Last week I discussed how I was nearly kicked off a flight for asking about a snack box. United reached out and I want to share their communication with me.
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Nearly Kicked Off Flight For Asking a Question
I have never been kicked off a plane in all of my years of flying, that nearly changed last week. As I outlined in that post, I was threatened with being the cause of an early landing or for a law enforcement officer to wait for me as I leave the plane.
My crime? I had asked for a snack box which is an included benefit along with elevated miles and points earning – I’m a little surprised the carriers haven’t found a way to reduce that yet. There’s more to that part of the story and I encourage you to read it if interested.
For those that claim I should have known that the benefit had gone away, maybe they should spend their energy telling that to United instead who still show it as a stated benefit in their app as of this very moment. Maybe that’s also why the person behind me was confused as well, asked the same question, and was also threatened with a police escort upon landing.
There’s plenty of unruly behavior aboard airplanes and tensions are running high everywhere in the United States right now, this is a particularly stupid way for any flight crew to treat customers who are not causing issues on a plane.
That said, there’s something I mentioned but didn’t give enough attention to in last week’s posts on the my flight. I had three other flights with United that week, all of which went without incident. In fact, I’ve flown on about a dozen flights in the last few weeks and all of them have had welcoming crews. Even half the crew working the flight in question was fantastic.
My neighbor is a long-time flight attendant for another carrier, I hear all the stories, I am not an unsympathetic flyer to those working the aisles and the skies.
Vigilante Flight Attendant
This was the same vigilante flight attendant that had threatened another passenger whose face covering had slipped below his nose. As I said in that separate post, this was not someone refusing to wear masks, making a stand. This was someone who didn’t notice it had slipped down.
Many had stated in the comments of that post that the person must have known it had fallen to the tip of his nose, his demeanor and surprise as he was lectured tell a different story.
We’ve seen passengers rebelling against the mask requirements of all airlines even prior to the executive order by President Joe Biden. Matthew’s written about cases with kids, like this American Airlines flight where young children wouldn’t keep their mask on (while eating which is permitted) and were asked the leave the plane. We can thank social media for so many first-person views that allow us to judge for ourselves.
Perhaps I should have taken out my phone and filmed the encounter, but I felt like that would have escalated matters further and would have given the FA an actual policy violation for which she could have removed me from the flight. I never intended to have an incident so when it arrived, I didn’t want to document it, I wanted to de-escalate it.
I had completed a post-flight survey and gave an exhaustive 1,000+ word response but hadn’t heard from United by the time of publication. I gave my business card and asked for the flight attendant’s own to give her an opportunity to tell her side of the story. She had also instructed me to “write a letter” to United if I didn’t like it, so I asked her for her name which she reluctantly claimed was “Yolanda.”
After some commenters and fellow bloggers suggested I should reach out to United, I emailed 1K Voice to let them know about my experience. I gave an incredibly detailed account including the flight details and descriptions of those around me who could verify my experience.
United Executive Services called me this week. I spoke with a very kind and sympathetic United employee who indicated they were actively investigating the matter. Paraphrasing, it’s not the way they expect their flight attendants to act and it’s not how they treat their customers and wouldn’t want their family members treated that way either.
What was most telling to me was that she used language that suggested my accusations had either been verified or at least found they held validity. To that end, she confirmed what I had already suspected to be true – the flight attendant had given me a false name.
I stated that I felt this was particularly unfair given the situation, the FA had my name, all my critical flight details, pretty much everything one could ever want to know about me (which has now been stolen anyway – but that’s a different post) yet wouldn’t even give me her first name. She had no problem suggesting that I should face the police when we land, have my trip discontinued, United would likely incur $20-30,000 if they landed early to get me off the aircraft, and even suggested I write in. But at the first sign that someone would actually stand up to that, she cowered and lied.
United was clear, its flight management team had not completed the investigation, but also committed to starting one. I didn’t ask for any compensation and they didn’t offer any. Both parties, United Executive Services and myself have the same goal – that the incident is investigated, and if they determine the flight attendant acted inappropriately to me and my seatmates, that retraining or corrective action will be taken.
In a note of encouragement to those who would see this incident and say, “I’m not flying United again” that’s the wrong answer. People at United care, the rest of the flight attendants cared, and one bad incident should not be sufficient to replace 1,000 good ones.
After having some time to consider the events, I remain incensed over this flight attendant’s action and her feelings of impunity. That extended to at least the FA that suggested my very question was unacceptable, and the pilot that stood there while I asked for his FA’s name and she lied to my face. But United’s diligence in contacting me personally, looking into the matter, and determining that at least one part of my story was absolutely confirmed is what will keep me boarding the plane for my next United Airlines flight.
What do you think? Was United’s response adequate? Are you surprised that Yolanda wasn’t the flight attendant’s real name? Should United update the app or their meal service?
Honestly you gave way too much energy to that FA for a free drink and snack in economy. It’s been a few days now and you still feel ‘incensed.’
There are definitely more important things happening in this world right now but if you feel you need to further pursue this, then all the power to you and I hope UA will side with you. I agree if it’s a listed benefit it should be honored but at the same time not sure if enforcing this benefit is worth one’s time and energy.
And this is why I refuse to fly United. I left them years ago, after FA treatment that was outrageous on many occasions.
This is why I hate flight attendants… also United. Before last month, it had been 11 years since I’ve set foot on a United aircraft. I had no choice, they were the latest flight out of DC. After that flight, it will be another 11 years I promise you. That airline deserves to fail. Next month I have to go to Houston…you guessed it, I’m taking a connection on AA rather than a nonstop on United. I won’t put up with let alone pay a premium for bad service and surly flight attendants. Its a customer service job but without the customer service. They’re not cops. They’re not firemen. They’re no more a lifesaver than anyone else with a cpr certification and the 30 minute aed class at the local fire station. No, they won’t be dragging anyone’s body out of any burning wreckage…..they’re usually the first ones out anyway. Their union will use covid to further hamstring a drowning industry and with any luck bargain themselves right out of a job.
Airlines need to have a different approach with the amount of power that FAs have nowadays. In these situations or situations where a passenger is kicked off, nearby passengers who heard/saw everything should be asked for additional information and compensated for their time. Colleagues will never go on each other’s side so just hearing it from the employees isn’t enough.
If a FA is found to have been abused their power, they should be fired. However, union rules will probably prevent that from happening.
Congrats on costing the flight attendant her job and career I guess? The snack basketust be worth her having to do some cashier checkout job now since she won’t be hired by an airline ever again.
I didn’t force her to respond in that manner, she chose to do that all on her own. I’ve never threatened anyone with having them arrested in far rougher customer-facing situations, but if I did and it was completely unwarranted, how would the customer be to blame?
I’m confused if you are 1K – of of today – the free snack shows up on their website as a benefit. What was their answer to “no snack for you”
I’d ask that exact question but Yolanda might call the cops so I guess we will never know…
Actually, I can do better than that. I believe their policy is to not serve the snacks in the back of the plane, nor the “beverage” though they still give out snacks and beverages just not snack boxes and not alcoholic beverages. This is likely a case of failing to update the website and app. But let’s say you’re a busy 1K that doesn’t read our blogs (these people exist, I’m told) if they were told no, and then looked on the app, how should they approach that issue?
I find it disappointing they can’t seem to manage to spend the $2-3 on elites that they ask to spend $17,000 on them while Spirit who asks those same elites for $5,000 are able to do so right now, in the midst of the pandemic. But that’s a different post and topic altogether. The answer to your question is likely oversight issues, but I find it frustrating that asking for clarification is met with such grief. And the point of this post was to update our readership that, in fact, United corporate agrees with that sentiment and found the behavior to be inconsistent with their standards. They reached out when they didn’t have to, took steps, they didn’t need to, in order to improve the experience for customers that may have never flown them before. That’s a valid response. As a business manager, I would be proud that my team went to some efforts to actually resolve the matter.
Actually, yes. She should loss her job. Every day people projecting abusive behavior are terminated by employers. Over the past 30+ years there has been a steady decline in acceptance of belligerent behavior is the work place, to the general benefit of co-workers and customers. This is her workplace. Being a union member or female does not provide a separate entitlement to make belittling comments. Passengers asking questions does not present a safety concern. She should receive a written warning with the understanding that a continued pattern of abusive behavior will lead to termination. B, That you feel inclined to justify her actions is sad. Happy you are not my coworker.
…and then to give a fake name after threatening jim with the police? Seems like a fair punishment for someone who should have never been there in the first place and will probably end up costing her company plenty of money down the line.
Bad FAs seem mostly in the US. You can thank decades of poor education, profit seeking above all else, and union entitlement. I hope this FA is not only fired but disciplined by the union … oh wait what am I thinking, it’s a union hahah. They are about to give them a medal.
This is why we dont fly United. 3-4 years ago we were flying BOS-LAX and my partner asked the flight attendant how to open the lavatory door. She then proceeded to belittle him, saying “did you go to kindergarten? do you know green means go, read means stop?” I was standing behind him and my jaw hit the floor. Another flight attendant sitting RIGHT beside her, then denied this whole incident happened. We then asked for their names and got threatened with the police upon landing. They came through the aisles and pointed at us to the other flight attendants. Upon landing, the pilots even told us we were lucky we did not get arrested. We received a fake names of course. Terrible experience. We did not have any status so did not receive much after complaining. We still have nightmares about that flight.
@B she probably will not loose her job, she is still part of the union. Either way she lied, escalated the situation, and needs to be retrained on customer service. She brought ALL of this on herself with her crap attitude. To me though, the lying about her name and threatening the police warrant being suspend. It will be a good lesson for her.
Last night, I called UA 1K desk to ask to be put on the upgrade waiting list using PlusPoints. The flight was one way from EWR – BOG. On the United website it states clearly that this route, because of the 737 equipment, will be considered “Short Haul”. The site posts clearly “20 PlusPoints”. The 1K agent argued and started losing control. She said that it should be “80 Plus Points” because and I quote “you buy the cheapest ticket”. Who wouldn’t want to save money? Instead if thanking me for my support during the pandemic, she insulted me. What I was surprised that how United could have someone who was not knowledgeable, who was not courtesy and polite, worked at 1K desk like that. I was so humiliated so I ended the call.
Problem is the airlines and flights attendants do NOT value the customer. From management school, I remembered “the customer isn’t always right but they must be felt like they are…the customer is king”.
There is zero recourse against abusive or tyrannical FAs. Passengers can get kicked off flights, put on a no fly list, fined, or jailed. Where’s your recourse? Wow, a $50 voucher on another flight.
Yes, there are many passengers who are rude, jerks, etc but that is not an excuse for FAs to treat the rest of the flyers as such. And unfortunately it is part of the job they signed up for when they chose to serve the public.
BTW, I have flown on numerous foreign airlines. All have exceeded their US counterparts.
I find it weird that the flight attendant will cause a company $20-$30,000 to divert a flight for a simple question which is crazy since they are burn millions of dollars to pay her.
Most flight attendants aren’t MENSA members
Much ado about crackers, processed meat sticks, and m&m’s. Yes, the app still lists it as a benefit and yes, despite this the author was well aware of current ‘snack box’ policy.
Extraordinarily vapid content.
Extraordinarily indeed. God forbid a passenger would ask a question without being told they could be arrested for doing so.
Everyone here saying that the author should have known, or did know, or how dare he ask for a benefit published by United, need to really go back and re-read the core of the issue ..
It isn’t the lack of the snack box it’s the fact that this flight attendant wrongly used her ‘power’ to threaten a passenger with police for asking for their benefit. She needs to be grounded and retrained on how to handle service related questions. Maybe throw her at the ticketing counter to really experience problematic issues.
Hope united comes back with an apologynfor you and takes steps to stop this from happening again.
It is interesting to me how many people seem to think that it was OK for the flight attendant to threaten anyone on the plane for asking a question. It is irrelevant if the CUSTOMER knew that there weren’t snack boxes. There is nothing in that question that warrants threatening a CUSTOMER with having the police meet them as they get off of the plane.
A huge part of a flight attendant’s job is to make CUSTOMERS feel welcome, to not feel attacked, to make their flight pleasant. If the flight attendant gets fired it is because they aggressively failed at their job.
While I’m not suggesting that your actions justify hers, it’s hard to say that your days-long tirade is any better. With respect, it’s time to move on.
While I hope someone conveys the gravity of a police threat to this attendant, I hope you have also learned to pick your battles. From your own description, your actions seem childish at best. Based on your writing style, it’s easy to think that whatever you said could be easily misread as patronizing. If you keep baiting people, you’ll eventually get this kind of response. Nothing new here.
While I want to take your side, I can’t move past this: you’re a grown man who’s spent multiple days trying to cancel the flight attendant that got annoyed with your passive aggression over a snack box. In case you hadn’t noticed, there are far more serious, impactful things going on in the world.
I hope you find whatever resolution you’re looking for quickly, so you can get back to writing something worth reading.
I’ve written one update, this one. I felt like I should give United credit for following up with real action. I also had more than 100 comments last week with a variety of opinions and questions I’ve addressed here.
Would it be better to leave the last post out there without sharing the response from United? I feel like that would be really unfair to them and disingenuous to our readership.
While I agree that there are more important things in the world right now – no question about that – I also find the escalation of law enforcement and flight attendants/passengers to be alarming. That seems like a worthy reason to write it but again, maybe not for you.
I have good news and bad news for you, @Michael, if this is the last I hear from United on the matter, it will be the last you hear too. If something changes, I’ll write about it again and you’ll have the opportunity to read it or scroll on by. I hope you choose the former, but there’s nothing wrong with the latter.
this is why you should a fly American Airlines
This is why I don’t automatically side with flight attendants. They are known to illegally abuse their power over flight safety by claiming someone complaining about poor service is a threat to flight safety. Of course, pilots stick behind their own just like abusive cops and pension whore firefighters. No profession has any honor any more and no institution can be trusted. Flight attendants in the U.S. have the worst ratings in the world as U.S. based airlines tend to hire the worst demographics and unions protect bad performance.
You can awaken your readers to the stupidity behind blind faith. Don’t trust cabin crew automatically. Don’t trust law enforcement (90% of the laws they enforce with violence are leftist laws designed to eradicate personal freedoms). Vote not guilty on a jury.
To me, the real problem is that the FA was usurping the captain’s authority. There is only one person, by the FAR’s in charge of the airplane. The captain is the only person who can sign the clearance and thus becomes the pilot in command, period! No captain should ever allow a crew member to decide how his/her flight will be operated. This is a breakdown of the command authority. The authority of the captain goes from the nose to the tail. It does not end at the cockpit door.
Let’s turn this into a witchhunt!
Flying all over the place during a Global Pandemic. Trying to defeat “the system.”
Despicable behavior by the FA.
I am all in for the snack box saga!
While I have yet to be threatened with police welcoming party, I have experience with FAs acting badly.
“one bad incident should not be sufficient to replace 1,000 good ones” Tell that to the guy who was beaten uncontious and dragged from the plane a bit back because the airline fraudulently sold his seat to another passenger. People should stop flying with the US airlines until they fold and go out of business. Maybe then a company that does not put the greed of their executives above passenger safety and comfort will fill the void and we will all be better off for it. Stop defending these criminals just because you make a living writing about them and enjoy the kick-backs they give you. By doing so you are just as guilty as they are, and deserve to be put up against the wall with them.
@Ryan – Let me know where United sent that check, can’t seem to find my kickback anywhere.
It’s shocking what you had to face. I have been a 1K for years too. I find frequent flyers tend to be courteous and respectful towards the flight attendants. Your request for a snack box was justified too. I don’t know why this situation escalated so much. Also FAs should be able to deescalate situations rather than be trigger friendly in case of disagreements. I get if FAs call security for disruptive behaviors or not wearing a face mask, but threatening to call cops for asking for more information about United Policy on snack boxes is unacceptable. The fact she refused to give you her name is shocking and she should be reprimanded for it. There was no reason to give a wrong name if she thought she was doing the right thing.
I find it hard to believe that anyone whining and throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get a snack box can spend so much time and energy complaining. GROW UP!
I have flown enough to understand that if I request a “diet 7up” and the FA says they don’t any, I don’t threaten to report it to the corporate office, FAA, homeland security or anyone else.
SUCK IT UP and be an adult.
@Mel – Usually I start this with, “thanks for commenting and for reading” but I’m not sure you read the post. Either that or you already decided what REALLY happened regardless of my account or United’s corporate actions. Asking for the thing they said they’d give me, isn’t throwing a tantrum. You should be able to calmly and politely ask a question without it coming across as an accusation or indictment.
Your example was false. I didn’t threaten anyone, rather just the opposite. If that same FA said, “catering didn’t load any” Diet 7Ups, while the FA right behind her is pouring one, would you not simply point and say “right behind you there’s a can”? That’s enough for me to be threatened with police action in this example, all the while, you’re telling me I’m throwing a tantrum and threatening staff. READ. THE. WORDS. If you’ve already decided my account wouldn’t be portrayed accurately, then why bother stopping at all?
Kyle, I’ll support you. I read through the responses on both posts and one particularly troubled me which was that we have post 9-11 AND COVID, we should just “sit down and shut up” and be glad not thrown in gulag. When you accept those terms & conditions for how you accept being treated, it’s a slippery slope to the bottom (next they’ll throw you out for no discernible reason at all.)
The reason for lack of customer service training for FA’s goes back, IMO, to the FA term to begin with. “Steward” literally means to provide care while “attendant” means to monitor. “FA” is more masculine than “stewardess” and it shows in how the cabin crew treats the passengers. The emphasis from customer service to “safety” meant eventually passengers would be policed rather than served.
The argument goes that FA’s primary duty is to ensure “safety” but one could say the same of other service professions. Is a waiter not obligated to provide safe food? A hotel to provide safe, clean rooms?
Elliott advocacy said something that disturbed me: “Good customer service doesn’t cost extra” but yet, what value would it have then if there’s no additional motivation for someone to be friendly and unnecessarily attentive? Minimum wage gets minimum effort. Even worse: Crew that survives to seniority will be adept at survival (avoiding getting fired) rather than serving customers out of gratitude and taking out frustrations upon the weak.
Next, there’s the wokeness factor to consider: If a disgruntled FA threatens you, would your particular identity group make that a newsworthy story? Welcome to elite privilege!
Thought of this:
Thanks for reporting this incident and the update post Kyle. These kinds of posts are very important to me as a fellow IK who qualifies for status using personal funds and doesn’t live at a hub. I.e. It takes effort for me to be loyal to United. I was appalled by this FA’s threatening behavior. It’s not about the snack box. Rather it’s about FA’s threatening you for asking reasonable questions.
@PM1 – That’s the way I saw it too, some aren’t convinced.
I have been a flight attendant for close to 40 years for United Airlines but was a formerly Continental Airlines fa. I do certainly agree that a flight attendant should handle these types of situations with as much class as possible, even when dealing with a irate customers. I want to keep our customers happy and give them a positive experience so they will continue to fly United Airlines. It is too bad that our 1K customers were not given the update about extra amenities not being available in economy anymore. We were given this information the first week in December. Yes, i have witnessed flight attendants not handling situations very well in their approach. And i won’t make any excuses. I am sorry Mr. Stewart that you experienced this with that particular flight attendant. And she should have given you her correct first name. I was glad to hear that United management is now aware of their lack of new information to our loyal 1K customers. I guess I just wanted to express myself. I hope your future flights on United Airlines are pleasant indeed
@Marguriete – you’re the type of flight attendant I am used to and the reason why I wanted to make sure that was clear in this follow-up post. The vast majority of passengers don’t start fights on airplanes, and the vast majority of flight attendants are the salt of the earth. When something bad happens, it’s noteworthy.
I appreciate your note and hope others that have lost faith (regardless of my commentary) will reconsider their opinions about FAs and crews in general.
I haven’t flown United in a few years, although I have silver status via Bonvoy. I’m a delta flyer and I think I remember noticing that the FAs “wings” clipped on their uniforms contain their name.
Not sure if United does the same.
They do not. They still have the wings, just no names anymore. Frankly, people are crazy so I can kind of (maybe) understand removing the name from the shirt, but if someone asks for just your first name, I think that’s something where an FA doesn’t get to have anonymity – the passengers don’t.
It sounds to me like you were egging a FA on. Trying to make a bigger story out of nothing. How important was a snack box to you that you would cause such a disturbance. Sounds like you feel an entitlement to boss around people doing their job. Everyone at this time is under a lot of pressure due to worrying about getting the COVID virus. FA’s have put their life on the line flying and trying to up hold a rule such as mask compliance . Can you follow rules? Sounds like she was just trying to follow the rules.
She wasn’t. They just changed the policy this week.
Kyle, have you heard back on the status of the investigation? I have just flown United this past weekend and saw 1K members asking for snack boxes in economy responded back with the similar response: “We don’t have that in this flight”, despite the boxes were passed around to FAs. They sounded indifferent too.
There was a big email that went out to customers that clarified the policy and separate advisement on how FAs should respond to customers. Then this shortly thereafter: https://liveandletsfly.com/united-airlines-flight-attendant-feedback/