nasty passenger w/flask

Jun 7th, 2006, 11:43 AM
  #1  
emd
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nasty passenger w/flask

I flew last Thurs. late afternoon on United from IAD to LAX in business class, using my hard earned e-upgrades. I was upgraded at the last minute and ended up in the middle seat of the middle row. Unfortunately there was bad weather and they got us on the plane but then we sat at the gate for over 3 hrs until we were allowed to push back and get in line to take off. We finally took off 3 1/2 hrs late, so this turned into an 8 hr ordeal.

The lady sitting next to me started bugging the flight attendant while we were still on the ground about getting a drink (as in vodka) and when she was told that we would not be served any alcohol until we were in the air, she started muttering obscenities. After sitting on the ground for an hr., she got orange juice from the FA, got a flask out of her purse, and openly proceeded to make herself a stiff drink, all the while glaring at me as I watched her. She did this twice in a half hr. WHen she started on the third drink, she started berating me for having "your stuff in my space on the floor", and I had had enough, as had the man next to me who was elbowing me and rolling his eyes as she poured heavily out of her flask, at one point spilling it all over the drink area btwn our seats.

I went to the flight attendant in the galley and told her that this lady was drinking heavily from her flask and had started being nasty, and asked her to intervene since we had not even gotten off the ground yet and it didn't look like this lady would let up. The FA told me that the lady could not consume alcohol that she had brought on the plane but that the FA would have to personally see her pouring and drinking it to intervene and that she could not search her purse. She told me to go back to my seat and ring my call button if she used the flask again.

The FA would not give her any more orange juice, and the next drink was straight vodka out of the flask. By the time I rang the bell and the FA got there, the lady had put the flask back in her purse and of course denied the whole thing, and the FA shrugged at me and the man next to me as if she could do nothing about this. After this the lady got even more nasty with me and called me names (ones that I would not repeat here) several times before we got off the ground.

I asked to be moved, but there were no seats in business or first class. Finally, after we got off the ground, I moved back to coach as I felt I had to get away from this nasty drunk woman.

I am going to write United about this. Why didn't the FA have call security while we were still on the ground about this? The man next to me was also willing to say he saw her drinking from the flask, BTW. And when we got off the flight he caught up to me and told me that she had TWO MORE FLASKS (and these were not those really small ones, they were biger plastic ones) that she went through after first one, and then she apparently passed out for the rest of the flight.

Should I have done something different, and what should this FA have done? Have any of you encountered this? I feel like I should be compensated for losing my e-upgrades and business seat due to this situation that the FA did not take care of.
emd is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 12:34 PM
  #2  
 
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But emd...didn't she pass out and thus not cause any more trouble? Couldn't you have gone back to your seat in business?

If the FA had indeed search her flask would that have been an invasion of her rights? Is it illegal to have alcohol in your carry on?

This is an interesting situation indeed. :-?
JAGIRL is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 01:22 PM
  #3  
 
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The lead FA should access the situation, and consult the pilots. And the person should be removed. You're right to write UA about this, and it'll be interesting to see what will happen.
rkkwan is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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Too bad the FA didn't go some distance behind the drunk & watch her. If she got obnoxious, I don't see why the FA couldn't have done something about it.

IMO, you should get a complimentary upgrade & I hope UA is at least that caring.
Carrybean is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 02:38 PM
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Please report back - I really would like to know how this is resolved.
Wallace_and_Gromit is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 05:48 PM
  #6  
emd
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JAGIRL, according to my biz class seatmate, she did not pass out until after her 3rd (large) flask was gone. I would have had to endure another few hrs of harrassment until she passed out. Are you saying I should have toughed it out til then? SI coudl see what was coming, as she called me an "f'ing whore" after the first 3 drinks when she told me I had my stuff on her floor space (and I swear, all I had on the floor was my small purse and flipflops, neither of which were anywhere near her, and I had not spoken to her at all). And that was before she had finished the 1st flask, much less the 2nd and 3rd ones. And it was before I went to see the lfight attendant. The names got even more graphic after that (they started with a word that begins w/a "c" and ends in "t", understand?)

The FA told me it is against United policy to consume alcohol that one has brought onbaord. So my understanding is that it is not illegal to bring on alcohol, you just can not consume it once on a United flight.
emd is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 05:58 PM
  #7  
KT
 
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It seems odd that the the FA couldn't do anything unlesss the person was caught in the act of drinking. The real problem wasn't so much that she was drinking, per se, as that she was being aggressive, disruptive, and obscene. So even if she'd done all her drinking pre-boarding, or wasn't drunk at all, wouldn't she still have been acting in an unacceptable manner?
KT is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 06:10 PM
  #8  
emd
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It seemed to me that it was my word against the woman seated next to me (and the man seated on the other side of me who was clearly backing me up). When I went to the galley I told the FA what she called me- I used the woman's exact words, and explained the situation. The FA did not say anything about the language, she only said that the woman could not drink alcohol that she had brought on the plane and that the FA would have to see her doing so.

I wonder what exactly consitutes "air rage" or slander on an airplane. If her language had been directed at the FA instead of me, I wonder if she would have been removed from the plane while it was still on the ground, or if it would have been returned to IAD or landed somewhere else en route to get her escorted off?

I really wish we had a FA on this board who could address this. Maybe I should post on flyertalk to ask about this.
emd is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 06:41 PM
  #9  
 
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emd:

What a nightmare.....you are such a nice person. If it were me....well, she would have moved

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 07:00 PM
  #10  
 
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Hi emd

You certainly do not have to put up with anyone calling what you she did, which by the way, was way out of line. The FA was taking a bit of a risk with her. If she were a violent drunk it would have been easier to get her off at the gate rather than at 30,000 feet.

It is however not the FA's responsibility to remove a drunk/violent/abusive passenger. That power rests with the captain. He/she would not know about the passengers behaviour though unless told. Do you know whether the FA advised him/her of the passemgers drinking/behaviour?

I have a mate who is a captain for an airline here and on average he denies boarding or kicks off one passenger a month for being drunk. So airlines do do it. I remember years ago when I was flying continental from LA to Hawaii that a guy got drunk on board. He was kept in his seat by an off duty cop and was eventually frog marched off the plane by Hawaii's finest upon landing.

By the way this is the excerpt from my freinds airlines code of conduct for onboard behaviour. It makes up part of the terms and conditions for carriage. As this airline and United are part of the same alliance I would assume that their terms and conditions would be similar.

"If in our opinion you conduct yourself on board the aircraft so as to endanger the aircraft or any person or property on board, or obstruct the crew in the performance of their duties, or fail to comply with any instructions of the crew, including but not limited to those with respect to smoking, alcohol or drug consumption, or behave in a manner which causes or is likely to cause discomfort, inconvenience, damage or injury to other passengers, the crew or any property, including the aircraft, we may take such measures as we deem necessary to prevent continuation of such conduct, including restraint. You may be off-loaded at any point, and may be prosecuted for offences committed on board the aircraft"

Do keep us up to date with progress on your letter with the airline.
Kiwi_acct is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 07:06 PM
  #11  
 
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PS

Just looked up UAL's terms and conditions and they are the same.

http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,2743,00.html

The terms specifically say that the airline may deny carriage, rule 35. As I assume this lady (and I use the term loosely) would have purchased her ticket at some stage, she would have acknowledged that she was bound by these terms and conditions.

Cheers
Kiwi_acct is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 07:37 PM
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Yes, keep us posted! You deserve an upgrade to first class, IMO.

I had a very similar experience on Air Tahiti Nui coming home from my honeymoon a couple years ago. First off, I was sick as a dog with a case of Giardia- 103 degree fever, having to go use the restroom every 5- 10 minutes (just the WORST!!), so to say the least I was very uncomfortable with a short fuse.

A man sitting in the aisle seat across from me (it was 2-4-2) started boozing in the lobby before boarding and took his duty free bag of three full size bottles of vodka on the plane with him and was drinking straight out of the bottles on the plane. He stretched out across the laps of the others in his row- I thought he was family- but they weren't related and they all ended up having to move!! Then he KICKED his shoes off up the aisle of the plane, was cussing to himself and to all of those around him the whole time, then kicking the dude's seat in front of him, I thought they were going to get into a physical altrication. Then he was stretching his smelly nasty bare feet across the aisle onto my lap and onto the guy's armrest in front of me.... finally the stewardess took his bag away but they did not restrain him, which surprised me. There were male flight attendants on board who did nothing- it was all the beautiful, slight Tahitian women in their dresses that had to deal with him and they hardly did that.

Finally when the plane landed he was yelling "let us the F-CK off this plane etc" (I guess he was jonesing for another drink?), and then when he finally deboarded he turned into a gentleman and thanked the flight attendants in a totally different voice, manner, was very polite.

It was the WEIRDEST most uncomfortable 9 hours of MY LIFE!!!!
lynnejoel1015 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 10:47 PM
  #13  
 
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If you believe what you see on "Airline," SW removes people for being disorderly and/or suspected of drinking too much all the time -- but once on board, it does indeed rest with the Captain. But that doesn't mean the FA should look the other way -- to the contrary!

I think emd's expectation that the FA should have done more was entirely justified. Telling the captain should very likely have been part of it, but in her own capacity, she could have monitored the drunk's behavior more closely and warned her that she could be removed if her behavior were unacceptable. It wasn't just a matter of the presence of booze, it was the behavior that resulted. The fact that a rowmate agreed with emd should have mobilized the FA.

A flight attendant's job is, first of all, safety of the passengers. This sounded like a volatile situation at least. Although I wasn't there, it sures sounds like the FA's passivity was unacceptable.
soccr is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 11:44 PM
  #14  
 
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The spilled alcohol could have been the evidence the FA needed.

You should be able to get your 500-milers back. I'd call the MP Premier Exec line.

Good to know UA 947 is a 3-class 777 again.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jun 8th, 2006, 03:37 AM
  #15  
emd
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Thank you for that info, kiwi. I will use it in my correspondene w/UA.

So it seems the FA should have told the captain, and either she did not or she did and nothing was done. I am not sure which was the case, because the FA never came back to me. And she said nothing about any action being taken, even though she knew I had moved to coach (I told her, and she saw me move) to get away from the situation.

mrw, I called MP PE line last night and the supervisor would not do anything, saying this should have been dealt with while I was on the plane (as if I didn't know that, and I told her the whole story). She advised me to write a letter and send it to UA and to Mileage Plus customer service.
emd is offline  
Jun 8th, 2006, 06:49 AM
  #16  
 
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Its water over the dam now, but in situations like this, where a FA won't do their job, I've found their attitude changes as soon as you ask for their name and write it down. I make a point of asking, rather than just reading a name tag, so they will get the idea that a report is going to be made. I also ask them to made an incident report, including the names of all involved. Since resolving the situation is easier than dealing with reports, they usually do something.

As this sounds like it happened before takeoff, you could have said that you didn't feel safe and wanted to deplane; that would certainly have gotten the captain's attention.

It is true that you can have alcohol in your carryon luggage, but all airlines where I have looked into the situation have a policy that you cannot serve yourself your own alcohol on board. Some just bar drinking your own, while others allow it, but only if it is poured by a crew member.
clevelandbrown is offline  
Jun 8th, 2006, 07:28 AM
  #17  
 
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Three flasks...wow...Maybe the drunk woman should post her response on the "Whino's only" thread!

Yeah emd I think you should write the airline and complain. She could have gotten violent on that flight after take-off. My question really was about the Flight attendant's responsibility in these situations.
As someone said, it should be the captain's responsibility. I wonder what became of that "air marshall" idea?
I also wonder what would have happened if you had created a stink on the plane and demanded to see the captain! Hmmmm...maybe they would have decided you were difficult and disruptive and would have kicked you off the plane and let whino remain?!
Aaahhh the hazards of flying!
JAGIRL is offline  
Jun 8th, 2006, 09:12 AM
  #18  
LT
 
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emd:

Sorry to hear about your bad experience. IMO, this flight attendant should be disciplined for not doing her job.

If I were you, I'd go to hoover's.com and find out the CEO's name and the address for United and send your letter directly to him. In this case, I happen to know that the CEO is Glenn Tilton, but I don't know the address. Don't waste your time with "customer service" -- start at the top. Also, be sure you list the flight # & date of your trip, and the FA's name, if you have it.

As jagirl alluded to, I just wonder if, had you made more of a protest about the situation, the FA wouldn't have decided that you were the "troublemaker," and had you removed . . . It sounds crazy, but it could happen . . .
LT is offline  
Jun 8th, 2006, 09:22 AM
  #19  
emd
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That is exactly why I did not make more of a scene over this. When it became apparent that the FA was not going to do anything I decided i had to remove myself from the situation and also decided that if I went back to the FA again, she could get upset w/me for making her life too difficult, and that the scene could backfire on me.

That is why I went back to coach and did not stand my ground and demand that something be done.

Thanks for the info on United's CEO. I had already looked that up. That is where the letter will go, and I think w/a copy Sean Donohue, United's first VP of customer experience (as of 4/18/06), billed as a new role to improve customer experience. Donohue was formerly VP of operations.
emd is offline  
Jun 8th, 2006, 09:50 AM
  #20  
 
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emd, what a horror story. as i read your story, i kept thinking what i would do. i came to the same reaction as ht did. spot on!

it seems to me that the fa should have done more to assist you. what was she doing anyway while waiting to take off?

i agree with the poster about writing to gt. forget customer service. i wrote to them once and got a very unsat response.
kuranosuke is offline  

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