back to article Airline ejects passenger for being hungry

United Airlines ejected a loyal first class passenger from a recent plane flight because he asked if he would be getting dinner. At least, that's his story. He may have been ejected because he's the sort of security threat who claims he's talking about food when he's really talking about the police. United takes such threats …


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      1. tim 4

        since air marshalls

        are required to wear suits on all flights, it shouldn't be hard to spot them. but what color , you ask? that's secret. since no one ever wears a suit on a plane , you can ask the one guy in economy in a brooks bros how long he's been an " agent".

    1. TimeMaster T


      Just keep in mind that the crew have their own portable air masks so you would only be affecting innocent civilians.

      Mines the one with the gas mask and boarding pass in the pocket.

  1. Mountford D

    Post-9/11 paranoia?

    I had a harrowing experience when we went to the US for a holiday. For a start, the airlines always tell you to lock your cases which we did, only to find the locks cut and the remains taped on the suitcase with a notice stating that our suitcases had been opened and inspected. The person welding the cutting tool had chopped off most of the zip handles as well, effectively destroying a perfectly good and by no means cheap suitcase.

    Having a passport with stamps from Muslim countries meant I was quizzed over my reasons for visiting them and why I was trying to enter the USA. The word "vacation" simply drew a blank. The official questioning me clearly had no geographical knowledge of Britain in relation to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Maybe it's good security but it has certainly made me think twice about another holiday in America. I'll spend my money elsewhere as the richest country in the world obviously doesn't need it.

    1. nichomach
      Big Brother

      My wife...

      ...not so long ago travelled to the US and made sure that the locks on her luggage were the TSA-approved "we can open them without your key/combination" jobbies so that they could inspect her checked baggage without destroying the locks. Which they destroyed anyway, the pricks. Big (Effing Retarded) Brother is watching you. Incompetently, but he IS watching...

      1. Peter Simpson 1

        Which they destroyed anyway

        The TSA has keys, but they are probably too lazy to go and get them, or they don't have enough, or the baggage handlers thought they saw something in the X-ray that looked valuable and broke the luggage open to have a look.

        Yeah. Flying in the US is a PITA now. But I feel *so* much safer. Not.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'll Never use TSA locks

        Last time I checked the advice on my normal airlines website(Virgin is my airline of choice), they recommended NOT using TSA approved locks when flying to the USA!

        Flown American Airlines once, never ever again... rude and incompetent staff!

    2. Owen Ashcroft


      Went to New York 3 weeks ago, got questioned for 30 minutes at immigration because I've been to Egypt several times over the last few years, apparently the idea that it's a cheap holiday destination and I like to go for a week during the winter to sit on a beach didn't cut it with the immigration representative who grilled me very publicly about my plans in the US and wanting exact details about my trips to Egypt (1 beach holiday is much the same, and it was 6am in the morning according to my body). Even triple checked my return ticket, and the fact it was a first class return ticket seemed to confuse him even more, as I think he had decided I was a security risk, and it's well known for terrorists to buy first class return tickets to their home country.

  2. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

    Or maybe he was...

    ... just misheard.

  3. Matthew 4

    That makes no sense at all

    So it would be ok for him to hijack the next flight then? Either you're a threat or you're not...

  4. Svein Skogen

    Well, that makes two...

    Given that Ryanair recently had a guy fetched by three police officers for complaining that the food they served was inedible, I'm not THAT surprised.

    Article in Norwegian, sorry.


  5. Chris Harrison

    For those old enough to remember ...

    Good job he didn't mention the dirty knife.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    The airline was right ...

    I realise that this point of might not be totally popular among the punters, but this is a case where the airline had to step in to prevent worse.

    You see, this particular passenger impeded the boarding process by importuning a flight attendant with a question. That alone is questionable behaviour because a smooth boarding process is essential to quick and safe aircraft turnaround.

    But it gets worse. His alleged question was a clear attempt to take charge in a situation where, for security's sake, passengers must remain calm, passive, and compliant. It is in everyone's interest to reinforce this behavioural norm by removing troublemakers at the first sign of non-compliance.

    And last but not least, we don't know the man's actual question, his body language, his tone of voice, or his facial expression at the time of the incident. How likely is it that this gentleman behaved innocuously and that the airline acted willfully in disciplining him? As the police officer who responded to the incident correctly noted, we only have his word for it that he wasn't asking if police were on board. We see plenty of individuals who display aggressive and abusive behaviour which they then hotly deny. Take the case of Naomi Campbell for example.

    So, how likely is his story really?

    Given the circumstances, all I can see is that this individual abused his freedom of speech to spread negative comments about the airline. Is there any reason he should not be sued for damages to the airline's brand name and reputation?

  7. Jacqui


    Lets get this right - he was a PAYING customer. In the bad ol' days companies wanted customers so that they could stay in business. They also tried to avoid bad PR.

    Personally having heard (and seen) some of the seriously insane things that flight staff (and the gun toting air-plod) do "just for a larf" I can fully believe that he asked when a meal was due - the trolly dolly was having a "bad hair day" and gave him the security excuse and he told her what he though that was a load of ****.

    She called the cabin crew making something up to get rid of this "troublemaker" so she could have a nice quiet flight.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      But clearly too subtle for some.

      1. lpopman
        Thumb Up

        titular wotsit


        And I'm the fist to admit that I miss a lot of subtlety :)

        elReg, this should be FOTW

    2. Jos
      Thumb Up


      Well put my man! Why the down votes though? Some people don't know the meaning of sarcasm anymore I guess.

      Saying this after boarding a plane in China, sitting 2 hours on the tarmac and then being released to the terminal again after about 20 passengers trying to start a mutiny, and then 2 hours more in the terminal, followed by a 2 hour flight. Sigh.

      I cannot recommend just boarding a plane to have "lunch" to then debark again, to go back boarding 2 hours later and have "dinner", by the way.

      Also much worse things were said than: "Are we going to have food on this flight", trust me, and nobody got arrested.

      On a unrelated note: Why do I start feeling homicidal on 5 hour flights that depart at 1am when they first serve "dinner", then duty-free, have an over-zealous captain talk in 2 languages telling how high up you are, and how fast you are flying,, and which part of the world you are passing over (it's freakin' dark at 2am) and how accurately close within 5 minutes you will be landing (at 5am including timezone), then 1 hour later "breakfast"? Is it normal to have multiple meails and buying expensive merchandise for no reason at all and yabbering in your ear all night long after 12 midnight?


  8. Mycho Silver badge


    That's the airline who throw guitars into the holds of aircraft and then refuse to pay if you get them repaired within six months?

  9. Maksim Rukov

    the true exchange...

    'Scuze me miss, it's five-oh clock and I'm wondering when we'll be feds? I gavver that airlines copper bad reputation regarding food, people say it's the filth, but really I don't see what the fuzz is about. You could jacks up the heat, though. Still, better than a packed jam sandwich from me uncle old Bill! Mmm, I can smell something bacon, is it ducks and geese?

  10. Andy Blackburn

    Probably a good thing

    Because, if he flew United, they'd probably have broken his guitar:

  11. Anonymous Coward

    A world gone MAD!

    If you went back in time (60s, 70s, 80s) and told someone that in the 21st century, you'd be thrown of a plane for asking either about security or food. They'd think you where mad. When we had real terrorists killing people week in, week out. (IRA, Baader Meinhof, red brigade, PLO, etc, etc). I think the "security mindset" and Politically Correct (an oxymoron IMO) people are the new puritans, the new control freaks.

  12. elyob


    All he asked was whether there was any chance of a bacon sandwich ... "Is there a pig sandwich on board?"

  13. NightFox

    I give up, why DO you think he's talking shitze?

    Wow, in your opinion, based on what exactly?

    Is this the next stage of the mental illness that seems to be gripping society? First we had the 'big brother' paranoia, now it seems common practise to read news, come up with fantastic theories based on zero evidence, and then start ranting and foaming at the mouth as if they were true.

    In fact AC probably wrote this comment and went out and slapped a pensioner. That kind of thuggery makes me sick; I've already reported the incident to the police.

    Anyone remember The Self-Righteous Brothers from Harry Enfield's TV Programme?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He was lucky.

    It's hard to get any attention from the cabin crew on a United flight. And doubly unlikely they would server anything a reasonable person would call dinner.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm feeling pretty hungry right now, someone call the cops.. I want some doughnuts..

  16. Mad as a Bat
    IT Angle

    lets hope this guy is not a songwriter...

    I hope for United's sake that this guy is not a songwriter...


    1. John Sturdy

      I thought they claimed to have learnt from that incident...

      I thought United claimed to have learnt from that incident -- but maybe that's only in the area of guitar handling, not service in general.

  17. max allan

    We need recordings for our own security

    It's getting to the stage where I'd feel safer with a recording of everything I see and do. I'm tempted to leave my phone/mini video camera on video record all the time in environments with "officials" whose word is hard to question are around. At least then you could show the footage in court, assuming your recorder doesn't get confiscated and destroyed before you get there. (because of course only a terrorist would need to record things, so the recorder is a terrorist weapon which can be used in the fight against the establishment)

    I wonder if you'd then have a case for the police to answer for destruction of evidence?

    The number of idiots on roundabouts these days, I'm almost there with an in car camera, just so I can prove who drove into who while wildly swerving across lanes and failing to indicate.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Black Helicopters

      Ah but...

      ... don't forget you'd be arrested for using un-approved electronic equipment...

  18. Simon Brown

    at least I wasn't arrested

    At least I wasn't arrested for trying to fly with Multiple Sclerosis, just had my meds confiscated. A little back-story - I was travelling from to Glasgow when I found out my grandfather had died. Being Jewish his funeral was held very shortly after his death and I had to rush back to London to attend. Following the funeral I had to catch a plane back up to Glasgow to make a prior appointment (ok, gig)

    Here's my facebook status from last week:

    Simon Brown would like to thank security staff at London City Airport for making the sky a safer place by confiscating my sealed, marked, capped, prefilled copaxone injections. No I didn't have a doctor's letter because I didn't expect to need to fly (see previous status). You just cost the NHS £88. Well done.

  19. Efros


    He gyped her for the executive relief tariff on a previous flight, she was only making sure that she could maximize her earnings for the flight by eliminating a bad payer and presumably bumping a besuited one from economy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In the type of satirical comment I make

      that usually gets rejected, as if I actually meant it, possibly because I don't spell out that <i> I don't actually mean it </i>, I would suggest that the Law needs changing so that all people who need to self medicate with hypodermic needles - and thus carry potential poisons or liquid explosives onto aircraft (at least, when they want to fly somewhere) - should be allowed to expire, or be euthanased, for the sake of security (you know, the way the Godwinism party would have done).

    2. Scott 19


      get the same with my insulin, but when i point out that if they take it off me i'll simply die they generally give it back, If not can i speak to your boss works.

    3. Graham Wilson

      @Simon Brown - They're fucking moronic mongrels! Travel security is now of more concern than ever!

      They're fucking moronic mongrels, the damn hide of them!

      ...And what about a much more common disease, diabetes? Once, pre 9/11 times, I've often seen people giving themselves insulin injections before their in-flight meal.

      We really have to do something about the abuse these IQ-deficient security people are causing to the ordinary travelling public. Their actions are really getting beyond a joke and I've not seen any evidence that it's adding anything to our security whatsoever.

      Moreover, I'd content that whilst these morons are harassing ordinary people they're not following up on real security issues.

      Are you really going to tell me that the security experts haven't anticipated incidents such as this before now? Seems not, so what about the bigger more important issues of real terrorists? Are their judgments just as moronic? It's a real worry. In any simulation or scenario analysis such a simple issue should have been picked up and simple pragmatic schemas set in place to check the bona fides of the traveller such as ringing the NHS or his/her doctor etc.

      For starters, people have to start complaining en mass, and we really need a few court cases where these security morons have been proven to have overstepped the mark.

      This instance is truly disgraceful and needs much wider reporting.

  20. McMoo

    El Reg - you have been played

    This incident has been discussed extensively in Flyertalk's Safety and Security forum.

    The conclusion was that the chap:

    - may be telling porkies to gain publicity

    - is a publicity guru on the way back from a marketing conference

    To be honest people think he's a swizz

    1. nichomach

      Read the link

      One person raised the guy's profession and then leapt to the conclusion that he must be lying. The majority of posters seem to either outright believe himn on the basis of their own experience or at least give him the benefit of the doubt.

    2. Gangsta

      Uh no

      I've just read that thread and can conclude that there is no general consensus.

      Some people believe some do not.

      They may be correct or wrong.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Funny, I just read through that forum and that certainly isn't the conclusion. In fact there isn't a conclusion, I think everyone is waiting to get more information...

    4. Captain TickTock

      He is...

      a marketing guru. See his blog.

      Plenty of free notoriety. There is no such thing as bad publicity (for him at least)

  21. Hans 1 Silver badge

    Redmond Security expert works for FAA?

    I do not know which twat works for the aviation Security, but somebody needs to connect his brains to the rest of his body ... They feed us so much FUD on security grounds, it's getting really absurd ... the bottom-line being, anybody can still pass security-check with a 5 inch plastic knife up his pants anytime he wants ... as long as he does not forget to take his belt off when he passes the detector portal ... ridiculous.

    I never switch my mobile off on flights because it is just simply utter bs, I know for sure, several of my close relatives work for a famous aircraft maker, one "very" close one was in charge of a flight test program.

  22. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Only 2 things are certain about this story

    He was travelling in first class - of course he would get a meal. He could probably have had anything he pleased. The airline would probably have served him the the cattle-class passenger of his choice, sauteed and tastefully garnished, if he'd asked for it.

    The two certainties are that this story obviously has more behind it than we've been told and secondly given the airline paranoia and ability to act without oversight, review or criticism we'll never find out, either.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Phones on flights

      "I never switch my mobile off on flights because it is just simply utter bs"

      Except it isn't:

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        > "I never switch my mobile off on flights because it is just simply utter bs"

        > Except it isn't:


        Are there a lot of planes still flying that were made before 1989?

        1. Chad H.

          More than you might think

          There are more aircraft from before 1989 than you might think - Aircraft are big expensive capital costs that are designed to last.

          737-400 first flew in 1988, BA have 19 of these in the air now (They may not all be from before this date, but it shows there are a decent number of the model out there). They also have 40 A320's,this model also flew in the same year.

    2. paulf Silver badge

      Mobiles on flights

      I know this isn't quite the point you're making but there is more to switching off your mobile on flights than just flight safety (although that is the oft trotted out reason). The other problem is that when in the air the mobile can see far more cell sites than it would normally be able to on terra firma. I understand that this causes all sorts of problems in the mobile network.

      [There is also an issue with being an ignition risk with all that fuel about but when inside the fuselage I think that is probably as tenuous as the interference risk when in flight].

      Anyway - what ever reason they use to get people to turn off their mobiles on planes, I'm just happy that aircraft remain free of Dom Joly #da da da dum; da da da dum; da da da dum dum# "I'M ON THE PLANE" type situations.

      I know the likes of Ryanair are interested in these flying pico cells so they can milk a load of roaming costs out of it, but I wonder if they've considered the possibility of remote detonation thanks to a mobile "accidentally" left in the cabin from a previous flight....

    3. ta6rma


      Yes me too. If there was even the remotest risk that mobiles could interfere with anything important (as opposed to maybe the inflight entertainment channel?) they would be classed in the same league as other dangerous items, like mineral water and nail-clippers.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Fly the unfriendly skies

      "probably have served him the the cattle-class passenger of his choice, sauteed "

      Ah, you've eaten on United, I see.

      My new company's travel policy gives me the choice of only Air France or United. I'll be earning fewer frequent flyer miles this year...

    5. Galidron

      Maybe not

      Most flights in the US don't server meals. They have to be a minimum flight time and over a common meal time.

  23. Ball boy

    True or not, something's very wrong here

    Someone actually *wanted* to eat the food on United? Surely that's an indication of mental instability and worthy of ejection no matter what actually happened! And yes, I've flown United <shudder>

    My therapy's going very well, thanks for asking.

  24. JimC Silver badge

    I dunno folks...

    How people can extrapolate so much from so little information...

    Do some airline staff behave like idiots sometimes?

    Yes, probably inevitable as they have to deal with the public

    Do some first class passengers behave like idiots sometimes (arrogant with it often too)?

    Pretty much dead certain - ask anyone who deals with the public!

    Is it possible that an idiot staff member and an idiot passenger could interact to create a massive cluster****?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well having flown United in First

    It's an understandable question to ask. They only really serve anything other nuts at certain times of the day (lunch and dinner - possibly breakfast) on their domestic product. As you'd expect from a US based airline, you get free extra added (not to mention new "and improved) frumpy flight attendant.

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