant too--


UrbaneGent February 23, 2013 at 04:52 pm

The "United" you have flown for 10 years is NOT the same airline it was up until a year ago. I read many on here that are siding with you being asked to get off the airplane. As a pre-merger UA 2 MM and someone who has been reading your blog for awhile (knowing how much you have flown UA), this will leave a lifetime bad taste in your mouth. It was unacceptable what the flight attendant did. I could see you having to go through a new screening, but kicking you off? Unacceptable. It's like the Gestapo. Judge and jury right there.

BA did something to me at the same age you are now, 26 - which I had flown a million miles back and forth on CONCORDE - that made me switch to UA. And now with the UA MM class action I stay away from them as well.

You are too nice to UA, it frustrates me you are kissing their a$$ because you are afraid of what? Not getting your upgrades? I would never step foot on a UA flight again if I were you. They should learn how to treat their passengers properly. Just because you said "I am not a terrorist"...doesnt make you one. You weren't joking around, so who cares? Seriously?

And the picture-taking? I would have been, "this is a joke right?" I've taken hundreds of pictures - and I see many many passengers do the same. This f/a needs to be fired.

FrankD February 23, 2013 at 05:02 pm

I would agree the whole affair is incredibly ridiculous but your a frequent flyer and you used the word "terrorist". Not smart.

MeanMeosh February 23, 2013 at 06:53 pm

I have to concur with most of the rest of the posters so far. You need to keep fighting this, and not just accept the PR department's word that "UA is taking this seriously". While I think you could have handled a few things differently, the FA was seriously out of line, not just to you but others on the flight. If you let this go without at least requesting an apology, you are enabling this FA to continue her power-tripping, anti-customer behavior with others, and that there is no accountability for it.

Also, if UA won't do anything except give you the usual canned assurances that "we are reviewing the details of this incident with the personnel involved and assure you that customer satisfaction is our #1 priority", you also need to seriously consider taking your business elsewhere. The reason why customer service at airlines like UA has gotten so bad is that people continue giving them their unfettering loyalty, even after abuse like this at the hands of their employees. If enough elite flyers pushed back and followed through on threats to take their business elsewhere, it might just force all airlines to actually improve their service. And for the record - if you're worried about losing elite benefits, I'm sure AA or DL would be more than happy to status match, especially with your long history of being a 1K.

Chris February 23, 2013 at 07:01 pm

FAs think they are gods gift to the all mighty work force. Over the past 20 years their attitudes and customer service skills have majorly tanked. Just scroll through these comments and read the few posted by people claiming to be FAs.

Kate February 23, 2013 at 07:15 pm

I can't be the only one wishing you would please give us the NAME of the offensive FA...

JC Neal February 23, 2013 at 08:38 pm

It's always the simplist answer... The Captain is probably "boinking" the FA... Period. End of story...

Andrew February 23, 2013 at 08:41 pm

You should publish the date, flight number and the captain. This is unacceptable. This FA is abusing her power. They are like the TSA, not accountable!!!

Andrew February 23, 2013 at 08:46 pm

I think the reason for the attention is that I think the public is so sick and tired of how they are treated by the US airline industry. I always avoid flying US carrier these days. They feel they are doing you a favor rather than a customer.

offshoreoildude February 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Hahahahaha - suck it up princess. FA has absolute authority (backed up by the captain) in your stupid yankee skies. You're well on your way to being put on the 'no fly' list. That'll stop your crappy blog! I wouldn't be surprised if you find you're banned already on Cont/UAL.

DP February 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm

The reason the FA lied because you asked her to hang your coat.

Freddy February 24, 2013 at 01:34 am

If the "official" reason for booting you from the plane turns out to be your ill-advised use of the "magic" word, then fine, I can understand that. But to me that's a secondary issue. Assuming your account is accurate (and I think it has been adequately verified) I am mostly annoyed at what started this, the FA's objection to your phototaking. When citing "regulations," the person citing them had better be well-versed in them. Your situation is not too different from recent stories in which law enforcement officers tell citizens that they cannot record events occurring in a public place, specifically the actions of law enforcement. Or the TSA agent that (contrary to actual TSA policy) told the mother of a three-year-old girl with spina bifida that it was illegal to record while TSA agents patted down the girl and screened her wheelchair. These persons with authority need to be fully trained on the actual laws and regulations they are to enforce, rather than being allowed to "enforce" "rules" that do not actually exist. This is possibly a systemic training issue which the airline needs to address internally, but still the FA needs to be terminated for having created a problem from what should have been a non-issue.

Yet another problem is the FA's blatant lying about you taking additional pictures after being told to stop. If uttering the T-word is the official reason for booting you, there was no reason for the FA to make up "facts" about an unrelated problem. If the official reason is that you failed to comply with the FA's instruction, the FA needs to be held accountable for making up "facts" which resulted in booting you. Either way, the FA (again) created a problem by lying about your conduct. The pilot's decision to eject you is likely based upon the FA's account. Without time for the pilot to conduct a full investigation, said pilot probably has to accept the FA's word over yours. However, I think the airline would now have to conclude that the FA lied, and that alone justifies terminating the FA's employment. Combine the lie with the other manufactured issue, and firing the FA is the most basic corrective action the airline can make here. That much is really a no-brainer.

At a minimum, the airline needs to fire the FA and it needs to issue an apology to you. I disagree that an apology in this situation reflects poorly on the pilot. The pilot was given bad information. It wouldn't hurt for the pilot to man up and accept responsibility for what turned out to be a bad decision, but I think I would have made the same decision given the same circumstances. Now that the dust is settling, though, if I were the pilot I would ask to be the one to extend the apology on behalf of himself, his crew, and the airline.

ORD-LAX February 24, 2013 at 03:46 am

"Little people with BIG power" - he was judged and sentenced with no one caring to take a moment to hear his story. Not only that, he wasn't questioned, detained, arrested - he was simply put on another flight! Disgusting! And what has happened to us as a people? Why didn't anyone stand up and say anything to his defense? We live in fear that us too will be kicked off for questioning? This could have happened to any one of us. I've seen many pictures taken on airplanes. All it would take is a pissy F/A to tell you no pictures, you try and explain yourself, only to be thrown off the plane?!

UA should re-write that statement in Hemispheres. And shame on the captain for not taking a moment to see how stupid this all was.

He said he wasn't a terrorist - and because he said that word, it gives the F/A the excuse to kick him off? Rule by fear is not how our forefathers would have wanted this. And for those who say, "it's fine until something happens." He didn't scream, yell, argue, he tried to say his side of the story. Yes we have to be diligent, but Matthew being a 1K - which is on the manifest - should have made the captain question the situation.

It seems to me the F/A should have excused herself off the flight.

It makes me sick you are still kissing their feet, Matthew. They need to learn from this lesson. I'm sure you have, to stay away from UA.

S Reed February 24, 2013 at 05:10 am

I gave up on UA long ago. Move on. You'll be happier.

fortune500 corp. February 24, 2013 at 06:27 am

We have just changed corporate policy and removed United as a carrier base don this incident. We will no longer allow any employees or guests to use this airline in future.

Eric berrer February 24, 2013 at 07:34 am

I think that you were racially profiled. I feel as if the FA an crew were vriefed before this new nonstop service was implemented to be vigilant in detecting terrorism, more than, say, barcelona or madrid.

Do you think that had anything to do with it?

If that's the case, then united has a serious problem.

David McMillan February 24, 2013 at 08:58 am

First they break guitars and how they are possibly the only airline in the world that expells a passenger for taking photos. I have taken dozens of photographs on planes. On many airlines. On many US states and countries around the world.

Never flying UA myself. Ever.

Mike February 24, 2013 at 08:59 am

Apparently, Emirats won't go ballistic when you try to take pictures of their business class seats. Here's the link

Via Reddit


Sincere Flight Attendant February 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm

As a flight attendant for over 25 years, I agree that service has slipped a great deal and many bitter flight attendants are confrontational and on a major power trip. I would say that I have been fortunate in not having to deal with situations where I have had a pax removed.

This has not been luck, but due to graciously handling situations so that they do not escalate out of control. I love my job and providing the best customer service experience possible. Too many of us are quick to find fault and humiliate the customer in situations like these. Even in the instance where I catch people using their cell phones when they are to be turned off, I do not make a federal case out of it. I just nicely repeat my request and they always comply. There is no need for me to be rude, ignore or glare at the pax for the rest of the flight.

I truly do not understand why people are doing this job if they can't handle it. I am there to warmly welcome you onboard, hang your coat, serve you your beverage and meals along with ensuring FARs are enforced. Of course there are those pax that are challenging, belligerent and entitled. These are the offenders that make our job difficult and sometimes warrant being removed from the flight.

I am sorry that you had this experience and please know that there are many dedicated and compassionate flight attendants like myself that love our jobs and strive to provide a positive experience. I realize there are many out there that are rude and obnoxious; you should try working with them! I am embarrassed and appalled by many of my co workers.


A Dedicated F/A

J February 24, 2013 at 01:06 pm

@"Flight Attendant" #38 @Gary #69

It must be hard to be a waitress, errr, I mean stewardess. Ha ha ha! I will continue to laugh and think of you each time you lose your retirement, lose other "benefits", get furloughed, get pay cuts, have to "work" longer hours (if sitting on your ass and reading a girlie magazine in the back of the plane can be construed as "work")... from those whose position you are defending. Ha ha ha!

And, of course, #38 I don't work in the industry; nor do I work in a bar. I worked hard going to college and am making something for myself and my family.

:rolls eyes, while still laughing: Hehehehe...

JACK February 24, 2013 at 01:07 pm

I am also a frequent flyer with over 850K actual miles on United over the last 13 years on primarily just US direct segments and have noticed degradation in quality of service over the last 5-6 years, especially in the last year or two. In fact, on a flight just last week from Houston to Newark, I had not been upgraded and, while waiting for the first class aisle to clear so that I could get to my seat, I asked the FA if they would be willing to hang my (new) sports coat in the closet so it wouldn't get wrinkled (they had allowed this occasionally before). Rather than saying "No that is not allowed or for first class only", she said several times "You need to take your seat sir" when the aisle in front of me was obviously blocked. I am always compliant on the plane (as I don't want to get kicked off either) but it does not seem to matter. The FA even smirked as I turned to wait on the first class to clear and take my seat.

I have even heard an FA mutter "what the F.. do they want now..." when an elderly foreign couple used their flight attendant button to ask for a glass of water. The man looked to be in his 70's.

Ironically, this is a link to site that suggests ideal personality traits needed to be flight attendant, starting with an amicable personality: http://www.flight-attendant-careers.com/flight-attendant-requirement.html

But, I think that is hype, it takes a personality that can also interact with and continually pick up trash (while saying "thank you" hundreds of times) from potentially verbally abusive dominant personality oriented people as a front line customer agent of the airline. And, unfortunately, in my experience, the latter reality and redundancy contributes to the airlines employing FA's who vindictively enjoy leveraging their authority for even the slightest perception of a passenger who is not acquiescing to their position. Even to the point of their base personality state being rude, surly, and always using an unpleasant tone of voice (Perhaps jaded is a better word?). Whereas ten years ago, this may have been 10% of the FA's I encountered, it is now approaching about 50/50. I have had some great experiences but I remember the negative ones much more vividly which is customer service rule #1 on what contributes to customer loyalty.

Ironically, I think the increasingly toxic atmosphere has even contributed to people entering the plane with a negative frame of mind which, in turn, can contribute to friction between passengers as they vent anger towards each other after being treated poorly by the FA's.

And, I am sure many remember the incident a couple years ago (Continental branch) when they evicted a mother and her child from a US flight because the FA was annoyed with the kid being excited about seeing the airplanes on the tarmac and suggesting the mother use children's Benadryl, stating sarcastically, "had she heard of it?!". The mother told the FA she was not going to sedate her child so the FA could have a pleasant flight which got her evicted from the plane. And that was in first class as well I believe. So, at least they are applying policy unilaterally.

My personal opinion in that some of this could even be resentment at the way the United/Continental merger went and the remaining FA's, having lost friends and colleagues are venting on customers and dealing with corporate culture change. Who knows, but I agree with how poorly this situation was handled.

I would rather see a systematic change of policy than doling out miles to appease those that complain (and may get red flagged) otherwise the situation will only get worse. I do know that if there are any airlines that focus on customer experience improvements, I would jump ship/plane and fly the other airline. Too bad SingAir doesn't have US domestic routes :)

Hugh J. February 24, 2013 at 01:59 pm

It's a good thing the wacko flight attendant and captain were not onboard this United flight or there really would have been hell to pay. I suppose United ripped out the page with their photography policy out of every inflight magazine onboard? Not!


The piece of this that puzzles me as a frequent UA flier and as a professional photographer is that I have NEVER heard an announcement on any UA or any other carrier banning photography.

I totally understand that people should be sensitive about photographing other people (sleeping with drool running down their chins) but again,even this is not made clear. If United and other carriers have had a policy change about photography it ought to be in their announcements when they're telling us how to buckle up.

If the rule is buried deep inside Hemispheres Magazine and there was no announcement then how could she kick you off for violating a rule you didn't know about?

Did you bring this up to the UA PR rep on the phone? If so, what did he/she say?

I take pictures on planes all the time before the door closes and then, in the air once electronics are allowed. No one has ever said a thing to me about this. Never, not on domestic nor international flights.

So, if this is all about your second interaction with the FA where you attempted to explain yourself then things become a bit more subjective, IE: she bit on the word "terrorist" or she didn't like your attitude, etc.

I'm not defending her or the pilot, but you need to have United sort out why you were kicked off. If you were kicked off for taking pictures then they made a mistake. If you were kicked off because of your interaction with the FA then it's still a mistake but it's a different mistake and makes for a different story.

And, you need to let us know what's happening with this. I agree with others here that you need to be a lot more aggressive in letting UA know that they're going to lose a serious customer if they don't make this right. If you think a phone call from a PR hack is enough to make it right then I'd say like others are saying that you're United's "bitch". I hate to say that because I don't think you want to be, but actions speak louder than words and we need to find another airline if United is doing this kind of stuff to Global Services fliers, or anyone who flies them for that matter.

SUPERVISOR February 24, 2013 at 06:47 pm

I am a Supervisor for a competitor. We value our premium passengers and appreciate their business whether they are flying due to a high revenue ticket, or as an upgrade earned as a valued frequent flyer. I might have been that Customer Service person who had the unpleasant task to unjustly escort you off the flight. I often see how inconsequentual incidents escalate into real problems due to overreaction of individual crew members. Even by their comments here, some of these crew members forget our customers are our bread and butter. Customer Service tries to solve issues though communication, however the the flight deck has the final say so regarding customer carriage. UA owes you an real apology.

Joey B February 24, 2013 at 07:36 pm

I never flew United until after the merger. I am a long time Continental One Pass FF. Generally, I find former Continental employess give much better service than UA staff. I would get my lifetime 1 Million, since you are so close, then switch.

Pao February 24, 2013 at 08:09 pm

Most US FA are PMS in the making. I'd rather fly KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and BA than American based Airlines.

barry February 24, 2013 at 08:13 pm

Come on you people - fly asian airlines (any asian airline) - they like passengers!!. And they have lots of competition so they have to be on the ball and do their job properly.

And they dont think that every passenger is going to blow them up - and treat them like that - as US airlines do.

LoneStarMike February 24, 2013 at 09:09 pm

I think you should just sue and refuse to settle out of court. Airlines always want you to settle out of court. That way, there's no trial, no court transcript, no public record and no verdict, so the airline is free to continue their behavior. If you settle out of court, YOU might get something, but nothing will change for the rest of us.

Also, this bit in their magazine about audio recordings being strictly prohibited isn't necessarily true. If you were ever in a situation where you felt the need to record a conversation between yourself and a crew member (or another passenger who was being belligerent or threatening) you could do so if you were in what's referred to as a one-party consent state. NJ (and most other states) is a one-party consent state. As long as you're a party to the conversation, you can legally record it without the knowledge OR consent of the other party. And sorry, United, state law trumps whatever is in your magazine or carriage of contract.

Paul February 24, 2013 at 09:25 pm

FA (#38) You say it is not like Disney World. That is the most disturbing thing about your post that you work in the airline industry and don't realize that there are many people that have a hobby of taking picture of aircraft.

http://Airliners.net http://Jetphotos.net

These are just two of the sites on the internet. A little education about people that you say should not take pictures of aircraft would help.

Simon Davids February 24, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I am certainly on your side. Flight attendants should be more respectful in dealing with the passengers. I can't really imagine how that person became a flight attendant with that attitude. Being a flight attendant has a lot of responsibilities including respecting the rights of the passengers on board. That is not a professional way on dealing with the customers. I hate it when I hear/read stories like this because some employees just don't do the right thing. Thank you for this post.

Matt February 24, 2013 at 11:44 pm

"I just can't take you seriously. Honestly, you lost me during the original story when you "motioned her over, asked her to hang your coat" then began to tell her who you are and why you are allowed to do what you like."<-------This.

So you couldn't wait to get into the air and speak with the FA about your blog, status, and lack of affiliation to terrorism? You had to call her over to get your jacket and then run the list to her in front of everyone? Get over yourself and stop pretending to be so dense.

James February 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

United airlines is the worst! I dread flying with them every time I have to. The flight attendants on the trans-Atlantic flights are ancient harpies who treat you like an inconvenience. Trying to get an upgrade with United is nearly impossible, they always overbook and the agents are rude when you ask about it. KLM is my choice if I ever do have a choice.

Billy Beck February 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

Conor @ #11 -- I had a very similar experience with United when they hung me up at Salt Lake City for seven hours overnight. I don't fly as much as some people around here, but I have worn out two passports in about ten years, working on four continents.

UAL will never see another dime from me. Ever.

aki009 February 25, 2013 at 11:07 am

I see no reason to fly a US based airline on international flights exactly because of unfriendly staff like described in this article. Even though for most of the 90's I had 100K status with United, close brushes with the nastier side of these "employees" were plenty of reason to quit flying them.

For domestic flights I'd much rather sit in line getting on a Southwest flight than have to be subject to the random whims of unhappy and inconsistent United employees. On international legs it's been a very long time since I flew any US based airline.

The legacy carriers should have been allowed to fold when their customers fled them. Keeping them alive artificially with various forms of government aid prevented their replacement by companies that actually care about their customers. Their loss. Not mine. People, vote with your feet.

Bob February 25, 2013 at 11:25 am

I took a picture in the plane last week and said "terrorist" 3 times to my neighbor. I am guilty, please don't waterboard me more than 4 times. Also to the Delta travel agent, your airline is also run by a bunch of twits. One charged me baggage fees on a flight that should not have been charged, won't accept my argument. When I returned and lodged a complaint they agreed with me but I still dont have a refund more than 12 months later.

daninstl February 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

I'm sure someone else has said it but it reminds me of the scene in the movie Meet the Parents where Gaylord get's thrown off the plane for using the word bomb after the gate agent and FA is rude to him added with his unrelated stress.

GG309 February 25, 2013 at 11:29 am

The only thing that keeps UA in business is the government contract - federal employees are required to use UA in a number of areas in the US.

RAT February 25, 2013 at 11:38 am

Ask for a million miles and be done with it.

Charles Massey February 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Now that I've read so many of the comments I've formed my own opinion.

For the record, I take pictures on planes all the time and have no plans to stop. Normally they've been pictures of food, seats, and even the same picture of the video screen that Matthew took. I almost always post them on Facebook and other social media outlets.

On a few occasions I've taken pics of crew members (mostly with their consent; a couple of times candid shots that were just plain funny). Probably won't do that anymore :-)

I think the issue here was the use of the word "terrorist".

Do I think the flight attendant needs to be called to the headmaster's office and disciplined? Definitely. Do I think the captain was spineless? Absolutely.

It has generated a very healthy discussion from all sides. Bottom line in my mind is that waaaaay too many airline employees try to use security as an excuse for poor customer service (which this is a case of exponentially). It needs to stop.

Matthew, you've got good grounds for a lawsuit; if you do that, just be prepared to take it all the way.

I disagree with Robert on how stating how the blogger's loyalty to UA makes him weak. I actually think it makes his article strong. Despite his strong loyalties he is still compelled to write this article, and possibly endanger the relationship he has with them. Much like abandoning a favorite restaurant, a favorite bar, or a favorite sports team.

That being said, I've recently moved into the income range where I personally feel comfortable flying to places instead of driving. His account of what happened angered me very much. I don't like seeing businesses treat their customers like crap and get away with it.

If I hear the United Airlines name, I'm probably going to run away. I work too hard for my money, hence my flight, to be having to be worried about being treated with such disrespect.

Sean February 25, 2013 at 02:52 pm

I used to be a regular United flyer. They were one of my company's preferred airlines for business travel. Not anymore. My company dropped them, which means too many complaints from the employees. I fly Delta now, and they have been pretty decent.

WTS February 25, 2013 at 03:49 pm

UAL: Please don't fire that FA!

As I never fly United, I'll never see her. Fire her and there she'll be harassing me at the IRS, Delta or Dunkin' Donuts.

Regional FA February 25, 2013 at 04:39 pm

Hello again friends,

I wrote a comment on the earlier post and sympathized with many of the thoughts expressed there by frequent fliers and casual travelers alike in regards to this situation and to the deterioration of service in general for the flight attendant trade. There is certainly a confrontational aspect to the in-flight environment these days and I think that's unfortunate and I wish it was an isolated problem instead of what appears to be a growing one.

That said, I feel like the comment thread on this post has some upsetting trends that I want to address. First: there are some pretty mouthy blowhards in here telling the flight attendants that they better snap up and start serving those drinks and meals with a god damn smile or else, and that anybody who says their job is only to do safety and emergency functions should be fired immediately. OK, asshole, that's a real drama queen approach and it's just as confrontational as the flight attendant who badgers you about your cell phone. What you need to understand is that the base job of the flight attendant is to ensure compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations and to ensure your safety and security. Period. That's the single-most important job we do. Now, service and smiles are in the same Flight Attendant Manuals that have our safety and security instructions. And yes, they are a part of our jobs too. But if we have to stay seated because of turbulence and you don't get a drink? Sorry for your luck. You paid for a seat to get from one place to another. You did not pay for a drink. You are NOT entitled to a drink. You are entitled to a seat.

That said, I think it is critically important to provide optimal customer service at every given opportunity, and that is what I strive for. I would hope that above all else every flight attendant in this country can save lives and evacuate their aircraft during those rare but important moments. But the level of service is something that hopefully passengers can deduce on their own. If you are encountering frequent customer service issues, you shoud let your airline know, or consider moving along to another airline instead. My airline pushes hard to keep customers happy, and I try my best to do it, also. But some flight attendants slip through the cracks, they're awful about it, and it's really tough to see.

The second point I want to address is some of the gross misogyny on this comment thread. Calling "flight attendants these days" such insults as "obese," "fat," "ugly ..." There is no place in this debate for name-calling and belittling your flight attendants based on their looks. I would hope that, as a society, we could have moved past this kind of disgusting, 1960s-style ugliness but I still see my female counterparts deal with it on a daily basis and it is appalling. As a male flight attendant I feel fortunate not to have to subject myself to a review of straight male assholes who decide whether or not I'm good at my job based on how fat I am. For shame.

Again, I agree with a great many of the opinions here regarding this picture-taking incident. This flight attendant was WAY out of line and to me it really comes down to a matter of common sense vs. emotional reactions. She had a crazy power-trip thing going on and it was wrong, and I hope this will serve as an opportunity to provide positive re-education for other flight attendants in future situations. Something along the lines of, "Don't be that guy."

Again I invite everybody to fly with me sometime. We'll have fun. That's what it's all about for me and for a lot of other flight attendants out there. Lower the tension and anxiety, take a few steps back from being constantly on edge and wanting to fight, and we'll all get there together and as happy as we can be in a shitty little flying tin can.

Claude Balz February 25, 2013 at 04:46 pm

I was on this flight and I can't believe what I am hearing. It is wholly inaccurate. Here is what I witnessed.

First I heard a stewardess say to another, 'Did you just slice the cheese'? And the other stewardess said, 'No, but I think the guy back in 17 just took a photo.' The other stewardess said, 'I don't care about that. You know it's against FAA regs to slice let one seep in the galley, Mary.' (They were both being rather loud about this so it was easy to hear). The one named Mary become visibly embarrassed, and that is when I saw her stick her head from the galley and say, 'Who took that picture?'

At this point everyone in First Class was confused, because they thought the offending odor was coming from the guy's camera in 17. The stewardess in question then tore down the aisle, passing my seat in a fury while unfortunately squeaking one more out right near my left shoulder.

From there, Matthew pulled a Boston cream pie from his satchel, whacked the stewardess in the kisser dead-on with cream flying from 17d through 14 a, and the fight was on.

The rest of the story is pretty much how Matthew told it from there ...

Bill February 25, 2013 at 08:12 pm

I have flown nearly 3mm miles on UA and have for many years been a Global Service customer. What that mean's is I fly too much and spend too much on tickets. Since the CO-UA merger the serve has gone down hill and it's sad. I find the CO crews to be far nicer than the UA folks. I have received and witnessed some very rude service from UA folks. You need to push back on this and fight it. I take pictures all the time and this has never happened to me. Shame on UA.

bill February 25, 2013 at 09:01 pm

Not a surprise. In August 2012, I arrived at Seatac and the United superviser told me that my flight to Asia was delayed in Seattle. She said they could get me on the Delta flight out of Portland so I agreed.

We arrived in Portland 20 minutes prior to the flight leaving and were told by Delta that no special arrangements had been made by the Supervising agent in Seattle. Our seats on the Portland to Asia flight had been given away nearly an hour prior to our arrival there.

I had run between terminals, dragged my kids on an additional flight just to watch our flight leave. Obviously, by this point, I was steamed with the lack of service from United and told the United Agent to book me on the Delta Flight to Asia from Seattle in the morning and send us back to Seattle.

If it had been just me, I probably would have been alright with the delays and the bounce but having two children in tow made for a not so fun day.

Now that United has merged with Continental, the staff no longer know how to operate the terminals, they are incapable of providing service and for all my trouble, all I got was $60 in meal vouchers for the three of us over three meals. And to top it all off, they zeroed my mileage for not "using them often enough". And a total loss of 1 day of life that can never be returned.

I will never fly United again and at this point, I have no need to since Delta / NW goes everywhere I need to go. As far as I am concerned, the decline of United is justified and cannot be corrected as they have forgotten the basic ideas of what Customer Service means.

Frosty February 25, 2013 at 09:47 pm

For those supportively debating this nonsense, you could all just try getting over yourselves and directing energy into trying to 'publicly solve' real world issues.

RAF JAH February 26, 2013 at 02:14 am

Mattew, having read this. And having just taken 4 United flights. I would find a new airline.

Any Major US carrier will match your miles and status.

Happy flying!

Boblouel February 26, 2013 at 02:42 am

I agree that the airline industry is devoid of respectful, kind service esp in the us-based airlines. But you sound like an annoying prick who is obsessed w rationalizing your actions when you should have just shut the f--k up and done what the FA says. You try to sound smart in your writing but you are just verbose and ineloquent. You sound like a freaking 6 yr old saying "she lied about me and is speaking untruths!" who the f--k uses the word "untruth" that many times in a few sentences. You should just forget the whole "blog" writer gig cuz you are really "untalented." seriously I never waste my time commenting on worthless blogs like yours but somehow I came across this story and your dumbass way of thinking and writing got me so irritated. I hope I never find myself next to you on a flight. You need to learn when to shut the hell up, and go take a GRE course or something. You are a stupid insecure, rationalizing f--k who probably got beaten up all the time in school. Wtf is up w the business card obsession anyway?

Get a life and stop annoying and stressing out people who have real jobs, like listening to you talk about your stupid business card while they are forced to take your coat when you call them back to defend your pictures. Haha. You are so pathetic. I just want to punch you in the face right now just thinking about all the trouble you're causing people for your stupid actions. Im glad you had to suffer in coach flying to wherever. "she's speaking untruths about me!!" wah-wah-wah. Wake up and smell the coffee dumbass!!! Have you literally never interacted with any other human being before? Sometimes people say things that aren't your version of the "truth," and NO ONE cares about your excuses! They don't want to hear it ok?? Can you remember that for next time? Just shut up and move on!!! I hate you.

Greg February 26, 2013 at 04:05 am

If you really think they are taking this seriously I would say you're delusional. You're a number.. just one piece of cattle in the herd. Major US based airlines are by and large utter crap. I flew NW in business class for 8 years (my company basically forced us to use it) and it was was a complete joke. Asia based airlines know what real service is. They don't have an entitled attitude that puts profits first and the basic dignity of passengers 10th. United and the pathetically lazy, greedy unions that compromise its workforce are beyond a joke. You would do well to tell them in no uncertain terms that you won't be back.

Fellow abused flyer February 26, 2013 at 10:23 am

I've come to this blog by chance while reading Business Insider news, and want to share my perspective. As a foreign student studying in the US. I have only good experiences flying Asian airlines. And boy I had a rude awakening when flying United on a domestic US flight for a short summer trip. The FA, as if on purpose, assumed the rudest, most commanding tone to constantly remind passengers of their authority, and of course I presume to instill in passengers the fear of being ejected off the plane. Missing a flight, especially an international one, could means a disaster to your whole holiday trip which has been all carefully planned out. When they talk to you, they will innstantly remind you of their authority and will threaten to remove you onboard if you dont comply with their order. Luckily, I get the message quickly, the FA isn't a flight attendant by any means. They are just another version of the nasty black lady TSA at LAX who like to grope me, even though it is obvious the sceen did not ring.

I must really say, I have taken for granted all those smiling, graceful pretty ladies, who always greet me onboard. It is really the opposite when my image of a flight attendant, or air stewardess as we called them here, tall, slim, leggy, great smile, and model like turned into a bunch of the surly, vindictive, "not pleasant" looking, bossy FA. It is a fact in Asia, especially before the low-cost carrier era popped, air stewardess is a job a lot of young girls look up to. Now, i guess the requirement has changed, along with low cost tickets. I wont be surprised if UA recruit their FA from the military corps.

That said, I've met a very helpful lady ground staff at American Airlines who reconnect me and my family missed flight within 2 hours (Orlando-LA), and all at no extra charge! She was very efficient, and though this is usually expected of in Asian airlines, I was pleasantly surprised that an US airline could be this helpful after my previous horrid encounter. N.B. I was on connecting flight, via Eva Airways (my favourite airline!), it was no peak season, and we bought the regular priced tix, and it was the low-vacancy hour of the day, still I was very grateful. And I definitely add them as my "green" list of carriers in US, along with Jet Blue and Alaska.

Thank you for this insightful article and all those brilliant comments from other readers, i have read every one of them with intrigue, and I would now like to further avoid United or Delta for that matters. I will definitely advised my families and friends against taking them. Sometimes, paying a few more dollars (or even hundreds of em) is worth avoiding the humiliation and degrading treatment.

Please stand up to that nasty FA who lied and the general poor treatment of their customers from UA. For justice, and for all of us fellow passengers who have been silently abused onboard.

3A22M14 February 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

Similar incident occurred two years ago with USAIR. I'd a loyal customer from day one and used to travel an average 300K miles per year. Lots of lip service ensued. Now, even though it's less convenient, Delta gets all my business. Funny thing, I would have been mollified with a lousy day club pass.

Make them understand with your wallet, Walk away from United!

mik February 26, 2013 at 07:36 pm

this is a problem with a unhappy white female. an asian FA would never ever had the guts to do this nonsense power play. dont fly with airlines where white bitches are FA !!! plain and simple. i always take pictures never been approached on asian owned airlines. stay away from those white women! they are the problems.

Andrew February 26, 2013 at 08:14 pm

PLEASE, I'm begging you, do not let this rest with an apology and $100 coupon. You owe it to us, the non-blog having traveling public.

You compensation should be: (1) your hourly rate for your delay, (2) the difference in ticket and any other out pocket expenses, (3) damages for being embarrassed, and (4) a public in person apology from the FA, which should be videotaped and shown on the internet. Anything short of that and you should sue and get her personnel file. Boom.

Peter February 26, 2013 at 08:18 pm

Simple fix. A face to face apology from the Captain for not listening to his CUSTOMER and a face to face aplolgy from the FA for misundersatnding her CUSTOMERS needs.

United's seems slow to act. I'd have given you some free tickets or upgrades and, of course, an apology. Bad PR for them.

Busyman February 26, 2013 at 08:37 pm

As a business traveller I've been unlucky enough to have flown UA a few times. I feel for the passengers at the back of the jet as you really didn't feel welcome at the front. On all flights it seemed an imposition that the flight attendants had to communicate with passengers, and not even try to be polite. Barking directions at passengers isnt the way to win friends and influence people on a long haul flight. The saving grace in air travel of late seems to be the Middle Eastern airlines and some of the Asian airlines that will pull out all stops to assist passengers regardless of the class they re flying in. I was gobsmacked recently when the captain of an A380 I was flying on stopped by to have a chat to see how everything was going. Maybe UA could send some of their staff on these airlines to see how its done.

sicof badservice February 26, 2013 at 09:35 pm

At least they didn't smash your guitar!

Mike Butler February 26, 2013 at 09:56 pm

Back in the late Sixties (when flying was still fun), I spent three years as an international Flight Steward with QANTAS Airways. I seem to remember that the advertising slogan for United way back then was "Fly the friendly skies of United"! Things have certainly changed.

jay February 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm

i have not travelled UA but have travelled travelled Quantas in australia heaps. sometimes as many as 4 to 5 flights a week and i must say that Qantas attitude is going very similar to UA.

Bill February 26, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I think you should seek an apology from the FA and the pilot. An apology wouldn't reflect badly on them, their disgraceful conduct already has.

Janelle McCulloch February 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I am an Australian journalist and author who travels regularly overseas for work. Usually, my business trips involve 30-60 photo shoots in 4 countries over 6 weeks - twice a year - so I'm pretty adept at travel. I've also lived in 4 countries. I like United. I hate to say it, but I do. They're cheap. Of course, once you fly Singapore Airlines it's difficult to go back to United, but you can't beat a $1000 return airfare from Sydney-LA. There is something to be said for cheap tickets.

However, there is also something to be said for what goes on behind the blue curtains! Several years ago, I wrote an article for a big Sydney newspaper on the 'flip side' of travel. It was astonishing. There was the story of 2 pilots who put the plane into auto-pilot, then stripped off and had sex in the cockpit. (Heard it from crew and then discovered it was a true story.) There were the stories of all the FAs who had sex in the staff beds in between serving drinks. (Heard that from different flight crews.) There were the stories of the FAs from different airlines who liked to sneak into the crew beds to have sex. (Apparently a game of some sort played btn different airline crews?) There were the stories of FAs swigging a gulp of in-flight oxygen before their shifts; of swigging the mini- bottles in the bar, of making derogatory remarks about pax ("Didya see the tits on Seat 14D?") and generally behaving in a way that college frat boys wouldn't even do. Of course the pax add to the drama, but the FAs are not entirely innocent...

Kado February 27, 2013 at 12:15 am

I agree with the previous few responses. Lets get the FA to give you a personnel apology. This blog is now becoming world-wide! It's now on Australia's biggest newspaper (heraldsun). It wouldn't suprise me if UA loses a lot of business because of this.

Please keep the updates coming...

seriously????? February 27, 2013 at 12:42 am

"At this point, United has not offered an apology and frankly I am not expecting one. An apology would reflect horribly on the pilot and FA"

Good thing you aren't expecting an apology, because this incident reflects horribly on you.

You don't say the "T" word anywhere near the vicinity of an airport or plane - period, let alone while taking photos of the plane. That goes double for US airlines - EVERYONE who flies knows that.

You ain't much of a travel writer if you weren't aware of that. Not the kind people should be taking travel advice from in any case!!!

Stephan February 27, 2013 at 12:54 am

Comments #38 and #69 really say it all. What else does anyone need to know? Nothing will change until these people lose their jobs and their employers are gone once and for all. Until Americans change their attitudes toward the extremely poor standards offered on their carriers, these events will become ever more common and nothing will change.

Scott Redford February 27, 2013 at 01:10 am

We just have to accept that some people become drunk on any small power comes their way. Peasants With Power as a friend used to say but that's being uncharitable to peasants! So I apologies. It happens far too often we are not valued customers anymore but people who pay to be treated like nobodies. It's happening more and more, the snooty rude Waite, the bored shop girl, the aggressive tradesman. We just pay them to treat us this way. Sad.

Deaz February 27, 2013 at 01:21 am

I am an Australian travel agent who has stopped recommending United Airlines to my clients as an option to travel to the US or even for their internal US flights. The negative feedback I have received from clients who have flown with UA have led to take the decision to stop recommending them. Almost of my clients have reported the same thing when flying with UA: the rudeness and aggressive behaviour of their flight attendants. I think UA has to have a long hard think about retraining almost all of their flight attendants. I think they have quite a lot to learn from their courteous and gracious counterparts from Asian carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and even Australia's own V Australia. The above mentioned flight attendants understand that ultimately they are the face of their airline and they behaviour should represent the image their carriers want to convey to the travelling public. I think that in this situation UA should make an unreserved apology to Mr Klint and send the offending flight attendant for some serious retraining or show her the door. After all, if she cannot act in a decent manner towards the passengers on her flights then she shouldn't be working as a flight attendant. Her behaviour towards Mr Klint was highly unprofessional and the fact that she felt compelled to embellish the story to show Mr Klint in a negative fashion is nothing short of character assassination. Her behaviour leads me to think that I am correct in no longer recommending UA to my clients. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are a few flight attendants who work for UA who are doing the right thing in treating their customers the way they should be treated but there are far too many who don’t. This ultimately is giving UA a very bad reputation it probably doesn’t deserve.

David February 27, 2013 at 01:24 am

I read about this incident in Australia and am a OneWorld Emerald member. I honestly don't fly United very often but I think you're a more forgiving person than I. If this ever happened to me on any of my regular airlines I would not fly with them again.

It seems to me that the FA is more of a security risk. She sounds quite paranoid and is either delusional or a straight out liar.

The response from United's PR department suggests they are merely trying to control any fallout from the incident rather than resolve the issue at its source or compensate you for your experience. I wonder how many people this has happened to that don't have their own travel blogs!!!

David Harris February 27, 2013 at 01:50 am

Give it away, its a faded airline with old school thoughts, emerites or any asian airline would serve you better. This is why the USA is loosing every industry they have not got a clue.

Peter February 27, 2013 at 01:55 am

I think that the least UA should do, is bump your status up over the Million miles (if that gives you any extra cred in their world...)

Justin February 27, 2013 at 08:54 am

This is what you Americans get and deserve for all your affirmative action programs. Have you seen the FAs on a typical flight from any US carrier? Old as the hills. What is a woman of that age even doing on an airplane unless she is flying to her vacation home in Florida? Look at Asia, they pretty much don't have any of the racist laws prohibiting hiring based on age/sex/race etc. and so they only allow young and hot FAs... namely ones young enough not to have these conservative, angry, resentful, and entitled attitudes. You will continue to suffer the high cost of crime, poor service, and general hostility in society for as long as you embrace left wing views that refuse to accept the real nature of reality and the basic facts of human nature and try, through the brute coercive force of law, to enforce an egalitarian "vision" upon it.

PK February 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm

"You don't say the "T" word anywhere near the vicinity of an airport or plane - period, let alone while taking photos of the plane. That goes double for US airlines - EVERYONE who flies knows that."

The Supreme Court author of the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" decision says he regrets the decision precisely because it would be used to stifle free expression. As someone quickly pointed out: "What if there really is a fire?"

Women's Wall Street ran a story a few years ago about an experience where the writer had seen Arab men apparently making a "dry run" on a plane to see what they could get away with acting bizarrely, taking paper bags into the restroom, and making coordinated behaviors that would appear to be making a bomb but without any actual materials.

The FA's did NOTHING to stop them but just reported to the captain and waited for the plane to land normally despite the passengers on the plane being nervous. After the federal authorities interviewed them, they went on their way.

This incident shows that the FA's are more concerned with enforcing rules, and their authority, then they are about actual safety. If safety is such a concern, why didn't the airlines stop 911 from happening in the first place?

Mike S February 27, 2013 at 01:31 pm

I have been thinking about using United for a while since I have plenty of free flights owed me from both AA and Delta but after reading this I guess I will still avoid United. When I was on the west coast I would use United a lot but that was 25 years ago. They seemed as good as the others back then. I just got used to AA and Delta the last 10 years and while every flight experience wasn't the greatest I allways have a sense that the AA and delta people appreciate your dollars and are happy to help.

John February 27, 2013 at 04:35 pm

I learned years ago not to fly United. They have never been a decent airline in my opinion..maybe because the flight staff were not part owners of the company. Now, thanks to the merger..you incredibly stupid Board members know who you are, United has destroyed Continental as well. I was a platinum member of Continental for years, flying 120-150k/year. Their customer service was great, and while I cant comment about how the airline treated regular passengers needing help, I can say they were extrodinary with me. Sadly, two flights on the new United/Continental was enough for me. I will use any other airline and be better served. I could not believe the poor culture of one could destroy the great culture of the other in so short a time. I sincerely hope with all my being that this airline goes broke and goes away..nothing left, nada, not a broken seat, not a worthless in flight magazine, not a snotty steward or stewardess (I wont insult decent airline staff by refering to them as Flight Attendants), nothing. The sooner the better. The flying public would be better served to take a bus or a train than to use this airline. To my Continental friends still employed there, sorry guys. I hope you're actively looking for work somewhere else. Best of luck.

George February 27, 2013 at 06:06 pm

That behaviour was disgusting. I fly to the USA from Australia once or twice a year for work. Whilst the majority of time I don't fly business class, the FAs internally in the USA are typically abrupt compared to here. Would not say rude though.

I pretty much only fly QANTAS where I have Qantas Club and low teir FF. I tried Virgin here, but their attempts to lock in the business traveller, from where i sit, is poorly done.

A year or so back our flight from LAX to Sydney was heavily delayed to the point where they made an hour or so up in the air. When we got to Sydney, they held the Brisbane flight for about 30 minutes without being asked, it was just done. They rushed us through security and between terminals with a dedicated employee. That is service!

If you fly Business internationally, as I have on a few occasions, the level of service is exceptional. Apparently not on United.

Benjamin Handley February 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

I'm absolutely disgusted at this whole ordeal. Frankly, the humiliation of this whole event would be enough to prompt me to change my airline loyalty. You're remarkably patient, I wouldn't tolerate being treated like that, only to fly with them again a few days later.

I use to be a flight attendant for a major Australian carrier. We use to love when passengers take pictures, in fact we'd either take the camera and take the photo for them, or pose with them. Passengers would upload these pictures to their Twitter feeds, and say things like "lovely flight to Melbourne, crew were awesome." The social media team would reply to the tweet, and retweet the images. It built up amazing customer interaction with the airline. They've even done 'Photo A Day' competitions. Where the general public submits photos for prizes.

Ok, so I'm waffling a bit, but in a nutshell, this is what I'm getting at: Instead of having rules just for the sake of having rules, and the enjoyment that comes with enforcing them; United should recognise the PR and marketing potential the comes with social media.

Under Federal law, as common carriers, airlines must transport all would-be passengers willing to pay the applicable fare in their published tariff and comply with their published conditions of carriage. Not to do so is a serious violation of their duties.

If an airline refuses to allow you to fly, for any reason other than a violation of published laws, regulations, or conditions of carriage, you can and should make a formal complaint against the airline to the Department of Transportation.

A pilot can only order you off the plane if the pilot genuinely believes that you pose a hazard to the safe operation of the flight, in which case the pilot is required to log and report this safety incident. If a pilot orders you off the flight for some other reason, or without logging and reporting his or her action as a safety incident, you can and should report the pilot to the FAA.

See the following articles form the Identity Project (PapersPlease.org):

"Does an airline pilot have the right to refuse to let you fly?"


"What can you do if an airline pilot won’t let you fly?"


Mikael March 2, 2013 at 07:05 am

You americans are so funny! This fear for all things related to sand dunes will eventually tip you over and land you face flat in a mental ward. Homeland Security is nothing but a farse to keep you all chained to the Man.

Sami March 2, 2013 at 09:49 pm

Did you know that UNITED to Europe charges $200 if you are a few pounds overweight (luggage I mean).

AA and BA charge $60. A complete ripp off.

Nick March 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

Within the industry, the paying public is referred to as Self Loading Freight, and freight is how we're being treated. You can see it on any commercial aviation forum like PPRUNE. As long as the carriers allow this perception of their clients to perpetuate the dismal situation on board is not going to change.

Follow Through March 6, 2013 at 01:02 pm

Please follow through on this for the sake of all pax. Ditto what Drew said. You are being so submissive, why??? You didn't do anything wrong, consider legal action on top of the Obvious written apology you deserve and a large financial compensation. I will Not be flying United due to the way they treat their passengers, it is NOT about safety and they ARE there to provide a service.

Erndog March 6, 2013 at 08:43 pm

So much for thinking this would all 'just die down' - your story with a link back to the original blog post just hit the Drudge Report . . .

tom March 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm

The sensitivity towards the word "terrorist" is ridiculous. As if an actual terrorist would use the word. Same goes for other words that have become taboo ever since 9/11.


See http://upgrd.com/matthew/seven-words-you-can-never-say-on-an-airplane.html

IRONMANAustralia March 7, 2013 at 07:52 am

Wow, who would have seen this coming huh?

Many of us have had similar experiences, (though with less dramatic outcomes), over the last decade, and it's no secret why flight attendants have gone from what I fondly remember as "stewardesses" back in the day focused on customer comfort and service, to bitchy little soup-Nazis.

I'm sure that job isn't all beer and skittles, but since they've been given broader authority to invoke the magic word, "terrorism" on people they don't like, some have of course used that power to take their bad day out on people who would otherwise be thought of as valued customers.

This isn't rocket science. You don't need to wonder why this happens. You already know why. Humans is as humans does.

We can even grant this particular PA the benefit of the doubt and suggest she was not intentionally lying. People, (women in particular), have a funny way of getting details wrong when their emotions are involved. It's certainly not out of the ballpark compared to some of the insanely inaccurate yet sincere accusations I've heard levelled by people who witnessed the exact same event I did.

Either way the problem is the same. The customer doesn't get the benefit of the doubt because the PA is at liberty to just knee-jerk act on their emotions - whatever they happen to be - anger, petty revenge, apathy, or even genuine fear. And those emotions, (again whatever they are), don't have to be particularly rational, since they're not often required to adequately justify them during or after the fact.

Just that simple imbalance of power going in the wrong direction and next thing you know just trying to get a reasonable response is like discussing Incitatus with Caligula.

UA should have the right to refuse service to anyone at any time for any reason, justified or not, but that doesn't make any action they take rational, smart, and/or good for their bottom line. More to the point, people can't help see this nonsense for what it is, outright abuse, neglect, disregard, up to and including anything from a cognitive dissonance that would make George Orwell apoplectic, right down to unpredictable, inconsistent, completely unnecessary, non sequitur bullshit they just don't need.

When people complain about their jobs, are derisive of their customers, and tell me how hard they have it, (as flight attendants frequently do), I always find myself comparing their situation to checkout chicks at McDonald's. Do they think those girls cop any less crap from the public than they do? They get paid less, handle plenty of BS, and surely must have customers that annoy them, but they know it's their job to bite their tongue and bear a little bit of bullshit in the interests of customer service and keeping their job.

In fact pretty much everyone with job intuitively understands this incredibly simple concept. That you're there to serve the customers and make the transaction go as smoothly as possible even when you feel people are just being difficult, things aren't going your way, or you feel it's not fair. You certainly don't complain, exaggerate, or outright lie about a customer hurting your pussy little feelings, and expect to get sympathy from your boss. You know that any boss worth his salt is going to happily fire your stupid arse after correctly assessing that YOU are in fact the problem.

So what happened? Where did these cart-pushers ever get the idea their job was anything other than what it obviously is? Just imagine if mall cops were given federal authority. Maybe they couldn't get you sent to Rikers Island over a minor infraction, but it's a simple matter for them to unilaterally dish out "punishment" by spoiling your day. For FA's that means your travel plans, making you miss your connecting flights, etc. Everyone has already experienced this kind of thing with cops intentionally taking their time to write a speeding ticket. You know that's the way too many human beings tend to act the second they're given one whiff of authority.

So it's a systemic problem that has more to do with all that "terrorists have won" stuff than any particular event. But that doesn't mean you should sit down and shut up on the ill-considered command of some self-important coffee-bitch. It's time for people to publicly call them out on this crap. So well done sir!

FliesC130sToWork March 7, 2013 at 08:49 am

Look, I can't really say I sympathize. You don't get the world we live in. 7-year old kids get suspended from school because they take bites out of a pop-tart such that the remaining uneaten pop-tart resembles a gun. You just ran into the adult version of the same mentality. Until we teach people to accept reasonable risks, we will have irrational precautions. And we have chosen that path (irrationality) very publicly. You have no excuse for not seeing this coming. It is wrong, but you should have known.

Your version of events tells all the story that is needed. The FA had more than one photographer on board, so she didn't have time to give individual attention to anyone. Besides, she had to get ready for taxi and takeoff. But your whole story laments how you didn't get to have a conversation, work things out, present your side of the story, etc. When dealing with officialdom you have to accept that you are not a person deserving individual attention, you are just the cargo in seat 5B. The system is not set up to hear your individual laments, and you are wrong to expect to be heard.

Now you probably are misremembering what you said, but read your own post: you claim to have told the attendant that "I want you to understand why I was taking pictures". Note the plural, in your own words. Can you see how the flight attendant might have come to the understanding that you took more than one picture? She didn't lie, she believed you. Besides, even if you actually said something different, like "I want you to understand why I took that one picture", you still raised red flags by your insistence on explaining. Officialdom does not want your explanation, they want your compliance. People who explain are people who are high risks for non-compliance, because they demonstrate a desire to make their own judgments about when rules should apply to them and when they should not. You set off their "this guy will be trouble later" alarm.

Then of course the captain had no interest in "getting to the bottom of what happened; he just wanted to get the flight underway". What part of that did you not know in advance? How inexperienced are you? The final touch of course is mentioning your elite status. Don't you think that elevated you from "this guy will be trouble later on" to "this guy is trouble on stilts"?

George March 7, 2013 at 08:56 am

I have flown almost a million miles on United and believe you are taking the right steps. I have met a total of three (3) surly, rude FAs on UA (oddly enough the older ones who serve international first class) and one just plain whacko one (in coach- a flight from IAD to MIA if I recall correctly) in all that time. That's a pretty darned good ratio IMO.

I agree that the actions of one bad FA and captain aren't enough to condemn the whole airline. I beleive UA's service is just as good as it ever was and while the food and amenities may have gone (very) downhill they are upgrading their planes and the vast majority of FAs and other crew provide very good if not excellent service.

I've taken photos many times on UAL and on other airlines. UA, Delta, AA et. al. personnel were always gracious- I've never been questioned about it but I don't take pictures of other passengers or crew without their permission.

I will note that the folks on two other airlines I've flown recently (Emirates and Qatar) are so proud of their planes and their company that they will point out every feature of their aircraft and are more than willing to pose for you and/or take pictures for you- I was even allowed (actually encouraged) to take pictures in the cockpit of Emirates's A380. That's pride. UA could also learn a lot from those two about product- esp. in first and business class- their food, amenities and service are superlative- not just good, very good or excellent.

Don March 7, 2013 at 09:55 am

After reading this story and the comments, I will never fly United. I have a trip coming up in September and was going to book a flight on their airline, but will avoid any airline that handles their customers like this.

Lisa G. March 7, 2013 at 10:02 am

Since you have such loyalty to United, what will you do if you get on another plane and the same FA is there?

Derrick March 7, 2013 at 10:14 am

Frankly, UA's response says more about the airline than the hyper FA and uppity pilot. PA, really?

If one of my preferred customers had a problem with my business, I'd be on the phone with profuse apologies to offer a complete refund or a free flight.

Hopefully, this public airing will bring some small levity to an overused excuse for poor service.

There once was a saying, "The customer is king." But I guess that was back before the days when Big Brother took over all sectors of "society."

It only gets worse from here. Don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Richard Flanary March 7, 2013 at 10:50 am

I have flown UA once. ONCE. The level of rudeness was beyond belief. The worst moment was when I asked the United ticket agent (in Chicago) where I might find a mailbox, so I could send a postcard. The response? "Do I look like I work for the f====== Post Office?"

James Orleans March 7, 2013 at 10:53 am

Why not identify the pilot and the flight attendant? Until such people are held personally responsible for such absurd behavior, nothing will change.

Sam Dealey March 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I'm nearly a decade-long 1K with United -- well, until this year. I got so fed up with the horrible customer service that I switched to other carriers. ...Would be nice if United's CEO actually flew undercover for a few days to get the real experience. Loud, bossy commands with a can't-be-bothered attitude. Good riddance. American airline companies are truly horrible, but United wins the race to the bottom.

Paul Slap March 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I once had an American Airlines FA tell me I couldn't bring a car seat for my two year old son on a plane becuase "it had wheels." I had to show a different FA the label where it said "FAA approved" and the ad for it in the Sky Mall catalogue before they let me bring it on. Even after that, the first FA came back to me and said that if the passenger in front of my son had trouble reclining their seat I couldn't use it.

K-Bone March 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I'm a yearly 1k traveler with United and like you, I flown them for years. Like you I won't let a one bad experience ruin my loyalty to them. Overall, they've treated me well. However, the non-friendly attitudes that I see by the crusty, old-timers drive me nuts. On two occassions I've had to call customer service after being treated with disrespect by a FA. Both times I've received some sort of compensation, but who cares... just be more friendly and respect the customer!

David Lemoine March 7, 2013 at 01:22 pm

I have over one million miles with United, and I too have suffered the downfall of the brand. It's not exclusive to United, but they seem to lead all US airlines in the race to the bottom. As far as photography goes, it's rampant - especially around spring-break or on any flight with lot's of Asian pax. No - that's not racist - just a fact.

I've recently changed my employment so as to minimize international travel - it's just not worth the trouble any longer. FAs on international flights - especially in business class - tend to be the more senior (oldest) of the cast. Some are fantastic, but most are crabby and physically challenged. How is flight-safety served when the FA can barely squeeze between the aisle seats?

Sparafucile March 7, 2013 at 01:49 pm

At this point, there is no reason -- none whatsoever -- for you to not reveal the FULL NAMES of both the FA and the pilot. United has abjectly failed to step up and acknowledge (let alone compensate and correct for) the problem.

You need to, at no risk to yourself, now reveal the identities of all the people involved, and remind readers of the specific contribution each made to this mess. They are not CIA or in Witness Protection, and this is not Soviet Russia; they get no special protection is the performance of their interfacing-with-the-farepaying-public jobs.

I could tell you all about the horrid Lufthansa customer "service" agent I encountered in Hamburg, Ms Bornemann, but my account would lack credibility if I merely claimed I spoke with some un-named person. And my issue with how she refused (when emphatically asked) to address a known problem before the problem (quite predictably) became much worse would be more difficult to address unless the specific perpetrator was revealed.

Jim March 7, 2013 at 01:49 pm

Full disclosure, I am an attorney that has represented passengers against the airlines.

There is probably a good chance there is no internal investigation. I have represented passengers who have been arrested on false accusations of gate agents and flight attendants. In all of the cases, the airlines have told the passengers a full investigation was done and appropriate actions were taken, but it is a personnel matter and can't be disclosed, only to learn through the discovery process, no investigations were done and no action taken. In several cases, the employee had actually been subsequently promoted, one as a customer service instructor.

It is unfortunate that some airline employees use their position as a way to abuse their perceived power. In the cases I have dealt with it always is a high mileage frequent flier who knows enough to ask the right questions. The employee takes offense to being questioned and has the passenger removed or arrested, the later usually on a false accusation. What compounds the problem,is the police can and will arrest solely on the employees word.

Marie March 7, 2013 at 01:53 pm

I witnessed a disturbing incident about 9 years ago on a Southwest leg from Houston to Dallas where I commuted daily for work. A Southwest Flight Attendant (whose FAs are usually the best in the business) got a young man arrested and I still to this very day hate myself for not asking to get off the plan to defend him. He was about 20-25 years old and it was the last flight of the day between Houston Hobby to Dallas Love, and it had been delayed. The passenger looked tired and also like he had probably had a beer or three while delayed, although he was neither drunk, stumbling or smelled of alcohol...just had a "boy it's been a rough day" look. He sat down immediately across from me, buckled in, put his ear buds from his phone in, and closed his eyes. An older FA came up and poked him and told him to turn off his music, so he did. I heard the faint music go click, and he laid his head back and reclosed his eyes. She came back about two minutes later and screamed at him "I told you no music." He tried to explain to her that the music was off, but and took an ear bud out of his ears to show her there was no music coming, but she never gave him a chance. She stormed off and two minutes later she came back with the captain and 2 armed police man that forcibly removed him from the plane. They wouldn't even allow him to get his wheely bag. It was terrible. My blood boiled, and I knew that his arrest records would probably include something to the effect of drunk, disorderly, refused to comply, etc. I also wondered if he would have to spend the night in jail since it was so late, last flight, he wasn't near home, etc. I was just so shocked I couldn't move. I should have deboarded the plane and given a statement on what really went down. If that man can hear me, I am so sorry I didn't do the right thing.

Sparafucile March 7, 2013 at 02:33 pm

At this point, there is no reason -- none whatsoever -- for you to not reveal the FULL NAMES of both the FA and the pilot. United has abjectly failed to step up and acknowledge (let alone compensate and correct for) the problem.

You need to, at no risk to yourself, now reveal the identities of all the people involved, and remind readers of the specific contribution each made to this mess. They are not CIA or in Witness Protection, and this is not Soviet Russia; they get no special protection is the performance of their interfacing-with-the-farepaying-public jobs.

I could tell you all about the horrid Lufthansa customer "service" agent I encountered in Hamburg, Ms Bornemann, but my account would lack credibility if I merely claimed I spoke with some un-named person. And my issue with how she refused (when emphatically asked) to address a known problem before the problem (quite predictably) became much worse would be more difficult to address unless the specific perpetrator was revealed.

Submariner March 7, 2013 at 03:18 pm

I quit using United over a consistent decline in service and consideration that culminated in a 4 hour delay out of Chicago O'Hare because they couldn't find a FA. Really? The home airport of the airline and they couldn't locate a single FA?

Anyways, sad to see the continual decline in service. And lest anyone think I have a vendetta against UA, I've seen it generally on all airlines, just a bit faster and more pronounced on UA.

I now drive whenever I can. The "attendent" might still get crabby with me, but I've never thrown myself out.

Mark March 7, 2013 at 04:01 pm

Nothing strange here about the behaviour of the crew (beyond the lying FA) and UAL. They circle the wagons every time. EVERY time.

Michael Shue March 7, 2013 at 04:04 pm

Before I make my comment I want to let you know I am a Delta Airlines Diamond Medallion so I am a bit biased.

I could not agree more with the comments re: the FAs on United. I was flying Delta (codeshare KLM) from Geneva to IAD via AMS. The GVA - AMS flight was cancelled. KLM moved me to the direct to IAD on UA. From pre-board to in-flight the FA services were very surprising - the reaction that I got when I asked for an extra bottle of water was akin to me asking the FA to get down and give me 15 push ups - as if I was the craziest person in the world. Until I hear that UA improves in their in-flight service from other frequent international fliers I am sticking with Delta and Skyteam. And I agree with one other commenter - if Delta ever did that to me, I would end my relationship with them immediately.

Seattle March 7, 2013 at 05:49 pm

Wow, thanks for the story. I hate wrong doings! And more especially when wrongs aren't made right! Next time I book a flight, I will just bypass United as a silent witness to your event and book with another airline. Thank you for your story!


Ken March 7, 2013 at 05:49 pm

I'm voting with my wallet - and taking our business elsewhere. My wife frequently flies between DEN & China, but United isn't worth it anymore. A corporate culture that doesn't care won't get our patronage.

Follow Through March 7, 2013 at 09:51 pm

I'm amazed that some people are giving you a hard time for mentioning your status. It's called being reasonable and pointing out something the FA should have known to begin with--obviously you have spent many many hours on their planes not causing trouble. There's a serious lack of critical thinking, the FA should have been able to work all this out in her head rather than having an inappropriate knee jerk response. Obviously you are a loyal "good" customer, why is that arrogant or snobby? To me your status just gave you more credibility, not less.

Did you read about the guy who was kicked off and considered a "safety threat" because he asked someone to switch seats? You really need to keep this going Matthew, for the sake of all travelers. This could have happened to any one of us. I keep following this story hoping that something authentic happens here to change in flight culture.

I would have appreciated some legal action--something that would set a precedence, in addition to a public apology to you and consequences to the crew in question and some financial compensation to you as well. They should be bending over backwards to make up for this and the fact that there hasn't been an apology is pathetic. That's why legal action is important, they clearly don't get it.

Follow Through March 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm

We should all look out for each other in these situations. We need to speak up when we see something like that happening. If your fellow passengers had said something, there would have been a different outcome. But instead people are too afraid and are just grateful it's not them--this is a sad state.

Also I agree that it would be appropriate list the names of those involved.

CLR March 8, 2013 at 09:36 pm

Some years ago I gave up on UA. I was a regular from SFO to Tokyo from 1996-2000. Service was deplorable. Pissing contests with Mgt and the Union spilled over to the customers. FA's in Bus. and First had gotten to the point where asking for a glass of water was a huff and puff ordeal. Like really? Came to a point on a return from Tokyo that I handed my FF card to the captain and told him I'm never flying UA overseas again. The look was like "What"? Gave up all my miles.... American no better IMHO. Been there did that. (EP 3 yrs, lifetime Gold + million miles+) Domestic is fine, International is terrible. Why??? Unions? A system where longevity out weighs customer service and performance? I now fly Cathay Pacific exclusively to HK. Friendly and service oriented. I actually look forward to flying with them. It is a pleasure. Keep UA's feet to the fire, unacceptable behavior on the part of the FA. You'll never touch the FA, immune to anything you can say or do. Union has that covered. Nah, just keep telling UA they suck and loyality does come to an end. Old quote comes to mind... "Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel”--Indiana Congressman Charles Bruce Brownson (1914-1988) Or in this case, a blogger that gets his story linked on CNN.. OMG!

TrixieAlice March 9, 2013 at 01:37 pm

I used to be a very loyal Continental AIrlines customer. I would do out of my way to fly Continental whenever I could. I fly approximately 80K - 100K miles per year. I was a platinum traveler on CA for the last several years and see such a huge difference between CA and United. Not only in the service but in the quality and condition of the aircraft. Last week, I just flew Business Class on United on my vacation and the planes were relics. The service mediocre and the food inedible. So sad to see such a fabulous airline like Continental disappear and United take its place. I would say that the real security risk here is having a stressed out, over reacting Flight Attendant on board the plane. That should be United's real concern. Hopefully they will deal with the real problem.

KenC March 10, 2013 at 12:21 am

Matt, good on you for taking this on and calling out United. I am a 1k flyer with UA and like many customers have noted that their customer service levels have declined since the merger. There is no leadership or any professionalism from the GA to the pilot to FA. It seems after the merger Jeff Smisek decided to get the integration done as quickly as possible to get his bonus for the integration. I have a good laugh every time I see him on the pre flight safety video talking about customer service and culture. It was great to hear United holding a connecting flights for a passenger flying to his dying mom but based on personal experience this is a rare exception rather than the norm. I suspect United is unfortunately using this for publicity. Many airlines hold flights daily mans don't let all the news channel know about it. In Asia SIngapore and Cathay frequently hold flights for its passenger and even escort them through security particularly if its the last flight out. Sadly for United many of its staff don't really care about the customers. If they are questioned they become defensive or use their authority to retaliate.

I flew on GF with United in Dec 2012 from MEL-SYD-LAX last year. The flight was full and they decided to board all of Group 1, which incl all GF, BF and 1k. This resulted in a stampede of almost 70 elite passengers trying to board a full 747. I politely asked the GA checking tickets whether this could be better handled. She responded by referring me to secondary security screening as I have been randomly selected. I noted no other person from Group 1 was randomly selected. After boarding I requested to speak to the GA supervisor at MEL to get the name of the GA to file a complaint she refused to provide a name only that she would "investigate" and walked off. Imagine how I would have been treated if I had been in coach!

On a recent trip on BF with United from PEK to IAD in Jan, during one of those really bad pollution period in Beijing. On the day of the flight it started to snow. Almost everyone knows that traffic is horrendous in Beijing but get a lot worse during bad weather. All the passengers for a full 777 had managed to get to the airport on time and was waiting at the gate. Then entire flight crew was 1 hour late because they were stuck in traffic having left for the airport too late. You would think there would be some urgency on the side of the pilots and FA to make up for lost time and potential costs to United on miss connections and take off. But the entire flight crew including the pilots were joking and leisurely walking to the gate while all the passengers were waiting and watching. There was absolutely no urgency, professionalism or consideration to their customers. When were finally able to board the plane there was not even a courtesy of an apology from the pilot. Just a curt announcement that we will be 2 hours late into IAD. To rub salt into injury we missed our take off slot and had to wait a further 30 minutes to be de-iced. On a business perspective I am not sure whether the United flight crew actually cares on the costs to the company to rebook missed connections and the inconvenience to their customers. I am sure theynhave their union entitlements but costs ultimatley impacts them as well. As a result I got into IAD 2 hours late and after the formalities has 40 minutes to catch the last flight to BOS and barely made the flight by springing from on end of terminal C to D

I filed a complaint with 1k customer care highlighting the attitude of the crew and was told that United really could not do anything about it. Due to union contracts they cannot ask the crew to leave early for a flight to account for bad weather or to work any faster. You would think that some of this was common sense, allow more time for bad weather and show some urgency if you are late. Being a little annoyed I asked the agent for compensation for the inconvenience by the fact that United almost had me stay over at IAD if I wasn't fit enough run for my flight. Incredibly I was told "United has changed its policy and no longer compensates its 1k flyers based on an unhappy experience". When I asked her if I had not run and thereby missed by connection to BOS the United would then compensate me, she said yes! I was not particularly wanting the actual compensation but more to the fact United may actually change if they continue to have to compensate their frequent flyers to keep them happy.

It seems that rather than develop a customer service culture, the management at United is making up loss revenues due to poor customer service by cutting benefits to its frequent flyers instead. Just as an FYI United, we are actually the ones the higher fare that help generate most of your profit. When I told the agent that I had been offered equivalent status with competing airlines she told me that United does the same to the elite flyers of their competitors. With US and AA merger offering better connections out of BOS I may try AA form change. I think if enough of us take our business elsewhere it might actually hurt enough for the attitudes to change at United.

samo March 14, 2013 at 01:36 am

This is why I don't fly US airlines when there's another option.. even to the extent that I've decided to take holiday in Asia instead of US - I've been on holiday in US every year since 2008 and we spent there about 20 000 EUR every time. But not again. I don't need to be assaulted by TSA and risk problems with paranoid FA who can't value their customer.

Goodbye, I'm going somewhere where I'll be treated as a valued customer.

Clearly, United was willing to throw the writer under the bus after a single incident and years of loyalty. To add further insult to injury, it only reached out when it realized the readership on this blog was substantive. Based on those facts alone, I have to wonder out loud exactly why the writer would continue to shill for the airline.

angie March 18, 2013 at 03:51 pm

I echo the question of why the 10 years of UAL loyalty counts for anything at this point. By speaking about it and with your readership, you have the opportunity to hold the airline (via the representatives of it - pilot, FA, PR rep - with whom you connected) accountable. That's not about pushing for compensation, but rather about pushing for accountability and 'public accounting.'

By letting the airline off the hook and continuing not just to fly with them but to ADVOCATE for them, you are actually giving them license to treat anyone else - especially those with lesser 'loyalty' status - equally poorly or just to do nothing at all and consider it case closed.

@angie: Why shouldn't 10 years of loyalty count? Don't you ever get into a fight with a friend? That doesn't mean you abandon that friend. And by taking the higher road and not hurling petty and perpetual mudsling at UA, I am better able to hold them accountable in the future. If I stop flying them, there will be one less concerned consumer advocate to hold them accountable.

saunier April 5, 2013 at 04:31 am

Hello to all:) I quite regularly fly United to the USA , Australia or elsewehere from the EU and I have never had any problem taking pics. Actually, I don't take pics of the cabin but mostly of the food served in business or economy....This story is simply revolting and it could have heppened to me as well since I have never been aware of the fact that taking pics was illegal...So far I have always been treated well, being upgrades to fisrt many times and even to business class free of charge between LAx and LHR....however I do undesrtand your position and I do share your deep frustration. United owe an explanation and being removed from the plane is something I don't envy anyone. Hang on! Yours,PPS

Ezrha Jean Black April 6, 2013 at 05:16 pm

Yes -- an amazing story all around. But I'm also struck by your naivete -- both in terms of your true-believer faith in a corporate entity like UAL (!?!), and (speaking of the 'true-believer' class) your efforts to explain your actions to the flight attendant (perhaps not especially susceptible to nuance in a narrative that included a reference to 'terrorism' just before take-off). And then you ask her to hang up your coat -- hilarious touch. Were you asking for trouble? Of course not. But you were definitely sustaining the momentum of this little incident. And you've been traveling how long?? (And on United!) You should know better. That said, it sounds like you've had an extraordinary run of luck with UAL -- something that can't be said for most of us. Personally, I would NEVER fly United unless absolutely necessary. But judging from your follow-up comments, it doesn't sound as if you've learned this lesson yet. That, too, is amazing.

chris April 10, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I hate to take sides in this issue, but since 9/11 the safety and security of all passengers trump that of individual rights. I fly United twice a month on transcontinental flights between Newark and Los Angeles and have never had an incident with this company. My loyalty has been rewarded with free tickets, promos and upgrades providing the finest in flight service I've ever received from any airline. Accordingly, I would never take photographs without the permission of the crew and then have the audacity to demand an "apology." If anything, you should be apologizing to United for wasting their time with this childish prank. If I were United, I would put you on a no fly list and ban you from the airline.

@chris: How does taking a photograph of a seat implicate the safety and security of all passengers?

How long will you and others continue to pull the 9/11 card? It's getting old.

Read this: http://upgrd.com/matthew/seven-words-you-can-never-say-on-an-airplane.html

Marlene santaniello April 18, 2013 at 07:36 pm

Hi I am not surprised at all about ur unfortunate dealing w United. I too just had an absolutely horrible experience over Easter break.. I flew on Sunday March 31 from ewr to fll.. A teenager two rows back Vomited everywhere and the fa did nothing to help out- No even paper towels... On my return trip, my 15 Year old son and I sat in row 7d and e- it was a two seat emergency Exit row. I placed my $11000 Hermes handbag on the floor and the fa approached Me and informed me she needed to "take my bag and store it elsewhere". I explained to her it was an extremely valuable bag and in addition, I had my jewelry roll in it w roughly $30k worth of jewelry in it and that I did not feel Comfortable w her taking my bag. She rolled her eyes at me and I took the jewelry roll out and put it down my Shirt and reluctantly handed her my bag.., Unfortunately it got squished into an overstuffed compartment in First class and I had to ask her for it back when we landed . I also find it interesting that after she took my bag she asked me if I was capable of and ready to assume responsibility to assist in the event of a crash ( emergency aisle)... I have not had one positive experience since united took Over continental and I finally decided I will fly other airlines in the future.. In closing, I'd love to know where all continentals new planes went Bc ever flight I've been On since united took over appears to be older than me!

Old and Retired April 25, 2013 at 04:20 am

Please, someone help me, just in case I missed it.

I read the original posting and the 207 replies. What happened? Did UA reply?

@Old and Retired: Here is the final post on the topic--


Donald Ganung April 29, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I was shocked to read what you have experienced on the United flight to Istanbul. The arrogance of the crew stunned me for you were in Business/First. I'm of a mind now not to return via United and give up my elite status with them in finding a new airline who puts courtesy and truth above fear and suspicion. I think the latter must represent in some way upper management is operating at United. Thanks for your blog.

Tony May 9, 2013 at 04:29 pm

Take your case to CHANGE.ORG. Make sure you include me on your petition. United obviously hasn't heard of public opinion, and it's quite powerful if done right.

Emre Yigit May 11, 2013 at 01:55 pm

When I first travelled on US airlines some 30 years ago, I was impressed by their brisk efficiency and cool professionalism. Nowadays, I dread travelling within the US, mainly because of the poor flying experience. Some would say: "Yes, but, tickets are so much more affordable than elsewhere." "Elsewhere" is of course a relative thing.

But for those of us who aren't the size of hobbits, and wouldn't mind shelling out a few extra dollars to stretch our feet, then they are disappointing.

And I don't wholy embrace the idea that US tickets are cheap. A propos the comparison between Turkish Airlines and United made in the earliest responses, last year I flew the five-and-a-half hours between LA and Honolulu in what is hilariously called "First" class (American? Delta? I don't remember). The seat, food, and entertainment were either on a par with, or below, Turkish Airlines economy class on the four hour trip to London. Which was a much cheaper ticket.

Mike May 14, 2013 at 06:37 pm

chris April 10, 2013 at 11:09 pm <

Grow up man ! Enough with the 9/11 garbage. It's done and over with. That incident has turned mild mannered f/a's into jack booted thugs with visions of leg shackles dancing in their heads. It's a joke and they know it. We will fly, they will abuse the hell out of us, and we will take it.

Don May 18, 2013 at 08:48 pm

I don't fly -- ever -- and this is a great example of why. But that is not why I am writing. I am writing because photography in general has been linked to terrorists and terrorism. I have been approached by police and security people on numerous occasions when taking photos in public places of public things with my very large, very professional photo gear. I have been told to keep my gear out of shopping malls and other such places where people with cameras in their phones take photos all the time.

I am reminded of something Benjamin Franklin said in the Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." 

If the FA who lied was afraid of being the victim of a terrorist, perhaps she needs to find another job. Maybe she can teach ostriches ho to properly bury their heads in the dirt.

Chris May 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Name and shame.

The FA and pilot from the incident deserve the public humiliation, as well as the loss of income from being ushered from the plane into the unemployment line. Were I someone with authority at United, that's exactly what I'd do.

AJ May 28, 2013 at 06:02 am

Well technically I have been following many stories after 9/11 and such other incidents happened in the world. Sometimes make me surprised the outcomes of these incidents. Well what happened I don't want to comment on it but really what happened was a bad incident and should not have happened.

My only concern is that does these incidents make this point that every body should be screened with so depth that he or she starts feeling they are the real terrorists where as technically if I am not wrong on my research when ever such incidents happened actually internal securities themselves were involved in getting those culprits inside. Rest you make stories and morals on it.

JAN May 29, 2013 at 01:56 am

While I fully agree that the flight attendant(s) were very irrational on this flight. There is a bit of paranoia within the crews of any airline---some of which can be stimulated by taking pictures of them inflight. Following 9/11 many of my fellow flight attendant co-workers stated to our company and as a result to the entire inflight department, how they had had several of the 911 hi-jackers onboard flights several times (including Atta) before 9/11. These hi-jackers diligently watched E-V-E-R-Y single move the f/as made during all of the flights. I want to tell you, after the fact, this made us ALL very on edge, suspcious, cautious, mindful. Not making excuses for this outburst, but perhaps a consideration nonetheless.

One other note here.......United and Continental may have 'merged', but believe me; this is absolutely and totally Continental Airlines now. The only part of United that remains is the name. And that is because it is more recognizable throughout the world. United, before the merger, had gone downhill somewhat---but following the merger Continental (AKA United) has PLUMMETED. When you are judging ANY workers ANYWHERE---just look at the management and most of all the CEO, in this case Jeff Smisuck. Apples don't fall far.......

Nina June 7, 2013 at 02:09 pm

Is there an update to this story? I can't find it. No point in making a scandal if you're not going to follow up and update and actually show that United did do something about it. It's been a while you should have a result. If not it loses your credibility as writer and traveler. Why would you not dump United or name snd shame?!? Halfway is no good...

@Nina, Yes there was an update to the story just a few days after this post was published:


Alfonso Combong June 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

This is a horrible incident. Its a power trip and a case of paranoia. Im sorry you have been treated like a sack of potatoes. No professionalism at all in UA ,well, what would you expect from a bunch of insecured FAs and the unreasonable captain. Thats why, I never fly that CRAP airline based in Chicago. They are the worst American airline ever! Ill stick to my Delta and the Skyteam. I have great experiences with them from flying to Amsterdam via Delta or flying Air france to Paris or Ljubjana in Slovenia, or anywhere around the world, be it in South America or Asia. Transfer to Delta and they will happily match your mileage. Good luck and thanks for posting this eye opening experience. This reaffirms my position of never ever flying this CRAP airline.

DM June 24, 2013 at 03:17 pm

Wow, I know my comment is months removed from the original incident, but I had to write a comment. I believe your story, having experienced issues with United staff in the past. I've never been removed from a plane, but I do know that United employees seem to get away with acting surly and power-mad in many situations. The fact that United seems to either not recognize these issues or that they allow them to happen is quite a serious problem. It seems that employees are given too much freedom to express personal opinion in situations instead of following corporate guidelines and FAA regulations. In the best case scenario, that does give freedom for FA's to go above and beyond typical service in some situations. However, more often than not it leads to an abuse of power on the whim of a FA who is having a bad day or arbitrarily dislikes a compliant passenger.

Sean June 24, 2013 at 07:26 pm

As long as Americans continue to fly the US carriers, such power trips will continue. Start flying Emirates, Etihad, Qatar or even BA and Lufthansa. When you are greedy for United miles, and put up with psycho fear obsessed flight attendants out to get you, it is hard to feel sorry. I hope you sue United and win but I don't see that happening. So the next best thing you can do is stop vouching your loyalty which I find shocking and surprising to say the least. And to the flight attendant who insists they are there only for safety, excuse it never was that way and should not be. You are there also for my safety and no on expect a drink during a crash landing. But on a normal, smooth flight I expect you to bring me a drink, and not be behind the galley putting make up or reading Vogue. And if you don't like it, quit. Don't take it out on the passenger with this power trip you have in the name of safety.

Sanjeev July 1, 2013 at 09:50 am

I can vouch for RUDE United FAs and bad condition of their equipment. I took flight from Toronto to Chicago last month (1st June) and the moment plane took off, about 10 liters of water came out of somewhere and flooded the floor. A few minutes after a bug started bugging me. I took a few pictures of the bug in the flight but didn't posted it online yet. I was wonder if taking pictures of "a bug" violates the United's privacy policy. FA was as usual devoid of any smile / enthusiasm / eye contact. I am still wondering if United is interested in keeping people flying with them or not.

Steve July 1, 2013 at 02:20 pm

I'm a United pilot. At the moment, its pretty embarrassing to work here. Many of us on the front lines, mechanics, gate agents, F/As, pilots try to do our best...not counting this particular cap and F/A, but management has made it impossible. Hopefully Mr Smisek will depart with our $$$ soon, and maybe we can recover before we lose our last customer. PS: I tell my friends and family to not fly United.

Nikkole Palmatier July 5, 2013 at 10:02 pm

I hate United. I flew them to France last year and had a horrible experience. I booked my flight ONLINE and picked my seat. When I arrived at the airport they had moved my seat to a middle seat. When I said that was not the seat I had chosen they just shrugged their shoulders and gave me a "too bad" look. Then my chair wouldn't move back and my video/audio equipment didn't work. Worst flight ever. I will NEVER fly UNITED again!

NickB July 9, 2013 at 10:40 am

I have a ton of United miles that I also plan to burn before switching to another carrier. Unfortunately, this is not just one bad FA having a bad day. As others have commented, UA's service has gotten progressively worse over the past five years and is now close to intolerable. Like the author, the part that irks me the most is that the FA lied. I was traveling on business and unable to get an upgrade recently. I had two suits in a suit bag and asked to hang the bag. I was told by a very rude FA that I could not hang it if it was zipped. So I unzipped it, untucked the suits (so they were completely exposed) and hung it. A few minutes later a FA came back with my suits, in a ball, and jammed them into an overhead bin. I asked her to stop and she rudely responded that I was told I could not hang them up. I began to protest, clarifying that I was told I couldn't hang a zipped bag -- but she looked me in the eye and said, "that is not what you were told" and slammed the bin shut. I was flabbergasted, but I got the immediate sense that she was itching to make an example out of someone so I didn't dare argue further for fear of getting booted. I took down her name but otherwise bit my lip. Hard. Ultimately, I never complained as I figured the story would be dismissed as just another unreasonable passenger. But there is no question in my mind that the FA was wholly unprofessional -- and lied about what she told me. If I saw my employees treating customers that way, they'd be given immediate re-training or be out the door. Unfortunately UA seems to have adopted the view that if you don't like it, get off; there are dozens of others ready and willing to take your place on these now way overbooked flights.

RK July 24, 2013 at 12:16 am

I guess I was "lucky" - a purser on the ORD->HKG flight made a completely false accusation against me, that I was photographing the crew working. In fact I had not photographed anything on the flight, but rather just looked at my phone (in aeroplane mode) to see what time it was.

This was the flight when I crossed the million mile mark on United. It doesn't cause me to want to continue.

I've read some of the comments, and have to agree with many. Complaining will achieve nothing; flying on another airline will.

Rosy September 3, 2013 at 04:14 pm

I was doing some research on whether or not it was prohibited by the FAA for passengers to take pictures of crew members as I was just terminated from United Airlines without an investigation due to a 1k passenger taking a pic of me reading and accused me of sleeping. My crew members submitted statements saying no such thing occurred but this malicious man insisted that i was sleeping just to be compensated because of a delay. I would like to know if United confirmed whether it was their policy or not as it will help me get my job that I LOVE back. I really apologize for your experience. I've flown with bitter Betty's. and I assume this was the case. I've even had to witness a bitter Betty remove a passenger on Christmas Eve just because she had the power to and it sadden me deeply. In a case where a flight attendant makes a captain aware of an issue, the captain gives the FA the final say so because they have to deal with the passenger. Not the captain. Them removing you off the flight for taking pictures contradicts me being terminated. So unjust. So unfair.

Cal September 10, 2013 at 04:28 pm

Aside from what appears to be (based on the long string of comments about) United's less than stellar performance; to me this boils down to a very simple situation.

You're a man-child, and somehow you'ver managed to score a way to fly a significant amount of miles, and then you've created a little blog world for youself. Wonderful, and everyone needs their fifteen seconds of fame.

The problme, which you created for yourself, was when instead of merely asking the attendant to hang your jacket for you, you decided you should truly impress her with your self importance as a web blogger. Lord have mercy. If you'd know enough to just leave your phone in your pocket and shut up, you could have had a nice relaxing flight in business class.

Then you not only accept their BS treatment of you, you bottom for them after the maltreatment. You're either stupid, spineless, or completely lacking any self esteem. Get some counceling, and perhaps some hormore treatments so you eventually grow a pair.

Its okay... everyone matures eventually, just some faster than others.

Jimmy September 10, 2013 at 05:09 pm

What's the matter Cal, had a bad night at the bathhouse?

Matthew was perfectly justified in trying to explain to this sick FA why he was taking pictures.

D.D. September 29, 2013 at 03:40 pm

Dump them, really! AA has never let me down ... I flew Delta on a ticket that was bought by my friend and when I arrived my new luggage looked like it was dragged on the run way I was so pisst but, I figured I got what I paid for... This Thursday I'm flying AA again on a free ticket I guaranteed you I wont have a problem. Dump them is my advice these airline employees are given to much power and it seems to go to their heads. COPS IN THE SKY.

Danny October 12, 2013 at 11:28 am

Wow.... Just wow. I elect not to use United Airlines again.

John Greener October 26, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I read the story and i too am familiar with the crap this airline deals out to its customers. I will never fly united business again it is a disgrace what this airline does to people.

Mike Grren November 4, 2013 at 01:27 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience. It's amazing how the airline industry gets to bully their own customers with seemingly no accountability what-so-ever. I know it won't matter to United, if they treat their loyal customers like this, as my business and apparently the business of any customers doesn't matter to them I will avoid flying this airline in the future.

Tango Golf November 14, 2013 at 09:07 am
  1. Good story.
  2. Keep it updated.
  3. Fire United Airlines.
  4. Never (ever) waste your time with any PR rep. Even at your own company. Deal with Director of Operations.
  5. Cash talks.
  6. B.S. walks.
Dr. virginia hassrick November 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Mathew... I am happy you love United...but...they have definitely ripped me off this time! I cancelled a ticket with them from Eureka to SFO with three days notice. They told me there was a $595 charge to cancel this seat. I cancelled because their flight stats are so poor out of Arcata that I might endanger the rest of my connections to Marakesh...my ticket cost far less that $595. I was not given an open ticket to use. What happened to the $200 charge and the ticket still kept open for one year of use? Can you advise? thanks. V. Hassrick

Claude January 31, 2014 at 02:38 pm

I work for UAL. I can tell you that I've witnessed horrible treatment of passengers by UAL employees over the years. A few of our flight attendants are on a dysfunctional warpath against passengers and act irrationally. Sheeplike pilots are part of the toxic mixture that result in the type behavior you saw. UAL won't have the backbone to apologize, I suggest you fly other companies next time... vote with your dollars.

Davido February 6, 2014 at 04:07 pm

I suppose after reading nearly all the comments on this thread, what can you say! (Credentials, i have been flying UK-USA for over 30 years, Gazzillions of airmiles; I used to be an aircraft engineer and had a pilots license before I had a drivers license), BA The Worlds Most Arrogant Airline, I was checking in to a flight from MCR to LAX early 90's the old 767 flights which stopped 1995, I was checking in and said I have no check in baggage, young lady says whats that, I said Carry On baggage, she says, no sorry it is way too big (It was the largest Antler case that was fully BA legal carry on), I said no sorry it fits within your regulations, measure it, she says no its way too big, 5 minute argument, Crew all file in next check in desk to me, the Captain (of my flight as it happened) hears the caffufle, looks at me, smiles, walks over and says to the check in attendant and Supervisor, his case is OK as carry on, he stand his Exact Same Antler case next to mine, looks the attendant and Supervisor in the eyes and says to them, this is regulation size for Carry On... RED FACES or WHAT... he asks which flight I am on and i say LAX...thats my flight he tells me - LMFAO... on the flight, I got some P2 time (pre 911 days)and we had a laugh... a few weeks later it was the last MCR - LAX flight for BA and I was invited to the crew party at Baja Cantina in the Marina (MDR) my US home is in Santa Monica.. I didnt fly BA again and started flying United... several million UA miles later, I have never experienced the problems some of you guys have and I am sorry for that, have had some near misses but I am so well aware of the blue fuse paper where crew are concerned I managed to always avoid it, and with so many miles I know most of the crews anyway, I dated one for several years and we are still very close friends, just as I stay in touch with a lot of FA and other crew. The UA Conti merger was nightmare for them, for nearly a year their payroll data was screwed up, angsty Crews... no excuse but helps you understand. And if you chat with the FA's, ask them what Seniority they have, how long have they been flying, take an interest, ask their names (yes I know they have badges, just say I thought you werent really a Julie, more like a Jayne with Y ;-) ) You would be amazed at how a good attitude can get you the best service ever- and also realise, those upgraded Air Miles fliers are intensely disliked because they EXPECT fealty, not good service, and I have seen some of em, upgraded with miles and so damned arrogant, and you never take photos of crew without asking, simple courtesy and you have no right to photograph crew at all(BTW I have never paid for Biz or 1st ticket but rareley ever traveled in the back, like 2 or 3 times in 25 years)... I was working in Movies and with all the film studios in LA and commuting from LHR - LAX nine or ten times + a year, am now back working in Aviation, and enjoying it, the pressure is only goin to get worse on the crews, as LCC's take their toll on legacy and Flag carriers the pressure is mounting on their revenue... when you realise that the average industry flight reaps a $100 (YES $100 profit margin per flight) then you begin to realise - time (turnaround take off move yer ass time) is so very important. Flight attendants on US/Conti are paid from when the door closes, so fasten yer Goddamed seat belt, turn off that phone - I WONT TELL YOU AGAIN!! haha, and Dr Virginia the charge should be $70 to change the ticket, write a nice letter to Martin Hand, he is SVP - Customer Experience at UA/Conti, Chicago HQ, and I bet you get your money back... I will continue to fly UA, and now being a Senior is a great advantage... and I got to know so many of these guys, the nasty ones Know not to mess with you... Cal, you got it dead right bud, its how you are... all that self importance of the hi mileage passenger, God what jerks they are - haha!! Have Nice Day ;-)

kris February 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm

As a flight attendant ( for a better airline) lol, the actions of this crew are reprehensible and cannot be defended. What I am surprised by when reading these comments is the nieve attitude of American fliers today. Yes, 9/11 was over a decade ago, and we have moved on as a nation. There have been more than a few at temps since, but because of a more aware attitude we have taken as a country, were prevented from coming to fruition. They are still there, America, and they want to do it again. They fly our planes, watch the crew, and watch security protocols for weakness. The reason (most) photos, or extensive photographing of airplane cabins is so the layout of an airplane cannot be studied. That being said, what happened to you is ridiculous, unfortunate and would have been preventable with some common sense on behalf of any leadership position of the crew. Especially the Captain. Good Luck!

Laura May 5, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Had a similar camera situation 6 weeks ago. 3/25/14 a friend and I were held against our will on a British Airways flight that had landed at London Heathrow from Austin, TX, a new route BA had only been offering for 9 days. Two flight attendants took considerable issues with my friend and I NOT appreciating having milk sprayed all over us during breakfast coffee service. Were were not allowed off the flight after it landed and banned from our second leg to Edinburgh, Scotland. After being reprimanded for being rude to the flight crew for 10 minutes by the head flight attendant (all exits blocked by crew members, mind you), my friend said she would record the conversation since we weren't allowed to leave and had committed no crime. When she pulled out her iPhone one of the flight attendants went BALLISTIC and called the police. I demanded to speak with someone from the US consulate if the police were going to actually get involved. The crew just ignored me and one female attendant actually TSK'ed me. When the cop showed up, he refused to arrest us despite the captain repeatedly telling him we were threatening the crew and needed to be arrested. In fact, when the officer boarded the plane we were standing there silent and he shrugged and tried to walk off the plane before being dragged back onto the plane to arrest us by the captain. When the officer refused to arrest us for a SECOND time, the crew FINALLY let us get off the plane. I have not been refunded for the missed Edinburgh leg of my flight or the bus ticket I had to buy to get to Edinburgh and there was no apology from ANYONE, not even when the milk was initially spilled on us. I'm waiting to hear back from BA resolution department.

I usually fly United direct from Newark to Edinburgh and can honestly say I will NEVER fly BA again. I fly every year to Edinburgh and New Zealand and have NEVER been treated so poorly by any group of people in my 35 years EVER. People should know more about their LACK of civil rights when boarding an aircraft.

khaleel May 6, 2014 at 05:49 am

fly emirates

russ May 23, 2014 at 03:58 pm

There used to be a Worldwide carrier based in Dallas, TX called Braniff International that was staffed with employees that hated their customers and their jobs. People finally had enough and stopped flying them and they closed. This is just history repeating itself.

beth July 14, 2014 at 07:32 am

A simple mistake on your part - Flying the unfriendly skies. Apparently a mistake you feel the need to continue.

Danny September 9, 2014 at 04:10 am

Substantial sized settlements from lawsuits will be the only way that United would make a change. If you as a customer complain - they ignore you. If you threatened to stop flying with them - they know others will take your place. This problem is a result of poor training and ineffective leadership in the organization. Unions don't have anything to do with it.

jules November 4, 2014 at 02:04 pm

Sorry to say - even if you did not know - A) you should apologize B) FA's are like police- according to FAA- YOU MUST OBEY THEM C) according to FAA RULES OF CARRIAGE . - they can through you off for any reason PERIOD>

jules November 4, 2014 at 02:09 pm

Sorry to say - even if you did not know - A) you should apologize B) FA's are like police- according to FAA- YOU MUST OBEY THEM C) according to FAA RULES OF CARRIAGE . - they can through you off for any reason PERIOD>

PS - First thing I do is give out thank you gifts to the Flight attendants EACH FLIGHT - Did any of you ever say thank you ????

del Rosario and Chua January 8, 2015 at 09:19 pm

We appreciate your hope for United but the fact is, they continue to deteriorate. Short story is.... They issued a boarding pass with wrong name and seat #. Got through TSA and got in the plane with ID and unmatched names (similar names) Front desk came in and escorted him out with 2 FA like a criminal. Did not verify any ID or the correct boarding pass he had through the United app. It turns out that the client/passenger was disabled and was separated from his aide. Lost his luggage. No sympathy. No wonder that everyone laughs at us when we say we flied United. No apology or effort the acknowledge that they are pathetic. just a response email saying, they are investigating the case.

Those of you that defend United in this Blog clearly are being paid or employed by United. I hope foreign airlines will have more presence in domestic flights in the future.

LLOYD COLEMAN February 27, 2015 at 03:44 pm

I was a flight attendant for many years, and consider it the best job one can have. I was also flying on 9/11...to EWR . I can assure you that the events of 9/11 permanently changed all of us in the flight crews and how we viewed air travel and passenger behavior, and how flight crews think and operate in general. In this case...it was flight crew extremism, and is bad behavior anyway you want to look at it. There are ways to deal with one's fear. The captain in command should be a fearless leader, and in this case, it sounds like the whole crew gave in to the fear of this crew extremist. I hated flying with people like her in the crew...and there is almost always one...that thinks her way is the only way, and won't stop until she has her way. It's like a bad toothache..that keeps throbbing until you remove it. Unfortunately, unions protect these idiots, who ruin it for the rest of us, and they keep finding their way back onto the flight line even after being dismissed for extreme behavior. UNITED should do the right thing, and re-assign those afraid to fly.

T March 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm

And that is just one of the reasons NOT to fly United. They are (literally) my carrier of last resort. Good Luck!

Nathaniel March 22, 2015 at 12:31 am

I think that as a blogger on this market you have the opportunity of helping airlines getting better and your viewers to express what they think about what you write and to share situations they went through so you could hve an understanding on what is happening around regarding what you write.

So don't waist the consideration of your viewers saying it's ok the way United is handing what happened to you. You as a blogger have the means to make them think seriously on what they did and change the way they have been acting, you are not the only one abused by them. But you can help others to change the way they usually act.

Being polite does does not stop you to demand a proper consideration by them, an apology is the minimum, of course they have to reimburse you. Of course they have to say to you the result of their "investigation". And to show you their concern on really continuous having you as their client they have to give something else.

Otherwise their concern and call will be only bla bla

If you are worried about your milages any airline will match it.

I'm sorry but the way you are handling it is wrong and you are wasting a big opportunity to show us, your viewers, independance on your reviews and the wright way to go after consideration and compensation (something that really show consideration) for us.

I'm very disappointed with the way you are handling this situation, please read again the third comment on this post.

And as a viewer I'm positive that others too, and even bottered to write about it.

Hope you stop talking on the phone and starting writing to them and asking emails or letters in response. Hope you go after an apology and a compensation otherwise will be hard to continuous having consideration of your viewers.

Hope you the best.

Nathaniel March 22, 2015 at 12:31 am

I think that as a blogger on this market you have the opportunity of helping airlines getting better and your viewers to express what they think about what you write and to share situations they went through so you could hve an understanding on what is happening around regarding what you write.

So don't waist the consideration of your viewers saying it's ok the way United is handing what happened to you. You as a blogger have the means to make them think seriously on what they did and change the way they have been acting, you are not the only one abused by them. But you can help others to change the way they usually act.

Being polite does does not stop you to demand a proper consideration by them, an apology is the minimum, of course they have to reimburse you. Of course they have to say to you the result of their "investigation". And to show you their concern on really continuous having you as their client they have to give something else.

Otherwise their concern and call will be only bla bla

If you are worried about your milages any airline will match it.

I'm sorry but the way you are handling it is wrong and you are wasting a big opportunity to show us, your viewers, independance on your reviews and the wright way to go after consideration and compensation (something that really show consideration) for us.

I'm very disappointed with the way you are handling this situation, please read again the third comment on this post.

And as a viewer I'm positive that others too, and even bottered to write about it.

Hope you stop talking on the phone and starting writing to them and asking emails or letters in response. Hope you go after an apology and a compensation otherwise will be hard to continuous having consideration of your viewers.

Hope you the best.

Eric March 30, 2015 at 07:12 am

You stated in your other blog post that you took a picture of your PDB. Doesn't that mean you were mistaken in claiming you took one photo? If the flight attendant saw you taking a photo after an explicit discussion about not doing so, was it so unreasonable for her to have suspicions about you?

@Eric: I took a picture of the PDB before I took a picture of the seat. I said that I took no further pictures after the FA advised me to stop.

Colleen June 2, 2015 at 01:57 am

The original incident was 2 years ago - so how did it play out finally? Obviously nothing has changed with UA considering the incident in the last couple of days with another UA FA throwing a fit over the American Muslim woman who simply requested an unopened soda can (she'd been given an already open one and was told she couldn't have an unopened one because she might use it as a weapon, while the FA gave an unopened can of beer to the man next to her). So very glad I never fly United!

B August 12, 2015 at 02:23 pm

Fly another carrier. seriously. this is a waste of time.

Mat G. December 22, 2015 at 06:18 pm

Just want to let you know that people are still reading about your incident and have seen how United Airline treat their customers like criminals. It's just unbelievable how badly people let these corporations walk all over them and they say nothing in return.

We are fed up.

Taylor Shaw August 31, 2016 at 12:03 am

It's 2016, I have close to 1.3 million miles logged on @united and this crap continues. They need to start firing their Flight Attendents instead of harassing business travelers.

Richelle October 5, 2016 at 02:16 pm

I enjoy, cause I found exactly what I was taking a look for.

You've ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

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