Another day, another chapter in Perils of Drinking and Flying. This story puts United Airlines back in the spotlight with a particularly unsavory drunk man on a transcontinental flight from Los Angeles to Newark.
Daniel Card was flying home on United 1871 when a drunk passenger took a seat next to him. As the aircraft prepared for takeoff, Card’s seatmate–
…took out his penis and aimed it at Card and proceeded to urinate all over Card’s leg, while Card was confined to his seat due to an imminent departure of the flight.
That’s according to Card’s lawsuit. But here’s what is interesting to me: his lawsuit also alleges that the United crew onboard initially refused his request to relocate his urine-drenched seat. Only later in the flight did FAs find him another seat, but he was still “forced to endure the remainder of the flight to Newark/New Jersey while remaining in his urine drenched clothing.”
Let’s stop for a moment. Perhaps the reason the drunk passenger urinated on Card is the same reason why FAs initially denied Card’s request to move seats: the aircraft was on an active taxiway about to takeoff. Do you really think any flight attendant (other than on TAP Portugal) would be so cruel as to deny a request to move when there were other seats available? I’m just speculating, but I suspect the passenger wanted to move immediately and the FAs said he had to wait until after takeoff. That’s reasonable.
The plane did not divert, but was met by the FBI at Newark where both Card and the drunk passenger were interviewed. For his part, the drunk passenger stated he “had no recollection of the events on the flight, and only remembered being at a bar inside of Los Angeles International Airport, and then landing at Newark Airport.” He admitted to consuming four Bacardi and Cokes.
Contract of Carriage Breach?
Card points out that United’s Contract of Carriage states it will remove–
Passengers who appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs to a degree that the Passenger may endanger the Passenger or another Passenger or members of the crew.
It seems to me that if anything, United is overzealous about removing passengers from airplanes. The drunk passengers probably entered the aircraft quietly and sat down. If it wasn’t apparent he was drunk, how could United justifiably remove him?
Card is suing United for:
- breach of contract
- emotional distress
And he’ll get something just to go away…
We have not yet been served with this suit and due to the pending litigation involved in this matter, we’re unable to provide further comment.
It’s a difficult story because United loses the PR battle no matter how you spin it. The bottom line is this — should a flight be diverted or takeoff aborted when a drunk passenger urinates on another passenger? Considering that it will mean delays and potential missed connections for 200 people…I’m not so sure.