Kicked off the plane for having a few pre-flight G&Ts

While Mike Murray waited with his two nephews and cousin in the first-class lounge to board his United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Washington, he consumed three gin and tonics in two hours.

And why wouldn’t he? The drinks in the lounge are included in your membership, and it’s almost a six-hour flight. Nothing like a G&T or two to make you fall asleep, right?

That’s exactly what happened to Murray, who’d given up 40,000 miles and $1,200 for his upgrade to first class. It wasn’t the only thing he would give up that day.

After Murray fell asleep shortly before takeoff, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“A flight attendant asked if she could speak to me outside of the plane,” he remembers. “I disembarked the plane and the flight attendant told me that the captain did not want me to fly on the plane as I was ‘intoxicated.’ I asked her what I had done wrong and she stated nothing but that I was intoxicated.”

Murray didn’t protest. He asked what would become of the three other family members flying with him.

“About five minutes later they were told that the captain did not feel comfortable with them flying either and they were then ejected from the plane,” he says.

Here’s where things get interesting. All four were rebooked on the next flight, which was uneventful. But on their connecting flight to London, their trip was interrupted again.

“A little more than halfway through the flight there was a medical emergency on the plane,” he says. “I gave up my seat so a woman could sit next to her husband, who was in bad shape and was put into first class. The flight crew did not ask me to do this, but being a
firefighter, I knew what bad shape he happened to be in.”

Something about the experience didn’t sit well with Murray. For starters, why serve all that alcohol in the lounge if it won’t be tolerated on the plane? Besides, one of the first things that happens when when you board a flight in first class is that they offer you a drink.

I suspect one of the flight attendants got bent out of shape because Murray dozed off during the in-flight safety announcements, but I don’t know — I wasn’t there.

Murray felt United owed him something for the trouble. So he asked. Here’s what it had to say:

In speaking with Rossi Thomas, the Director of Customer Service here at SFO, he has authorized me to offer you $100 in travel credits, which I have attached. The terms and conditions are also attached. You will need the promotion code as well as the PIN to book a flight using the certificate.

While we’d like to extend our sincere apology for the frustration you have expressed with being asked to deboard our aircraft and take a later flight, please understand that our team is making their best judgment call in an effort to follow FAA regulations. We do not compensate for those types of inconveniences.

We are, however, offering you this goodwill gesture as a thank-you for giving up your seat to the woman whose husband was sick onboard your flight to LHR. In these circumstances, the flight attendants generally have a voucher they can offer onboard, but it doesn’t appear one was given to you. For that, I apologize.

That seems like a fairly sincere apology. But wait! Murray didn’t spend $100 to upgrade to first class; he’d spent 12 times as much, plus another 40,000 miles. That’s a lot of flying on United.

Murray wants me to consider asking United for a more appropriate compensation. A $100 voucher looks like funny airline math to me, but I have to say, I like the apology. Also, I think United should take a little responsibility for the open bar at SFO. Kicking a sleeping passenger, plus his traveling companions, off a plane seems a little extreme, doesn’t it?

(Update: On appeal, United raised its offer to a $300 voucher. Murray is still not happy.)

Should I mediate Mike Murray's case with United?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It seems to me that there are two separate issues. Being kicked off the original flight and giving up his seat on the second flight.

    The second flight is easy. No one asked him to give up his seat so there’s nothing to mediate.

    The first one is different. If his story is accurate, then this is egregious. And I’m inclined to believe him. He’s a firefighter so I’m assuming he’s not 120lbs. 3 Gin and Tonics over 2 hours would probably not intoxicate him. An internet BAC calculator puts him at 0.04% or possible impairment.

    My guess, and that’s all it is, is that somehow he pissed of the flight attendant.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    Agree with CCF, these are two seperate issues. 1) We know from lots of others cases brought to your attention that people always “claim” they were not falling about drunk and being disruptive. Who knows what the full story is about what led to him falling asleep. During connections I’ve tucked myself up right away and tried to sleep during announcements & have not been woken up or ejected from the plane. 2) He wants to be compensated for being a good samaritan? I think this makes a mockery of the gesture.

  • EdB

    “I suspect one of the flight attendants got bent out of shape because Murray dozed off during the in-flight safety announcements, but I don’t know — I wasn’t there.”

    On all the flights I have been on, the safety announcements occurs after the doors are closed and the plane has pushed away from the gate so I doubt it would have been because of that. What would be interesting to find out is who got their seats? It wouldn’t surprise me if it was other airline employees or even friends/family of a FA.

  • TonyA_says

    It’s oktoberfest. Maybe a lot of bavarians should not fly. That’s how ridiculous this is. Someone just did not like him, imo.

  • backprop

    Deboardy McFirefighter is probably not sharing something. There has to be another side to the story.

  • backprop

    And a well-behaved firefighter who did nothing wrong does not get asked by the captain to leave the plane. You’re right about “if the story is accurate, it’s egregious.” But I don’t take the extra step and believe the story at face value. Not at all.

  • $16635417

    Tony…downvoted? Looks like you offended a Bavarian.

  • $16635417

    Did he yell “Woo Hoo! Washington DC baby!” as he was walking through the terminal to board the flight?

  • Christopher Elliott

    As a matter of fact, I believe I left that little detail out of this story. :-)

  • John Baker

    Methinks we haven’t gotten the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth….

    I agree with CCF. Two separate issues.

    1. He voluntarily gave up his seat on the overseas leg without being asked. I’m not sure why he wants UA to accept responsibility and pay for his decision. If the FA asks for him to move, I completely agree that he should get some compensation but by his own admission, UA played no role in him moving.

    2. I suspect there’s more to the story on him being asked to exit the aircraft. I’ve flown enough in the front of the bus (one of those elites that Chris loves to hate) to know that it takes a lot to get asked to leave. Regardless of what he states he drank (and we honestly don’t know how much alcohol was in each G&T so any supposition on his BAC is a SWAG), he must have appeared and acted drunk in order to be asked to leave. His “falling asleep” could appear to be “passed out” to an FA if he came in smelling of alcohol and stumbling. We just don’t know.

    3. “And why wouldn’t he? The drinks in the lounge are included in your membership, and it’s almost a six-hour flight. Nothing like a G&T or two to make you fall asleep, right?” Umm Chris it wasn’t one or two. It was three. Last time I checked it was my responsibility to watch what I consume regardless if it free or not.

  • Guest

    One thing that wasn’t explained in the story was why the rest of his group was ejected from the flight. Didn’t seem there was an issue with them until he asked about them.

    I know the captain is responsible for the flight, but allowing them to kick people off a flight with no justification other than, “did not feel comfortable with them flying”, is wrong.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    I think that this case should be mediated/handled as a standard “denied boarding” situation.

    Unless the airline is able to substantiate — and that should mean more than just a verbal claim by a member of a flight crew — that the passenger was disruptive, the hard facts is that the airline denied boarding to the passenger and the rest of his party.

    I haven’t looked up United policy’s for denied boardings, but, it must certainly include a cash compensation component, and not airline funny-money. So, basically, whatever the airline’s contract of carriage states is the compensation for denied boarding, that should be the compensation to every member of the traveling party who was denied boarding, at the least.

  • backprop

    Just a guess: the “asked what would become of the three other family members flying with him” included a threat of, “My family is not flying without me” or something like that.

    It doesn’t make sense that he’d simply “ask what would become of them.” They were on a plane. They’d be flown to their destination. Only a massively intoxicated person would need to ask where people on a plane to Washington were going.

  • TonyA_says

    They’re probably blaming me too for the cost of a Maß – approx $13 this year!

  • Jeff Kolker

    I disagree. My first question and my first concern would have been “what about my family??” Perhaps it would have been second only to …”um…why are you doing this?”

  • Guest

    To me, it makes perfect sense to simply ask about your other companions. I would be more concerned if the story said he didn’t ask.


    I think you should mediate, if for no other reason, to find out if there was not more to the story that you are being told. I see people conk out as soon as they get in their seats on a plane–including on United–and they are not removed from the plane. (Though I have seen flight attendants wake up passengers to listen to the safety briefing on one airline.) I do find it rather silly that airline clubs and first class serve copious amounts of booze and then airlines get mad at drunk passengers.
    Mediation will answer the most important question: What about his behavior, other than sleeping, led to him being removed from the flight? If that was it, then UA owes him more than they are giving.
    And on the connecting flight, he voluntarily gave up that seat so he does not deserve compensation. Volunteer means you are doing something for nothing.

  • Alan Gore

    I see the whole problem with these preflight ejections as being lack of accountability. Though ejection is a power that crews need to have in appropriate situations, there are too many cases of some unnamed crew member being “uncomfortable”. If all these pax are a mortal danger, why do they mostly just get accommodated on the next flight?

    So since airlines love rules so much, I propose another rule, this time by the FAA: any onboard incident resulting in a passenger ejection would require filing of a report, which would include an affidavit from every crew member involved, and by the passenger(s), who would fill out and get copies of their affidavits before leaving the airport. Each of these reports would be investigated, with possible fines as appropriate for any party found to be in violation of something substantive.

    Making a literal federal case out of passenger ejections would automatically put a stop to the arbitrary vagueness that is at issue in cases like the OP.

  • MarkKelling

    Many times in the past I have boarded a plane after having much more than the equivalent of 3 drinks in the club. I have never been asked to get off the plane, but I have never fallen asleep until after the plane took off. Maybe I can handle my liquor better than some.

    I feel there has to be something more to the story because an airline will not simply remove people on a whim, especially since the group was connecting to London and probably were flying with checked luggage that would have to be removed which takes time. Unfortunately I seriously doubt UA will provide anything more than what has already been stated to the OP – the crew was uncomfortable with him being on that flight.

    UA used to have limits noted on their inflight 1st menu saying you would only be served 2 drinks on an international flight (not any more, but finding a FA willing to serve you anything on your UA international flight might be difficult once dinner service is done). Maybe they should adapt a similar policy in their clubs. And since UA have recently started charging extra for almost everything anyone would want to drink in the clubs, maybe there won’t be anyone faced with this situation going forward.

  • backprop

    Either the OP is upset that his family got kicked off too, or he’s not.

    If he’s not, then this wouldn’t be an issue.

    If he is upset, then we have to assume that something else transpired other than him simply “asking what would become of his family.” They were not kicked off with him; they left the plane only after ‘something’ was said. We’re not getting what was said. I’m simply guessing that it wasn’t an innocent question.

  • Bill___A

    It is unfortunate that he fell asleep before takeoff and made the flight attendants uncomfortable. Perhaps they thought he would sleep through an evacuation. In any case, they don’t know people, they just make a call as they see at that particular time.
    As for the first class seat, it was nice of him to give it up. However, it WAS him that gave it up, not United. So United shouldn’t have to pay for it. Asking United to pay is moving the cost of his gift of the seat from him to the airline.

  • Guest

    You can be upset and ask questions without making them threats.

  • MarkKelling

    UA’s current policy only covers oversold flights. No mention of being kicked off a flight for other reasons. It states that UA will offer cash or equivalent in future flight credit at its discretion up to USD 650 for domestic flights and USD 1300 for international pursuant to local laws.

  • MarkKelling

    But depending on who you are asking and how you come across to them, a simple question may be interpreted as a threatening remark.

  • MarkKelling

    So he was removed from a flight, put on another flight, and still made his connection. I would be annoyed at getting kicked off, but he apparently got the seats on the next flight in the right cabin (1st) or he would be complaining about that too. Take the offered voucher and learn to drink less the next time.

  • Guest

    And that same perception could happen even if you aren’t upset.

    My reply was in response to backprop’s statement, guessing that there was a threat made when asking about the rest of the family because he was upset.

  • Jeff Kolker

    “Lushy McFirefighter”?? Really? It would seem you are making assumptions about the situation that at this time, cannot be verified. And with the title “moderator” by your name, I would think you would avoid name calling…

    It’s not as if we’ve never seen flight attendants act improperly either… so until I know for sure otherwise, I have to vote that Chris moderate this one…

  • emanon256

    I think United should take a little responsibility for the open bar at SFO.

    why serve all that alcohol in the lounge if it won’t be tolerated on the plane?

    Just because they serve alcohol, doesn’t mean one is required to consume mass quantities of it. I don’t see how someones over consumption is the fault of the lounge that serves the alcohol. Also, he gave up his seat by choice to be nice. I don’t see how United owes him for a decision he made. He over drank, and he gave up his seat. I am surprised he got anything. I voted against mediation.

  • Cyn2

    Here’s a weird thought. Could he have been snoring? He was asleep – he wouldn’t have known. I know I might have been uncomfortable if he’d been snoring up a storm before we’d even left the gate.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Calling him “Lushy” is a violation of our comment guidelines. Please rephrase, otherwise I will might have to change the name of this website to add the word “mile,” “point,” “flyer,” or “cranky” to the title.

  • emanon256

    It depends on how they served the drinks. I have been in a Business class lounge at SFO and it was a full open bar where you pour yourself (I would assume the F lounge is the same). If this were the case, his G&Ts could have been mostly G, it was up to hoe he poured. I’ve also been in the Untied Clubs there where most bar tenders pour exactly 25ml shots per drink and I seriously doubt he could have been close to drunk after 3 of those. However I have had other bar tenders there put three pours of the 25ml shot in my glass per drink. Yeah, I couldn’t finish the second. So as far as how much alcohol was in three G&Ts, it could vary widely.

  • azevedan

    Oh, I’d really like to hear the other side of the story. And know the truth in between them.

  • Daddydo

    There are many times that attendants must make a judgemnet call (on behalf of the Pilot). Where did their training come from to make that call? Stew School? With the amount of time that was spent on the family’s removal, they could have had a sobriety test administered by an officer in the airport. This appears to be more of a legal issue than a mediation case.

  • backprop

    There is a more reasonable name (yet doesn’t have the same ring to it)

  • Nigel Appleby

    Me too.

  • emanon256

    I see people fall asleep right away with no issue all the time as well. But a few times I have seen someone who appears drunk who then appears to pass out and the FA gets the captain to come out and make a call. I imagine that is what happened here as well, I don’t think a rogue FA kicked him off as others have eluded to. I imagine while he was passed out or asleep, the captain came out and assessed him and decided it was too much of a liability to fly with him, so the FA woke him up and removed him. This wasn’t as issue for the safety of the others, but for the OP, as he might start vomiting or have alcohol poising and they would have to divert the plane and arrange for medical support.

  • vacaygirl

    How many times has something like this happened when it turns out the flyer was innocent of the supposed charges? Not many that I can recall. The airlines are truly not looking to start these flights off on the wrong foot. Could there be more to this story that perhaps the firefighter cannot even recall? Makes sense if you think about it. The FC and Captain were stone cold sober (I am assuming), our OP was admittedly not. I wonder who has a better memory of the events and whow they went down? I say no, don’t waste your time Chris.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    I think you should mediate … AFTER you get the whole story. This guy was not removed from the plane for dozing off … I have a 10-minute nap every time the flight takes off and nobody ever kicked me off the plane. If his story is truthful, he did not consume enough alcohol to become intoxicated. He did something that annoyed the FA, and we all know what that means. I hope you’ll let us know what happened here, Chris.

  • Helio

    I may have understand wrongly… He is only complaining about his deboarding? And about the rest of the party?

  • jebaker

    oh please, he drank too much in the lounge and that is someone else’s fault. Sounds like he was more intoxicated than he’d like to admit and I completely understand why United took him off. I’ve been on board with some overserved passengers in the past and they make it not only unsafe but also unpleasant.
    As far as the second flight, how do you mediate someone voluntarily giving up a seat to another passenger without the FA requesting it?

  • Randy Culpepper

    “On behalf of the pilot?”…”Stew School?”…the captain(s), first officer(s), and flight attendants are all part of the flight crew. Nothing is done “on behalf of the pilot”. Additionally, it is the captain, not airport police, who decides whether or not the passenger is okay to fly.

  • Cam

    Seems unfair to serve the THREE FRE drinks avnd ban guy from flying.

  • mike montreal

    As a passenger can i smell the breath of the pilots who sometime show up last minutes to the gate !
    I dont always feel easy myself. If this story is true we business traveller will all be baned from flying sooner or later !!! if the guy was rowdy or insulting i can understand…just for dozing off why take him off the plane ?? i doze off all the time during pre flight if have heard over and over again. Again why do customers have to endure this from airline , security and all the BS from airport is aggravation enough that justify a few drinks before a flight..No ?

  • pauletteb

    This seems similar to events with an open bar. If the booze is free, some people feel obligated to consume mass quantities. I’ve seen people with five or more drinks sitting in front of them, especially when the open bar has a cutoff time.

  • Amy Frey

    If he had been acting inappropriately, that would be one thing…And, many people fall asleep during the “instructions” on board, but they aren’t removed!

  • Raven_Altosk

    United screwed the pooch on this one.
    Mediate and get the guy at least a FC upgrade for giving up his good seat for a sick passenger and his wife.

  • vacaygirl

    You are taking the OP’s word that he wasn’t acting innapropriately? Did you expect he was going to say he was? And again, instructions are not given until the plane is already taxing to the runway…so, that story doesn’t hold water (or Gin ;-)

  • TonyA_says

    Seems to me that if United served him the drinks then United should also fly him if he isn’t being ugly.

  • omgstfualready

    I posted the same thought.

  • omgstfualready

    I truly think he must have been snoring and so asleep nobody could wake him, drunk or no, that is my opinion. Regardless he is delusional if his alcohol consumption is someone else’s fault.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Snoring is hardly a reason to kick someone off a flight.

  • omgstfualready

    Though giving up his comfy seat for another was very generous. A $300 voucher is sufficient to thank him for that courtesy to that couple, though it should have been given on board as United stated. Plus considering he was quite likely the sole reason he was on that flight in the first place and not his original one.

  • MarkKelling

    The CO Club in HNL also used to be open self serve. That stopped when UA bought them (also because people were walking out with full bottles, oh well). I have not been in any UA run club recently where you were allowed to pour your own any more.

  • omgstfualready

    Oh it should be, I’ve heard some teeth rattling noises from people. I usually work or read on a flight (I’m averse to sleeping or grooming in public) but if I were trying to sleep there is no way that I could with some of what I’ve heard (that red eye from Vegas back east is a doozy).
    If the OP posted they paid big bucks/points to fly on a trip and someone before take off was snoring so loudly it disrupted the entire cabin would Chris have been asked to intervene to get the OP compensated for a crappy flight considering the snoring (again my assumption) started before they left the jetway? Probably.

  • emanon256

    I don’t think any of the domestic UA clubs do it, but the Business and First Class Lounges still do. The OP said he was in the First Class Lounge, not the UC.

    I miss the pre-merger Red Carpet Club, I would get 2 drink coupons upon entrance good for any drink, top shelf or cheep. Now its unlimited free cheep stuff and I have to pay for the good stuff.

  • emanon256

    Ha! On my BKK-NRT flight in C, there was a guy who started snoring so loudly I could hear him through my noise cancelling headphones. It was horrible! And it wasn’t even a pattern, he was making random loud snores. I think he had sleep apnea. I couldn’t sleep the whole flight, though I never thought to ask for compensation.

  • Jason Hanna

    So what if it’s an open bar? A little personal responsibility goes a long way.. I totally disagree with blaming the airline for having an open bar.. If he bought these drinks from the Chili’s in the terminal and got thrown off the flight, would you ever think that Chili’s should provide compensation?

    I don’t know what happened with this particular situation, whether he was really drunk or not, but who provided the drinks makes no difference whatsoever.

  • vacaygirl

    The only thing they need to do in a denied boarding is put you on the next flight. There is no compensation for a denied boarding.

  • vacaygirl

    Maybe the rest of the familly is too embarrassed by his behavior to speak up?

  • Daddydo

    According to the story, the attendent said that the “captain”, so on behalf of the pilot is correct. That’s why I said it appears to be a legal dispute rather than a mediation case. Sometimes people err and this appears to be one of those. 3 drinks, no major sign of being drunk, just I fell asleep, wow. What a decision! I my flights, I have seen 100’s of drunks on the planes, and a simple calm down was all that was needed to take off. This guy was not apparently mis-behaving a bit. Most crews are pretty damn good, but this story begs to differ.

  • Alan Gore

    When companies go into radio silence like this, we’re not hearing their side! They are only hurting themselves.

  • Mark Cuban

    3 cocktails isn’t exactly stumbling drunk, unless you pound them in 10 minutes or you use iced tea tumblers.

  • Saturday Tuesday

    I was once removed from a flight under similar circumstances. I had bothered no one, was not being loud, and did not fall asleep. It was a late flt from Vegas (go figure) back to NYC. I would have sat down and simply gone to sleep until arrival. A VERY large ‘baggage handler’ simply asked me to bring my things and have a discussion on the gang way which resulted in my sitting in the terminal until the next flt (@6am.)
    There was no questioning that I was under the influence But I was in control of my faculties and pointedly not causing a problem. However, if there was an emergency, could I be counted on to be rousted and behave as necessary for the safety of the other passengers? They couldn’t know and opted to simply pull me off the plane. I have to assume that was their logic as I was generally dismissed as a human and treated (nicely) as baggage once I was back in the terminal. No questions, no answers, no nothing.

    In short, assuming he’s telling the truth on just 3 drinks, they made a poor judgement call on someone spending what he did and traveling with family. However, it was their call to make. I don’t like the nanny state, and there were no doubt stone-cold sober passengers who would have been bigger issues in an emergency situation, but the attendants aren’t their to make professional judgement calls on what ‘could’ happen but rather to mitigate based on empirical data. Someone was having a bad day and he was on the receiving end of it.

  • Mark Cuban

    I’ve seen a LOT of children behaving far worse than a guy with three drinks allowed to stay.

  • omgstfualready

    I guess, but how objective is someone on their behaviour while under the influence. I’m not saying you were (or were not) disruptive, I agree that is what you think, but once you are under the influence, well, you are not yourself and judgement is impaired. Plenty of people think they are fine when others know they are not.

  • omgstfualready

    Agreed on children suddenly being without rules (not sure I can equate it here since I truly don’t believe we have an accurate understanding). I had to tell a parent three hours into a nine hour trip that her vacation doesn’t include others being unpaid baby sitters. Got the stink eye but she shut her offspring up, and the kid was fine after that, it wasn’t the kid’s fault, it truly was a parent thinking their vacation included turning back the clock to pre-breeding years.

  • omgstfualready

    Neither would I think to ask for compensation. Apparently we can get Chris to do it, lol.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It does sound like severe sleep apnea. The poor man. Sleep Apnea is really really serious. Its one of those conditions that is not taken nearly serious enough.

  • Lindabator

    The FAA already GETS a report of such instances.

  • Lindabator

    It can be interpreted as being PASSED OUT – and in those instances, you WILL be asked to leave.

  • Lindabator

    NO – there are LEGAL ramifications and the issue of privacy – the passenger may wish to go public, but the airline CANNOT.

  • MarkKelling

    And I miss the pre merger CO President’s Club. Everything was free. The alcohol wasn’t much more to choose from than they had on their planes, but at least it wasn’t the no-name alcohol by-products the UA Club is serving now.

  • emanon256

    Jeff Smisek totally ruined two great airlines.

  • MarkKelling

    I had a gate agent threaten to have me arested in Vegas because I was asking too many questions.
    I had been re-booked, not at my request, onto a different flight than I had originally booked and lost my 1st class fully paid for with cash seat because the flight I ended up on was a smaller plane. I was just trying to understand why others were being handed 1st boarding passes as upgrades when I was a paid 1st class passenger that was not in a 1st class seat. Apparently my annoyance was taken as being threatening to the single gate agent working 4 flights simultaneously. So I shut up and sat down and suffered in my middle seat in coach between two sumo wrestler sized people once the flight boarded.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Not hard to piss of a United flight attendant – some of the meanest people on earth.
    That is why I only fly Lufthansa now.

  • Saturday Tuesday

    I don’t disagree that one’s lack of self-awareness is dminished. However, I was traveling with a companion who was equally as surprised. I was speaking with no one. The one thing I was ‘doing’ was standing in advance of the flight which I generally do, especially cross country, and especially if I’m waiting for someone to take the window. So worst case scenario I wasn’t standing at military grade attention. No verbiage at all, hence no possibility of slurring, shouting or obnoxious behavior. But hey, they watched me weave down the walkway and they made the call. My immediate acquiescence only confirmed their suspicion and any attempt to talk my way back on the plane would have worked against me based on the criteria. I would have gotten on the plane and gone to sleep. They made a call. I didn’t like it but respected it.

    The world in which we live leaves us open to subjective decisions from strangers, including neighbors, waiters, attendants and LEO caseworkers (thinking ‘Brazil – the movie’ here) which may not be fair, but it’s what we’ve got.

  • RetiredNavyphotog


  • MarkKelling

    Yep. All the promises to keep the best of both airlines and make everything better has been shown to be the lies we all knew they were.
    At least since the merger I still end up talking to people in the US when I call their help line. And they were able to re-book me on a flight to LHR after the original flight I was on was cancelled before I even got to the counter to ask. So all is not completely bad, but there is very little good.

  • MarkKelling

    Wish I had that option. Unfortunately I fly domestic US a lot and UA seems to be the only airline that will get me hwere I need to be without multiple stops or flying at wierd hours.

  • California_Dave

    Flight crews are very good at spotting drunk behaviors that could be a safety issue during the flight. Also, alcohol affects people differently, so to say 3 drinks in 2 hours does not make you drunk is inappropriate. I have seen people after 1 drink become agressive, loud, and confrontational. There must have been some behavior that the flight crew picked up on, and I don’t believe they make those decisions lightly. I think $300 is more than adaquate compensation for a voluntary act.

  • Saturday Tuesday

    Same agent/crew, different day. Their job has got to be tough. Sometimes we catch at the right time, sometimes we sit between Sumo wrestlers.

  • Saturday Tuesday

    Which is why child-free airlines and or seating zones seem to be picking up speed at least in Asia. Even a well-behaved kid can have a hard time on a long flight.

  • Michael

    Poley King, a United Airlines’ frequent flyer once said on
    UA’s Facebook page in reference to another passenger being downgraded:

    “You should ask for downgrade compensation. UA has an internal policy to give a flight
    voucher for downgrade after your upgrade cleared. Its between $200 and $1500 depending on the
    length of the flight.”

    I don’t know if this could help Mr. Murray or not…
    As for him getting kicked off the plane, I’d also LOVE to know WHO got their seats…???
    I mean, WHO has the magical power to look at a sleeping passenger and tell he is intoxicated… I mean, he could have been exhausted from whatever and just fell asleep. I could easily see that flight attendant having family, friends… etc., wanting those seats and that FA found someone they could easily get off the plane to free up those seats.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    How do we get from snoring to being passed out? Unless of course the passenger smells like a brewery.

  • Randy Culpepper

    You stated that the flight attendant made the judgment call, but she did not. The captain did. The flight attendant merely delivered the message.

    Doesn’t any business have the right to refuse service to anyone at any time? Why do you think that this does not apply to airlines?

  • Alan Gore

    Does the public get to see these reports? Do they include a passenger affidavit? Do they identify the specific crewmembers involved? Can the FAA act on such reports?

  • emanon256

    I guess Jeff personally reads Chris’s site. Either that or someone actually likes the changes.

  • Phoenix Justice

    I have sleep apnea so I know my snoring is horrendous, so I try not to fall asleep on a flight, but sometimes, it just can’t be helped. Would you be wanting to ban all people with sleep apnea from flying?

  • scapel

    How do they know he was intoxicated? Did they do a breadth test or a blood alcohol level. Was he snoring? I think the Airline is at fault here. OH! On his next flight, did he fly first class? What kind of observations did the flight attendant make and record about his gait when he got off the airplane? He must have done something other than have alcohol on his breadth to make a flight attendant decide he was intoxicated. What information did the captain have to have him removed from the flight.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I should start my own blog. “Cranky McFlyer”. Has a nice ring to it.

  • omgstfualready

    First, sorry about your health issue. Would I want someone for having it? No. Causing 298 other people misery because one can’t stay awake for up to 15 hours (travel is a long day from packing to driving and sitting and waiting all before the flight finally happens). I have meetings that I need to go to and need to be prepared for just as another who is choosing to sleep (unless you have other medical issues it is a choice to sleep on a plane since you have been diagnosed with apnea you have a home device to allow you to rest more fully privately) is sleeping to be rested for their meeting.

    Generally speaking one flyer is not above/beneath another.

    Would you prefer to have someone who is fat because of medical issues sit halfway in your lap if they aren’t fat because they choose to be. They could have a tumor, be on huge steroid doses, have massive thyroid issues, whatever. It still bothers you. Okay, I’m assuming it would. You wouldn’t say you want to ban fat people because they are sick but you sure as anything don’t want to suffer because of their medical condition.

    I would LOVE to ban taking off your shoes on a plane. I’m not sure when a plane became a substitute for a living room. Perhaps when a car became a substitute for a kitchen. Note I’m under 50 though I know I sound like a geezer. But if you travel a lot you see the worst of humanity (sometimes the best too).

  • backprop

    At least you admit you were under the influence. I am finding it hard to believe the OP’s tale that everything was AOK until the captain had to become involved. It’s a mighty big pill to swallow.

  • backprop

    I agree. But it could also be a case of “I just had one beer tonight, officer, I swear.” As stated in a few other places, it’s a huge pill to swallow if one was to believe the OP was in control until the pilot actually had to remove him from the plane.

  • backprop

    Are you allowed to call yourself names?

  • Christopher Elliott

    That is allowed.

  • LZ126

    Yes, but only because I’m interested in seeing United’s side of the story.

  • BMG4ME

    I don’t drink but I’ve known for decades that airlines won’t board intoxicated people. It’s not the airlines nor the lounge’s fault he drank too much. It’s time people learn to take responsibility for their own actions. He got compensation, I’d let it lie.

  • $36721957

    United blew on this one, clearly.

  • dave3029

    The problem I have with all of this is why were his traveling companions removed from the flight? The pilot wasn’t comfortable with them staying on board – – why, did he believe them to be a danger to the flight or crew without him? Something’s missing in this story (several things, actually).

  • polexia_rogue

    true. i cannot count the times when i got on a flight and my husband went straight to sleep.
    here is the issue with falling asleep-
    -newer, or nicer flight attendants would address all questions to me (since he was in the window seat anyway.) questions like “is is seat belt buckled? is his ipod off? etc”

    -not so nice flight attendants want HIM to answer. i think that is what happened to the OP. this flight attendant woke him up in order to answer pre-flight questions.- the OP was probably groggy or annoyed. – and ended up the flgth attendent took upon herelf to get this “rude passenger” off the flight.

  • Travelnut

    You’re lucky; I’ve spoken to someone in the US exactly once since the merger.

  • Sassy Stew

    Flight attendants do not remove passengers. It is ALWAYS done by trained ground personnel. Moreover, a flight attendant would never ask a passenger to step off of the plane to have a conversation. If there are passengers on an aircraft the FA can not step off of the plane. The FA would contact the Captain and the process would escalate from there.

    The details sound shady.

    And regarding “I suspect one of the flight attendants got bent out of shape because
    Murray dozed off during the in-flight safety announcements, but I don’t
    know — I wasn’t there.” <== Um, no. If that were the case no one would be flying. The majority of passengers are either asleep, talking or not paying attention during safety demonstrations. It's nothing new.

  • jennj99738

    This is mostly incorrect when a passenger is involuntarily denied boarding. “Domestic flights within the United States:
    No compensation is due if your airline finds alternate transportation
    that will get you to your next stopover point or final destination
    within one hour after the scheduled arrival time of your original flight. For flights getting you to your next point or destination more than one hour but less than two hours,
    cash compensation equivalent to 200% of the one-way fare on the flight
    you were bumped off to a maximum of $650. Flights getting you to your
    next point or destination more than two hours from the original time will net you cash compensation of 400% of the one-way fare to a maximum of $1,300.”

    We don’t know how long the delay was in getting the group to the next destination. I’m not saying he is entitled to compensation because we don’t know exactly what happened to him getting kicked off the flight, but the statement about IDBs not entitled to compensation is wrong.

  • mythsayer

    There has to be more to this. I’ve been on a flight where I fell asleep almost immediately upon sitting down – because I was crazy tired. He HAD to have been stumbling when he got on the plane or something, when the captain could have seen him getting on… I’m not saying he WAS a danger, because if that’s really all he drank, how could he be? But there has to be something else? And why did he just get off so easily? No need to make a scene, but I’d want some actual facts presented as to why I’m being removed and not just a conclusion. Support your conclusion.

  • emanon256

    I am so with you on the shoes thing!! And they need to ban clipping toe nails and or finger nails on a plane as well. They also need to ban putting your shoes, and/or bear feet on the bulk head wall, arm wrest of the seat in front of you, and in the seat back pocket. Yuck!

  • vacaygirl

    Jenn, there is a difference between “being bumped”, which you are quoting the rules for, and “being denied boarding”, which we are all talking about.

  • vacaygirl

    3 drinks on the ground can easily have the effect of 6 drinks at 30,000 feet for some people. The altitude can really intensify the effects of the alcohol, and someone who seems even the slightest bit tipsy has the ability to become suddenly and completely inebriated after it is too late to do anything about it. The flight crew is not there to babysit, they are there to save lives in the event of an emergency.

  • jennj99738

    No, I’m citing 14 CFR 250.5, Amount of denied boarding compensation for passengers denied boarding involuntarily. Being bumped does not have any legal meaning. The question raised by Sam’s post is whether the event with this gentleman is covered by IDB regulations. I don’t believe it does because it appears that IDB compensation regs only kick in for oversold flights. I will leave it there.

  • Taylor Michie

    Do you have a source for that? I doubt that the FAA receives a report of every “drunk” removed and rebooked, unless there was an incident inflight that put other passengers or crew in danger.

  • Taylor Michie

    I agree with you except for your assumption that the passenger’s story is completely accurate. For me, it doesn’t follow that one minute Mr. Murphy is just sitting on the plane, and the next minute the F/A is kicking him and his traveling companions off. I’m not saying that UA isn’t in the wrong, but something must’ve transpired between the lounge and onboard.

  • Michael__K

    The FAA already GETS a report of such instances.

    The FAA’s website says otherwise:

    The FAA’s database contains only those incidents reported to FAA. Reporting is at the discretion of the crewmember.


  • Para Friv

    I suspect one of the flight attendants got bent out of shape because
    Murray dozed off during the in-flight safety announcements, but I don’t
    know — I wasn’t there. Thank you so much!

  • sffilk

    Any chance of an update?

  • Lindabator

    NO – they are NOT public due to privacy issues – and Yes, the FAA follows up on these reports.

  • Lindabator

    As a rule, when we had to remove someone (and in this case MULTIPLE someones) per a CAPTAIN’S call – it was reported for legal reasons. (That was on UA years ago)

  • Lindabator

    If he took a long time to respond, they DO see that as passed out. But the fact that the CAPTAIN had to remove him means it went beyond just the FA having a problem usually – and why would he have removed the others as well? (I’d love to hear the REAL story here)

  • Lindabator

    You won’t get it – it violates their privacy policies.

  • Michael__K

    The FAA reports 41 unruly passengers in the first half of 2013 and they note that “reporting is at the discretion of the crewmember.”

    We know from media reports alone that there were far more than 41 passengers booted from flights in that timeframe. In fact, in just ONE incident, 109 passengers on the same flight were all removed. (And the airline’s spokesperson did not refrain from discussing that incident with the media because of privacy issues).


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    So, people who are deep sleepers are SOL? Sucks to be them.