They reopened the plane’s door for us — then kicked us off the flight!

By | April 15th, 2017

Kathleen Mastergeorge says that she and her husband were “harassed” and “bullied” off their American Airlines flight by the lead flight attendant. She wants compensation for the cost of the flight. But we’re not going to help her get it.

Mastergeorge’s story is a case study of how not to behave on a commercial flight when one is not receiving the service one would like from airline personnel – or from persons trying to help.

The Mastergeorges were flying from Boston to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, via Philadelphia. Their Boston-to-Philadelphia flight arrived late, but American Airlines held their connecting flight for them and one other passenger and reopened the airplane doors so they could board the flight to St. Thomas.

Here’s Mastergeorge on what happened next:

The entire flight crew, both [on the] ground and [the] flight, were extremely rude. The ground flight ripped up our first class tickets with no [information], … handed us new tickets and rudely told us to get on the plane. The head stewardess on the plane rudely told us to “sit wherever.” She gave our first class tickets away. That caused chaos amongst the late passengers as to where to sit.

I went up to the head stewardess and kindly asked if we could have our first-class seats back. She began bullying and harassing me, saying “If you’re not happy, get off the plane.”

She told me [that] I was late getting [there], and I explained I wasn’t late; American Airlines was late getting us [there]. She was rolling her eyes towards the door of the plane and kept saying “you need to tell me you’re happy” over and over. I replied I was not happy, but that I will take my seat and everything was good. I was shocked!!!!

Soon after taking my seat, she came all the way down to seat 20A from first class and asked if I was going to be a problem. Shocked again, I said no. She then began bullying and harassing me again saying I needed to say I was happy.

I said, “Everything is fine; can we just go?” She kept it up. My husband told her to “chill.”

She walked away, and then sent another stewardess to tell us that the pilot asked us to leave the plane. Again, beyond shocked!!!

My husband tried to talk to the pilot and he rudely said, “Get off the plane.” As we were kicked off, the head stewardess gave us a “bye, bye” wave.

We are an older couple who were beyond bullied and harassed. We were celebrating retirement and an earlier birthday. My husband has Platinum status. The head stewardess refused to give us her name; she covered her name tag with her sweater. The ground supervisor refused to give us her name.


Mastergeorge posted in our forum about her experience, where responses were mixed. Some of the members believe American Airlines should apologize to the Mastergeorges and refund their airfares; others pointed out that Mastergeorge had referred to the persons sitting in her and her husband’s first-class seats “poachers.” They also mentioned that American Airlines had the right to give away their seats to standby passengers because the Mastergeorges had arrived for the flight late, even though it wasn’t their fault that the Boston-to-Philadelphia leg of their flight had been delayed.

Then Mastergeorge asked our advocacy team for help. She wants compensation for their flight, which cost $1,500. Although she might escalate her complaint to American Airlines executives using our contact information, we don’t believe she has a case.

American Airlines’ conditions of carriage provide that for travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands, passengers must be at their flight gates at least 30 minutes prior to the flight’s scheduled departure to board the plane. It’s standard procedure for airlines to release seats that aren’t being used — including first-class reserved seats — to standby passengers when the original passengers haven’t arrived on time, even when their connecting flight is delayed, as happened in the Mastergeorges’ case.

Given that American already had delayed its flight and allowed the Mastergeorges to board after the crew had closed the airplane doors, it was out of line for the Mastergeorges to ask for their first-class seats back, let alone tell the lead flight attendant to “chill.” As they found out the hard way, the crew members control the flight and can treat the passengers any way they see fit.

It may be poor customer service, but talking back to a crew member can indeed result in being kicked off the flight. And there’s no legal recourse — every airline’s conditions of carriage allows it to remove passengers from flights who are perceived to pose any kind of danger to the crew or other passengers. The airlines can also blacklist passengers on future flights, confiscate loyalty points and revoke special status of passengers whom they believe are not respecting flight crew members or following airline rules. And it’s a federal criminal offense to interfere with the duties of a flight crew member, no matter how unpleasant they’re being.

Our advocates have decided not to pursue the Mastergeorges’ case. Instead, we are writing about it to warn future air passengers: No matter how provoked a flight crew member makes you feel, never lose your cool. Obey all instructions from a crew member and wait until after the flight to issue any complaints. Otherwise, you might be grounded from the airline — permanently.



  • Hanope

    I don’t like that airline employees can bully and harass passengers and when they don’t get the exact words they want, they can kick passengers off the plane. That’s not right.

  • Altosk

    Well, at least they didn’t get dragged off.

    Although next time I get bumped, I’m gonna just go limp and make them cart me off. There’s a huge payday out there for that.

  • Patty Tillman

    I think it’s ridiculous that we’re expected to sit down and shut up.

  • Travelnut

    We only know their side of the story, not the airline’s. I can see it going down like that though. I’ve experienced it myself.

  • michael anthony

    I’m kind of sorry to see this dismissed. It’s as if paxs are not entitled to get upset, and if they do, the cabin crew trots out that “interfering with a flight crew”. Their plane was late, not their fault. Good of AA to hold the plane, but then they lost their prime seats, through no fault of their own again. But, they must buck it up, or risk getting booted. Why, because we are all threats to safety? Hardly. It’s just a convenient excuse for them to assert their authority. I’m not talking about when you’re inflight, but on the ground and boarding. I don’t think I know a single person who wouldn’t be upset about losing their prime seats, when the entire fiasco was not their fault.

    It’s also sad to see this dismissed, when I can’t think of any other consumer issue or problem, that unless we are smiling robots, we can get booted and lose money. I always greet the cabin crew with good morning and thank you. About half the time I’m ignored. And it’s treatment like that, that sets the tone for the flight. The carriers can charge us outlandish sums for minor errors, wash their hands of a problem and more. But if we dare get upset, then we’re “interfering with the flight crew”. It would be nice if we went back to being treated as humans and not a potential threat.

  • Blamona

    Being so late for the flight, they should have expected their seats to be given away, as much as they fly. It cost the airline money to hold the flight for them. Personally, they probably had an attitude by not getting the first class tickets. Although it wasn’t’t their fault for the lateness (it never is, car accidents, weather delays, mechanical) they held the flight, which is more than others would get.

  • mbgaskins

    I do not understand why everyone keeps referring to a contract of carriage when a first year law student knows that they are not valid contracts. They are so one sided that the are ridiculous.

    Why are the advocates on here so misguided that they automatically take the airlines side. I assume you are also taking Uniteds side in the recent event in Chicago. The airline is responsible for the late flight. The couple paid for first class tickets. The airline knew they would be there and should have held the tickets. It’s not like they were showing up late to th airport.

    This crap from the airlines needs to stop and if the advocates won’t even stand up for the passengers what good are they. People ALWAYS have the right to stand up for themselves when being bullied and anyone who flies frequently knows that flight attendants and pilots think they are Gods and they are not.

    The government has let the airlines become a monopoly without meaningful competition. They collude on ticket prices and basically break the law at will and thumb there noses at everyone. They airlines need to be taken down several notches and the employees at the airlines need to be taught basic customer service rules instead of teaching them that they are gods and can’t get away everything.

    Hopefully the United incident will radically change the airline industry. Thank a God there are some real attorneys who are looking into this and a class action suit to stop the one sidedness.

    Now if the advocates can get back to doing their job consulting ears may have a chance.

  • michael anthony

    Their AA Flight was delayed and they were transferring to another AA Flight. I doubt many people would be happy to lose their first class seats,blue to no fault of their own. AA knew the flight was coming in late, thus they held the flight. They would have known how late, by the time they took off. Thus, the carrier gave away their seats pretty early in the process. Why they didn’t wait to give their seats away, is beyond me. And I don’t understand all the blame being put on the pax. If they made a fuss over a minor thing, I could understand. But I doubt many travelers would happily say “ok”.

  • Alan Gore

    LW does deserve compensation for the downgrade, but acting entitled when the crew are trying to do you a favor is not the way to get it.

  • Alan Gore

    We all know that the epochal airline events of this week are going to get discussed here. The media, being the idiots they usually are, have been treating The Incident as an overbooking problem. It was actually a passenger ejection problem.

    I reiterate my call for a formal reporting system for all passenger ejections from a boarded flight, with the DOT having the option of pressing charges where it sees cause. Each report would describe the carrier’s view of what led up to the ejection, with mandatory sworn statements by each crew and passenger involved. Because most ejections are for cause, this would protect everybody involved. For those other ejections, the possibility of federal charges for the FA who “feels uncomfortable” about accommodating a disabled pax who is traveling in the manner to which she is accustomed would be a deterrent to those junk ejections we keep hearing about.

    This new instance of a junk ejection took place on AA, and to a pax who was totally cooperative: http://www.flyertalk.com/articles/american-airlines-issues-mea-culpa-for-booting-cellist-from-flight.html

  • Pat

    Based on the words of the OP, she probably started the bad behavior and it escalated from there. Also I am going to guess that most of the bad behavior and rudeness was from the OP, not the flight attendants or pilot. Statements she made make her sound like she is entitled and expects what she says is followed. She should be refunded the difference between the first class and coach fare and that is it. Also she should be pointed to Chris’s commentary that calling a female flight attendant a stewardess is outdated and should never be used.

  • Extramail

    This is exactly why 99% of folks are siding with the United passenger: the airline crew seems to think they can treat a passenger anyway they want because the paying passenger (feels like he) has no rights when flying. I understand that making ejection reports mandatory will add to the cost of flying but so be it. As there is always that one bad passenger, there is also that one bad crew member. Fly enough, and you’ll see too many examples of both.

  • The obviously knew they were coming, as they held the plane. So, why then give away their seats? To me, that makes no sense. I’d be upset too. Basically the airline is saying…”We knew you were coming, we waited, but you can’t sit where you paid to sit”.

  • pdxmom

    By doing what you want we have already lost. Most of the problems we are encountering is due exactly to govt overreach and regulation. There was a teat article I can’t find about why the Alaska aND virgin merger kept the Alaska name and why Branson wasn’t allowed to own it etc etc. And it is all due to regulations on the Industy.

  • pdxmom

    Yes it does seem odd but you do never know and they wouldn’t want to fly with any empty seats in first class

    I had my first class seat given away once. But I was late for the plane and thankful to get on (and it was an upgrade I hadn’t paid for it). The passengers in coach were sad for me when I was eating my first class meal (it was a special meal so they weren’t going to give it to anyone in first class). But again. I was happy to be on the plane and doubly happy to have my special meal.

  • Extramail

    And, you know how much that refund will be? Peanuts because of the way the airline is allowed to “calculate” that difference. I wouldn’t so much pissed as to not being able to sit in first class as I would be for how much more I had paid to sit in first class.

  • Extramail

    Agreed. I’m curious as to why they held the flight. Was it just for those two passengers? If so, I imagine the passengers were just supposed to be so grateful the flight was held so they wouldn’t miss it that they would take whatever seat was available.

  • Skeptic

    ^^^ This. AA could have left the first class seats empty until the point the door was closed, then upgraded those with mileage status into those seats from the cabin. I have been the beneficiary of this kind of routine many times. Never have I observed a plane being held at the gate for known late-connecting pax seated in first losing their seats until it’s clear they aren’t going to make the flight. AA’s flight or gate crew messed up this time, and being humans with too much un-challengable power, they unfortunately succumbed to the temptation to blame their customers for the ensuing problems.

    Too much power does breed abuse of power among some humans. While I sympathize for the poor treatment many FAs have to endure at the hands of their employers and the traveling public, it’s a race to the bottom when bullying behavior like this is allowed to go unchallenged.

  • RightNow9435

    right—-saying “chill” to a flight attendant is definitely not “interfering with the flight crew”. Sounds like American can be just as bad as United.

  • Annie M

    I find it curious that when something doesn’t go the way the writer wants, everyone suddenly becomes rude and bullying. I find it hard to believe that from the desk agent to the FA’s, everyone was rude. The story on the forum had much more depth with how this woman acted. If anyone reads it, they will see that this woman was absolutely out of line once she got on the plane. She was lucky they even held it for you. All they owed her was a refund of the different she paid for first class to economy.

    Read the story on the forum and you’ll agree they were right to kick her off the plane.

  • Annie M

    Read the original post on the forums – when she got on the flight, she was harassing everyone right from the start. She should have been kicked off as soon as she got off. This is whitewashed here about her behavior.

  • pauletteb

    The Mastergeorges come across as self-entitled. Simply not buying their story.

  • pauletteb

    They shouldn’t have booked such a short connection.

  • Some advocacy site!?!?! Apparently defying someone who tells you to give them specific words is grounds for being ejected, under the “interference interpretation”. I mean, why stop there? Why not just drag them onto the tarmac and shoot them to serve as an example to all other passengers on how to comply.

    First, why doesn’t Elliott have an attorney pen a missive about interference for the site? (If there has been one, I apologize for my missing it but I don’t always read all columns.)

    It concerns me how arbitrary – and increasingly widely abused – this statute is. Indeed, reading the statute more fully speaks to how broadly abused it is even in this case. (Read its accompanying citations/references.) The statute refers to “defendant’s conduct is sufficiently disruptive”…other language refers to assaults, batteries, sexual assault, etc. And it appears that this is intended for the duration of the flight NOT the ground state of boarding. (However, I am not an attorney.) While a general intent crime, it’s CLEARLY meant for acts committed in the air. AND considering the flight crew is not paid until the door is closed (as I understand it), are they REALLY flight crew at that point? At that point, they are unpaid, off-duty personnel — assuming my understanding of flight attendant pay is correct.

    Secondly, I love how folks fall back to “Carriage of Contract”. Well, a contract can be written and ONEROUS at the same time. Think about it: What other industries are permitted to double sell a product and keep the funds from both.

    I think the United situation – which Oscar Muñoz will likely lose his job over because it was handled so comprehensively incompetently that he deserves to – will result in rather harder regulations on the airlines (long overdue).

    Specifically, make it simple: No overbooking. Period. You buy a seat. You get on. If you want flexibility, you pay for a refundable flight (at a higher price, with change fees), or you suck it up if you miss it (due to your own negligence). If the airline makes you late, the delaying party sucks it up all the way downstream (fees, rebooking, etc). If a situation like this one occurs, rebook or refund the balance. If your seat is resold, you get your money back.

    I am disturbed by the amount of folks who take the position of the airlines here. I was likely a more frequent traveler than many of you (about 200,000 – 225,000 miles a year). It sucks to do as part of one’s life unless it’s done willingly as part of a vacation.

    While I appreciate this type of life is equally hard on those in the business, it is a career they chose. However, I appreciate some (really, few) passengers are disrespectful. Disrespect does NOT rise to interference. However, these self-important figureheads take a law designed to punish a hijacker, a physically or emotionally abusive (or drunk) passenger, or airborne rapist, and turned it into a modern-day version of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” — randomly taking out their life choices or bad days on passengers who paid to be there.

    As to Alan Gore’s registry…yeah, good idea…NOT. We can’t stop terrorists from getting on planes, yet erroneously ban the innocent — like journalist Stephen Hayes. http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/09/stephen-hayes-on-dhs-terrorist-watchlist-195996

    So, the solution is not punitive on the public, it’s aligning the market the way it should be: a ticket is a guarantee of passage. Don’t use it, you lose it. If they resell, you get your money back.

    Granted, prices will rise. But maybe they should. Maybe the current system overburdens the limited resources of the oligopolies…and higher fares would introduce competition.

  • We’re lucky they don’t drag us off the plane like in Chicago, drop us on the tarmac and shoot us like rabid dogs.

  • As I note in my post, we can’t even sort out the terrorists on a list…yet you want to have it be even MORE arbitrary.

    What happens if more blacks are on the list? Discrimination suit? What happens if some flight crew has a crappy relationship and then jams them up on this list? Nah, too easily subject to abuse…

    AND it doesn’t address the issue: people are treated like cattle, not passengers.

    There’s a reason you don’t see this with non-American airlines…those other carriers don’t treat their paying passengers like something they need to wipe off of their shoes.

  • Stewardess and steward are still used overseas. Just like executor and executrix, aviator and aviatrix…and manager and manageress.

  • Extramail

    If they knew the flight was running late, they would have also known that this passenger would be on that flight – not a no show, thus, why give up the seat?

  • Bill___A

    I think there must be more to the story than meets the eye. Airlines, airline employees and passengers ALL need to up their game. The rules are one sided, some of the airline employees act too power hungry and some of the passengers seem to act too entitled. Yes, they sure should have kept the first class seats for these people if they were holding the plane. And a refund for not getting first class should be at least the difference in price the passenger would have paid, but extra for the inconvenience. However, things seldom go downhill so fast without something going seriously amiss and something tells me it wasn’t all flight crew related. It is time to have people sit down and lay out an acceptable rulebook for flying. And yes, I think actual code share flight numbers should be banned. An AA flight should have an AA flight designator and ONLY an AA flight designator. A Oneworld intinerary can in fact have different flight designators so that everyone can clearly see whose metal it is on. Can you imagine if the hotels code shared? You pick up a holiday inn key to go in a hilton property because someone selling under the IHG name sold you the trip but you need to still know which hotel to actually go to even though you get different branding. This whole travel business has not progressed, it is absurd.

  • Extramail

    Delta lets connection times run as low as 30-35 minutes. So, it’s my fault I accept what the airline is offering for purchase? And, that’s through Atlanta.

  • I forgot to add to my missive…ban the codeshares.

  • AAGK

    Why won’t you help them, Ms. Finger? Where did they talk back? So what if they did? They don’t deserve advocacy? The socially unaware probably need help the most.

    This is classic airline shenanigans. Everyone who reads this site knows the rules re: how airlines can give away your seat if you are late or miss a connection, blah blah.

    The airline did not hold the plane for late arrivals. That is a naive thought. The airline calculated that it would be cheaper to delay the flight bc of how many pax needed that connection. The cost to reaccomodate would be more so they let them board. There was no favor or courtesy, just a business decision.

  • Pat

    This was a US flight and the term stewardess is from a time when the airlines dictated how you look, how much you weigh, how long you work because of your age and if you are married. I can see how a flight attendant, especially one that worked during that time, can take offense when called a stewardess.

  • Alan Gore

    I’m not talking about any “list” here, but a mandatory detailed report that the airline would have to file for all passenger ejections. Pax who cause trouble in the cabin are already subject to charges for their behavior. Having a reporting system would subject crew acting in bad faith to the same potential for repercussions. Just the hassle of filing the report would dissuade many of the fishy cases we hear about.

    An example is last week’s ejection on AA of a concert musician who had boarded with his cello. He had a seat booked for the instrument, as he had done many times before, but “somebody felt uncomfortable” on this particular flight, and he was booted. If the pilot or FA making such a decision had to be whacked with federal charges for an action like this, it would only happen once. My reporting system would be a disincentive to it ever happening again.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/american-airlines-apologizes-booting-musician-cello-flight-risk/story?id=46593624

  • AAGK

    I so agree. Now we can’t ask a FA a reasonable question? (I.e., why are there other people sitting in the 1st class seats we paid for when the airline chose to hold the plane bc it didn’t want to reaccomodate all the pax arriving late).

  • First, you don’t know what their background is. A European might be so inclined to use that term.

    But, to your point, you’re right. Using that word was TOTALLY reasonable justification to eject them from the aircraft. In fact, it’s so egregious I think they should be pushed out a door without a jetway…ya’ know just to show them who’s in charge and to use politically correct language.

    If being called a stewardess is a trigger event for someone in a customer facing role, time to get a new job.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    One thing is not clear for me. If the Philadelphia- Virgin I. leg of the flight did wait for the late flight from Boston, and gate personnel and flight crew knew this since the airplane have been held back at the gate, why they give away those seats before the late flights arrival? I understand the procedure, but if they hold back the last leg of the flight to wait for the late arrival of the connection, and they give away the seats of passengers they were waiting for to make the flight, I think AA should have not assign RESERVED seats to stand-by customers, before waiting and seating the people who had valid tickets and assigned seats. Otherwise why did AA delayed the departure if not for waiting for those passengers who arrived late?

  • Pat

    I agree. Based on the posts, people are forgetting that bad behavior goes both ways. What happened to Dr. Dao with United was unacceptable but at the same time there is unacceptable behavior by passengers that is also outrageous (and the passenger thinks it was acceptable).

  • Given this explanation, I rescind my prior comment and agree. But I want some due process element involved.

    It does beg the question: Why does it seem like only American air carriers seem to have this problem?

    You never hear this with Virgin, Korean Air, Singapore Air, New Zealand Airlines, or QANTAS…maybe just American air carriers suck at this business and have overseas carriers compete with them.

  • AAGK

    What in the LW’s forum posts sounded like harassment? Perhaps the responses decided she was a nuisance and used that word. Thinking airline personnel are rude, etc, is a silent process.

  • Pat

    There are two sides to this story and we have only heard one. Based what was provided I am not buying the OP’s story. I feel there is information being left out by the OP in order for her to look good and the airline bad. She could have been asked to use flight attendant when she said stewardess and continue to say stewardess. We do not know.

    Also she should have been appreciative the flight was held. It was probably the last flight to the US VI of the day. The first class seats were probably given away before the decision was made to hold the flight. Because they were leaving late, the flight attendants needed the people to take their seats so the flight could take off ASAP.

  • Pat

    The decision to hold the flight could been made after the seats were given to other passengers. The decision could been made during boarding because the Boston flight was unloading and they had a number of passengers that were connecting to the flight.

  • Carrie Livingston

    In this case the first class pax arriving flight was late; they held the gate for them but since they weren’t at the gate 30 min prior to boarding, their seats were given away. I realize it’s not their fault but those are the rules. When they arrived at the gate, the flight was trying to make it’s time in the flight pattern to leave and didn’t want to miss and potentially delay the flight even further. So just find a seat anywhere and sit down so we can leave the gate.

  • Carrie Livingston

    If you check out the forum the lady got somewhat of an attitude with the FA and so the FA’s have to determine if there’s going to be a problem on the flight. B/c if it is, it’s time for them to get off the flight. Don’t want to deal with issues in the air. The time to settle the matter is after the fact with a request for compensation for the involuntary downgrade in service.

  • Carrie Livingston

    Thank for the sanity in your post.

  • Alan Gore

    Actually, the detailed forum post paints a rather different picture than the summary above. Rather than passengers acting entitled, we see flight attendants and a captain acting like little tin tyrants and throwing off pax just for asking why their first class seats had been given away to other passengers on the same flight. I would like to see this whole crew hauled before the DOT and made to explain their actions on that flight. This is out of control.

    Yes, simple humanity tells us that we need to start telling the airlines how to run their business. Time for congress to start barking orders that airline personnel need to obey.

  • AAGK

    But Carrie, the airline did want to delay the flight further by making a whole production out of kicking them off, after the LW said she was just sitting back in her new/bad seat.

    Then everyone has to stay late and do mountains of paperwork, etc.

  • JewelEyed

    I’m not sure I’d agree with that. We’ve had a number of consumers whose stories were published who were treated rather unfairly by foreign airlines.

  • KanExplore

    I think there needs to be a distinction between a passenger who poses a safety risk and one who simply raises a question. It may be that these passengers arrived when it was too late for them to use their first class seats, but the whole “you need to tell me you’re happy” scenario, if true, is wrong. They apparently had settled into their new seats and were prepared to grudgingly accept the outcome, but for the flight attendant’s not letting it rest. If the customer is telling the truth, I don’t know if any compensation will be won, but she certainly should make herself heard with complaints to the airline and DOT.

  • ChelseaGirl

    Having just read the original post on the forum, I’d have to say they were both at fault. It’s likely that what the LW interpreted as “rudeness” was simply a sense of urgency on the part of the flight attendants to get everyone seated so the flight could take off. There really isn’t time for pleasant chit-chat when the airline has held the plane and is running late. Once these passengers were told they no longer had their first-class seats, they should have accepted it and moved on–it should have been obvious to them that they weren’t going to get those seats back. But it does sound like the flight attendant over-reacted. Some of her actions indicate she may even be mentally unstable–constantly saying the passenger needed to tell her she was happy? I mean really, who does that??

  • Bill___A

    There are a lotof things they need to fix. Resort fees for another. I realize it isn’t a flying issue, but one example of many where the lack of forcing companies to adhere to fair and realistic policies has proven to be a problem. The manufacturer, in accordance with the regulatory agencies, should also stipulate maximum passengers of each class allowed on an aircraft. This would prevent people from putting 100 extra seats on a 777. I can’t take my car,and decide to redo it with 1.5 times as many seats, on a whim. Restaurants and conference halls have maximum occupancy levels. Why one would think not to control these things for an airplane, I have no idea.

  • ctporter

    What “could’ have happened, is that when the passengers arrived at the gate and found the boarding door closed, they should have been made aware that re-opening the door just does not routinely happened, However(!) please be aware that you now have two choices: we can re-open the door (against all policies) and get you on this flight, BUT – your previous seats have already been taken as the door was closed and this flight was in process of departure, we can still get you on, but you will not be in FC, you will be in seats X and Y. Of course, we will comp your food and beverages for you since you will not be able to enjoy our FC service, but we ARE getting you to your destination today. We will also refund you the difference between what you pain for your FC seats and what the economy seats were at the time of your purchase (or refund a portion of the miles you used for the upgrade/tickets) Your other choice is to wait for the next day, but I should warn you, the seats again will NOT be in FC unless there are open seats. if there are, we will put you at the top of the upgrade list. (and the GA might say something like: looking at the list I can see there are no seats open, and the FC is fully booked – or I can see there are some seats not yet booked so you may have a chance) Now, what would you like to do? Let me know and I will make it work as best I can. At that point, most people would most likely choose the seats even if in coach because they are going to arrive on time at the final destination AND the FAs on the flight will give them something extra in recognition of their loss of FC. If all FAs and GAs worked it this way, then clearly any passengers that leave the newly assigned coach seat heading up to FC and trying to convince the FAs to relocate the late upgraded passengers is clearly in the wrong.

  • AAGK

    I read the forum posts the same way as you. And I still want an answer to the pax/LW’s question that does not involve a pasting of the contract of carriage bc as readers of this site, we all know that the airline reserves the right to do this stuff.

  • michael anthony

    I like this idea. I woukd add that paxs who are seated near the “disruptive” pax be interviewed too. I live in Chicago, where this happened. The local news interviewed several paxs who where sitting right by the man. Their replies were similar, even though they weren’t interviewed together. They all said the pax was calm and spoke in a respectful manner. It only got out of hand when security wouldn’t answer why he was being told to get off and that at least one of the security men was laughing at the paxs responses. C

  • There was also a separate video where Dao showed he was not flaying, just gesturing like one does when one is politely disagreeing. He was very calm and very professional given the situation.

  • michael anthony

    In issues with Airlines, why is there always so much doubt about the OP? The carriers practically make their own rules and if we break them, no matter how minor, we are penalized. For example, a typo on the pax name. Somehow that’s worth $200 to change. Its outrageous.

    It is true that Stewardess and Steward are still used in many parts of the world. I’ve also seen older people use the term too. Its the ultimate in insecurity if one cannot accept that people make mistakes unintentionally. I’ve experienced it many times in the work I do. And I could care less. I’m not there to make sure my ego is is stroked.

  • Pat

    Here is the bottom line of the whole issue. There was a last minute decision to hold the plane because the were a large enough number of people that needed to connect to it. The people were given boarding passes so they could get on the plane and told to take any empty seats so the plane could depart. The OP continued to raise the issue about the first class seat, continued to get out of her seat, did not follow the flight attendants request to take a seat, and was preventing the flight attendants from doing their job getting the flight ready for departure. The OP was holding up the departure of the flight and captain made the decision to have the OP removed from the flight so it could depart.

  • Carrie Livingston

    They were kicked off after the lady got an attitude with the flight crew about those seats. The flight crew at this point has to make an assessment as to whether there is going to be a problem in the air. They determined there might be and offloaded the pax. It might not seem right but it’s always better to deal with a problem on the ground rather than in the air.

  • jah6

    I read the forum post, but it didn’t really tell me any more than this letter. Although I was not there, and don’t know what actually was said, I believe in most of these situations it’s somewhere in the middle. Probably the passenger was a bit aggressive, and I don’t believe that everybody she encountered, from the ground staff up was rude. However I think that flight staff have got completely out of hand, as shown by the events in Chicago this week. I look forward to some changes being made in the industry because of the United Airlines case. The airlines needs to learn customer service and train their staff better. You cannot be having a “bad day” when dealing with the public. If they don’t understand that, maybe some of them should be looking for a different job.

  • Zarkov505

    This.

    A few years ago, I was on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, connecting to an American Airlines flight to Chicago. The CX takeoff was delayed an hour, making for a VERY tight connection in SFO.

    The CX crew called ahead, and a CX agent met me at the airplane hatch and escorted me on a power walk through SFO, through fast-track immigration and security, and directly to my gate. The AA crew buttoned up the airplane immediately after I boarded, and we were moving in a matter of minutes.

    I was in Coach on the CX flight. My First Class (upgrade) seat was waiting for me on the AA flight. No, I was not at the gate 30 minutes prior to departure. I *MIGHT* have been on the ground at that point, but I strongly doubt that I was even in the airport by then.

    There is more to this story than we’ve heard so far. The gate agent decision to give the First Class seats away, when they already know that the passengers are en route and are going to make the flight, because they’re part of the reason the airplane is being held at the gate, putting its on-time departure in jeopardy, deserves explanation.

  • wilcoxon

    If the airline holds the plane for the connecting passengers, I fail to see how it is unreasonable for those passengers to expect the seats they paid for.

    I almost always fly first class due to height so, if they gave my seat away, I’d have no choice but to leave the plane (unless they had economy+/comfort seats available and the leg room was sufficient).

  • wilcoxon

    It would have been better to give the first class pax their seats and not give them away. The pax were flying on the same airline and the airline chose to delay the flight to accommodate them so they knew they passengers were going to be on the flight. It is unreasonable to steal the seats the pax paid for (likely to make a quick buck by getting another pax to pay an upgrade).

  • wilcoxon

    What’s entitled? They paid for first class. American knew well before-hand that they were on the late plane, that they were not a no-show, and that they were delaying the flight to accommodate the passengers on the late flight. Why would anyone expect American to give away their first class seats?

  • Alan Gore

    I based this post on the summary description, which places more blame on the pax than the detail in the Forums posting. See my reaction above to the original post.

    So much of this case turns on the attitude purportedly shown by both sides. Did the passengers act entitled or were the FAs snippy and uncaring? How were other pax on the connecting flight treated? Why exactly were the ticketed classes not honored? A formal reporting system would clarify what actually happened, and the accountability such a system provides would dissuade other instances of mistreatment.

  • Hanope

    Doesn’t sound to me that the OP “harrassed” everyone right from the start. It reads the same, that she was treated rudely from the start with the gate agent ripping up her ticket, and the FA’s saying “sit anywhere” but people were trying to sit where their new boarding passes said to sit, and that she did ask if it was possible to get their first class seats back. Given the difference between first class and economy, its not surprising to me that anyone would ask to get their first class seats back.

    Now perhaps the story is different than as stated (given the OP’s reference to possible racial issues – where did that come from?) and it seems pretty clear the OP are “older” by reference to the FAs as “stewardesses” so possibly felt a bit more entitled. However, even if a customer is rude, the FAs shouldn’t be, and it still sounds like the FAs made a unilateral decision that someone they didn’t like was going to be a problem and needed to be removed from the plane.

  • MarkKelling

    The rule is if you have not showed up at the gate at least 30 minutes prior to your first flight in a series of connections you may lose your seat on that flight and all flights connected to that reservation. Not for connections where the inbound flight is running late.

    In the case of the first flight you are scheduled to take, the airlines doesn’t know where you are until you show up. You might have decided not to take the flight. However, if you are on one of their planes and it is running late and they decide to hold your flight until you get there, why would they give your seats away? I have been on too many to count flights where connecting passengers were running late and their seats, 1st class, premium, business, economy whatever, were kept for them on multiple airlines.

  • Lindabator

    no – the flight was late, and so they gave away the seats — as normal. then they were able to just squeek in, so they let them, but they are not going to hold the seats until 1 minute before takeoff — so she should have been glad they could still make the flight, and just deal with the downgrade later

  • MarkKelling

    Who said they booked a short connection? The inbound flight was running late, we are not told how late from its originally scheduled time it could have been several hours, and AA decided to reopen the doors on their connection to let them on.

  • Lindabator

    because it was NOT a sure bet they could make the connection – so they would have just reaccommodated them — although in this case, a few could still squeek in — nice to let them, but they are not going to leave those seats till last minute – NOT going to work

  • Lindabator

    they STILL would not have been able to assign standbys if they had to keep “HOLDING” seats in CASE you made it — and I have seen 6 people have to connect and only 2 make it — so they are supposed to fly out with 4 empty seats?? NOT how it is handled

  • Lindabator

    then you advocate they follow their own rules and just DENY boarding? They tried to do a nice thing and open the flight, they just cannot hold seats – it is a commercial not a private jet

  • Lindabator

    precisely

  • MarkKelling

    I would agree in this case since the story states the airline reopened the flight to allow these passengers to get on. This means, to me anyway, there was no plan to hold the flight for them until the last second. Maybe the hold was done because of their status with the airline. Or maybe because of the third person’s status.

  • Lindabator

    Since they were ready to depart the gate, the idea to hold probably came AFTER final boarding — NOT going to hold open seats on the final flight of the day, if they can reaccommodate others and fill the place

  • MarkKelling

    It works on other airlines I fly. :-)

    When an airline decides to hold a flight, a rare thing in my experience, to allow late connectors to get there, the flight is not going anywhere until they all show up.

    Recently, a flight I was on waited 90 minutes because of a backup in international processing. Yes, we were all seated and ready to go and they waited. It was 70 passengers, so I understand why they waited. But no one’s 1st class or any other seats were given up. And all the seats were filled before we left.

  • wilcoxon

    If that is the case, when the hold decision was made, you put the newly upgraded passengers back in coach and give the people that originally paid for first class their first class seats. If the pax paid for first class and the airline was late and the airline decided to hold then the airline should give them their seats. A downgrade from first class is a big deal (especially given that the refund will very likely be for a fraction of the actual difference paid for first class (because airlines use “special” math)).

  • wilcoxon

    I doubt your version of the timing (squeak in) – the airline knew the timing of the late flight long before the doors were shut. As such, the airline absolutely should have held the seats if they were holding the plane (and, if not, bump the newly assigned first class pax – not the ones with the first class reservation). I’ve been on plenty of flights with nearly (or possibly completely) full coach and plenty of empty seats in first class. The airline CHOSE to screw the pax.

  • GG

    Actually, I have experienced what you are saying. I had requested a couple of upgrades on an AA flight. The first leg was confirmed before boarding. On the second leg I got the upgrade after I had boarded (in my original seat) and just about when the flight was getting ready to leave. The crew explained that they were holding the seat for a possible late connection. Finally they made the decision to take off without waiting for the connection and hence gave me the upgrade. So yes, AA can hold the upgrade until the decision is made.

    The key difference between my experience and the story here is that when I got my upgrade, the door was still not closed. The ground staff came up to me and gave a new boarding pass.

    This look like a customer service disaster on AA side.

  • Michael__K

    What paperwork? *If only* airlines were really required to do mountains of paperwork each time they pull a stunt like this…

  • AAGK

    My posts have consistently defended the pax and to date, I have not heard one fact that suggests she should have been removed. I still would like a single person to provide one. As a reader of the sight I know the airline rules and that it can do whatever it wants….

    I imagine when a pax is ejected the crew has to fill out an extra form or 2. If it doesn’t, then it should. Either way, this is a regular crew on a particular route. I googled them. This is not the first issue it has had. I would not recommend this flight to anyone. This crew was horrific and exhibited poor mental stability to become so unglued by a pax it found annoying.

  • Michael__K

    I imagine when a pax is ejected the crew has to fill out an extra form or 2. If it doesn’t, then it should

    I agree, it should (and it doesn’t). That was the only point I was making here…

  • Michael__K

    They did hold seats anyway, they just held them in economy and they moved other passengers into the OPs’ seats…

    Who said anything about flying with empty seats? I’ve gotten on a plane from “standby” myself well after boarding and after the standard standby assignment process was long completed, when it turned out there were unexpectedly one or more additional unoccupied seat(s).

  • DChamp56

    I totally think you should have taken this case, and am shocked you didn’t. (unless there’s more to the story than printed here)

  • Apparently, American Airlines felt left out…and wanted in on the #FightClub action.

  • Shirley G

    I can’t agree with you. If all is true, they only politely asked about their seats. What’s wrong with asking a question? Yes they opened the door for them, but it wasn’t their fault that they were late. And, if also true, the way the crew treated them? Too bad that wasn’t filmed. I’m guessing age discrimination. I’m seeing it more and more. That FA was just provoking them with her inane questions. The husband was just defending his wife and he only said “chill.” It’s not like he swore at her.
    Of course, as I said, IF this all true. We can’t know for certain.

We want your feedback.Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.