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In-flight Issue
COMPLAINT: United ignores passenger safety in flight

 
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  #1  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 4:45 AM
Robert Kvavik Robert Kvavik is offline
 
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On the last leg of a flight from Naples, Italy, United flight 783 on October 21 from IAD to ABQ seated in first class, seat 1C, my wife was repeatedly touched by the female passenger seated next to her in Seat 1D. The woman had had a lot to drink and was also singling out loud.

Touching without consent is, by law, battery. In response to my wife's in-flight complaint, the flight attendant did nothing except move her to the back of the plane! My wife - not the offending party! I don't believe this was handled appropriately.

What is an appropriate remedy? My wife had to move. She felt unsafe. The captain should have dealt with the woman and the police should have met her at the door, so she could at least have had a drug test and a talking to.

The response from United customer relations was all boilerplate and did not mention the battery issue (probably because they had no boilerplate for this issue). They offered $250 toward another flight which will never be used as we will never fly United again. I guess we are most appalled at their failure to call us and apologize.

An unbelievable performance all around - by the flight crew and United customer relations - an oxymoron!

Last edited by Robert Kvavik; Dec 6, 2009 at 4:47 AM. Reason: Typos
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  #2  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 9:32 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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This is a difficult problem and one airlines need to address. They should not allow people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to such a a level of impairment to board. However, it is not always apparent.

Once the flight is underway, it is a very difficult problem to resolve, especially if the flight is full. I do think it may have been more appropriate to ask the passenger to move. However, if the passenger would then have been relocated to sit next to someone else and cause discomfort to them, that would not have resolved the issue. I assume, as you were in first class, by asking your wife to move the she was then alone with noone seated next to her.

On the issue of battery.. whilst it is technically battery, I don't know any criminal jurisdiction that would criminally pursue a case of touching where there was no injury or sexual motive. At best you might have a civil tort.

The other passenger's conduct was offensive. United has an obligation to all the passengers onboard and really need to take stronger action to prevent people who are under the influence from boarding. Once onboard, they should be seen to take firm action, issuing warning as to conduct and issuing bans from future flights.. right up to having the police meet the plane. The captain becoming involved should only happen in extremis. There has already been a case where a captain (I think pre 911), came back to talk to a disruptive passenger on a flight from Spain to the UK and was assaulted. This could impair the captain's ability to fly and is ill-advised. If the issue can be contained by the cabin crew, it should be.

However, there is little that can be done now to resolve this to your satisfaction other than an offer of compensation. I always find it interesting how airlines place a value on the discomfort of passengers. For example, often the difference in price between first class and economy is very large, but the compensation offered if you don't receive a first class service is very small. That appears to be the case here. $250 dollar credit doesn't seem much to me, but what would be? You may be taking the only action you can... negative publicity and don't fly them again.
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  #3  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 12:34 PM
Robert Kvavik Robert Kvavik is offline
 
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We asked them to refund the difference between the coach and first class ticket, which I think would have been fair. It still doesn't excuse the poor performance of the airline. As a company, by their token response, they are comfortable with writing us off as a future customer.

I agree with your comments. However, with respect to injury, my wife was totally stressed out and upset by this experience. Our only real recourse is to afford them the bad publicity they so rightly deserve and to report them to the federal aviation agency and members of Congress who sit on the airline regulatory agencies, which I have done.

Bottom line, they really don't care! The customer be damned.
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  #4  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 1:09 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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US airlines since de-regulation have carefully crafted what amounts to the carve up of the airline market, through massive "fortress hubs", which create effective monopolies. They fight any effort to amend the deregulation legislation and against giving the states any power to enforce basic consumer rights against airlines. (They have a specific exemption from state enforcement). They are also exempt from anti-trust legislation. This massive imbalance between consumer rights and the rights of these corporate monoliths does indeed mean they don't care, nor respond to, consumer threats to "never fly with them again". This is because they know that they have such a grip on the schedules of specific markets, the consumer has little choice. All the legacy carriers do this, and this fortress hub model is high anti-competitive. Until congress acts to re-regulate the industry and control this, airlines will not respond to consumers. They are acting exactly the way the "robber barons" acted before regulation at the end of the 19th Century and will continue to do so, until congress takes action. They pay millions in lobbying fees to prevent this. It seems you can bribe your way to keep monopoly powers in the US.
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  #5  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 6:05 PM
PHXFlyer PHXFlyer is offline
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Originally Posted by jimworcs View Post
US airlines since de-regulation have carefully crafted what amounts to the carve up of the airline market, through massive "fortress hubs", which create effective monopolies. They fight any effort to amend the deregulation legislation and against giving the states any power to enforce basic consumer rights against airlines. (They have a specific exemption from state enforcement). They are also exempt from anti-trust legislation.
Jim you keep saying this but it is not true. I can see why you would say this since any time an airline has sought anti-trust immunity in the past several years (America West's "merger" with US Airways and the infamous Delta/Northwest "merger") it has been granted but they do have to go through the motions of the process and there is no "blanket waiver" in effect.

As for the states having no power this is why the enforcement arm of the DOT was created. It seems that under the new administration the DOT has been much more aggressive in doling out fines for gross infractions of the established rules and regulations. The FAA has also been much more on top of things in the past year. Even though those fines seem like a drop in the bucket it still goes against the bottom line and the airlines are still accountable to their stockholders. Too many of these fines and you'll probably start to see a few CEO's heads on a silver platter.
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  #6  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 7:00 PM
Robert Kvavik Robert Kvavik is offline
 
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This may be a minor event on the broader scope of airline regulation, but several years ago, US Airways served alcohol to a passenger, who was allegedly intoxicated upon boarding, became more intoxicated on board, proceeded to buy a six-pack of beer after leaving the Albuquerque airport, and then when he got to Santa Fe, entered I 25 going in the wrong direction and killed a van full of people in a head-on collision. He survived.

New Mexico in response suspended US Airways' right to serve alcohol on any flights serving New Mexico. This has survived various court battles and as far as I know, US Air still cannot serve alcohol on their PHX-ABQ flights.

United served the ill-behaved passenger I wrote about a significant amount of wine while on board probably exacerbating the situation.
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  #7  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 8:51 PM
Butch Cassidy Slept Here Butch Cassidy Slept Here is offline
 
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I guess this is an example of "the luck of the draw" working in the favor of the drunk, and against the OP, or an example where a "Sky Nazi" could have benefited the OP. FAA regulations make the mere CONDITION of being drunk in flight a violation---regardless of what the drunk subsequently does or does not do. While the "sympathizers," et al, will, doubtless, screem foul I think it's fair to say there are a FEW flight attendants ("Sky Nazis") who would seize upon a situation like this as a basis for having police meet the flight.

Again, this is a case where United should be forced to justify its actions in a small claims court---even if the OP loses. The OP should file a small claims action demanding a CASH payment (refund) representing the difference between the coach and first class fares. It would be interesting to see if the United flight attendant lies, and denies she ever moved the OP’s wife. Requesting the issuer of the credit card used to pay the fare to "charge-back" said fare difference is another option. However, if the OP is successful by using the latter route United may choose to try to recover the "charge-back" by having a collection agency harass the OP.
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Last edited by Butch Cassidy Slept Here; Dec 6, 2009 at 8:55 PM.
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  #8  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 9:50 PM
PHXFlyer PHXFlyer is offline
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Originally Posted by Robert Kvavik View Post
This may be a minor event on the broader scope of airline regulation, but several years ago, US Airways served alcohol to a passenger, who was allegedly intoxicated upon boarding, became more intoxicated on board, proceeded to buy a six-pack of beer after leaving the Albuquerque airport, and then when he got to Santa Fe, entered I 25 going in the wrong direction and killed a van full of people in a head-on collision. He survived.
Actually, he did not. There is this website called Google where one can research things before posting mis-information. Five of the six passengers in the van were killed.
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  #9  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 9:57 PM
Robert Kvavik Robert Kvavik is offline
 
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We have witnesses including the United agent who met the plane and to whom the incident was confirmed by the flight attendants.

However, taking them to court isn't worth the time and effort. We will remain an "unfortunate additional statistic" in the federal records.
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  #10  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 10:39 PM
PHXFlyer PHXFlyer is offline
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Maybe taking United to court isn't worth the effort but have you considered civil action against the other passenger? An attorney should be able to subpoena United to find out her identity.
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  #11  
Old Dec 6, 2009, 11:49 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Phx, the airlines who are part of alliances such as OneWorld, Skyteam and StarAlliance all have anti-trust immunity from the federal government and to allow them to participate in IATA meetings.

On the substantive point.. airlines continue to sell or serve alcohol, often to passengers who are clearly intoxicated. Some airlines incentivise their staff by paying them commission on cart sales. The more they sell, the higher their wages. It is wrong and the response of United is wholly inadequate.
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Old Mar 13, 2010, 11:18 PM
rerere rerere is offline
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Next time, take a boat.
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  #13  
Old Mar 14, 2010, 1:10 AM
ChrisH ChrisH is offline
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So now airlines are responsible for determining whether someone has had too much to drink? If a grown adult isn't mature enough to know their limits, it isn't the airlines fault. US Airways being denied serving alcohol on flights into New Mexico? Okay, whatever New Mexico wants. But, USAirways didn't give that person a set of car keys, and ask him to go drive down the wrong side of the road. I find it funny how nobody wants to take responsibility for human stupidity in today's world, but would rather point the finger at something else.

I will call my manager up tomorrow, for the airline I used to work for (I no longer work for the airlines) and will tell him to bring up in his next meeting at the company headquarters that the airlines should start doing breathalizers on all passengers during boarding, and deny boarding to anybody over a certain limit. They can add another fee for that service as well.

I think USAirways did what they could in this situation. It isn't right to move the passenger who is causing a problem to one passenger, to another seat, where they may cause a problem with someone totally different. It made sense to move your wife, since your wife wouldn't have been an issue to someone else. This left the drunk woman by herself. I can see refunding the difference, since your wife was moved to coach, but it was of her own choice, and she could have said no. I don't think touching someone constitutes calling the police, unless by touching you mean she did so in an inappropriate, sexual way. If it was simply she placed her hand on her, in a friendly manner, like people do all of the time, that far from constitutes calling the police, or having the flight crew get involved. I guess they should have diverted the flight, and had police standing by? I'm sure if this drunk woman would have been disruptive during flight, and caused serious concern for safety, they would have done that, but it sounds to me simply like your wife got aggrevated with the woman, and made more of it than it probably was.

Also, bars and clubs regularly sell alcohol to people who are knowingly intoxicated. People leave those establishments and kill people all of the time, unfortunately. The airlines are allowed to sell, and serve alcohol, just like those establishments. Most people do not get drunk on an airplane, like at a bar, and as long as it is allowed, by the government, than you cannot fault the airlines for doing it. That is ridiculous. It isn't the airline's responsibility to monitor a grown adults alcohol consumption, nor what they do once they leave the airport!

Last edited by ChrisH; Mar 14, 2010 at 1:15 AM.
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Old Mar 15, 2010, 12:05 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Quote:
It isn't the airline's responsibility to monitor a grown adults alcohol consumption
Actually, ChrisH.. under the terms of the their license to sell liquor, I think you will find that it is absolutely their responsbility to monitor grown adults alcohol consumption. You will also find that this rule also applies the bars and clubs in most States. This is precisely why New Mexico was able to take action against US Airways.

Whilst I agree with you that individual are responsible for their own actions, you are wrong to suggest or imply that the person selling the liquor has no responsibilities in this regard.
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Old Jun 12, 2010, 5:58 PM
flyflewflown flyflewflown is offline
 
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To clarify the passenger's request that the The captain should have dealt with the woman...Incorrect, and also prohibited! Due to 9/11, the cockpit crew is not allowed to leave the cockpit in flight to handle disruptive passengers--the thought being that potential terrorists could be staging some diversion in an attempt to get into the cockpit. Regardless how out of hand a situation gets inflight, do not expect a pilot to appear, because it's not going to happen.
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Old Jun 20, 2010, 4:17 AM
eAAgleguy eAAgleguy is offline
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Yes, flyflewflown, not only is it not allowed, but I don't know many people who would want a pilot to leave the cockpit in flight to deal with someone who is touching and "singling" out.

Complaining about the flight crew and United customer relations? I'm going to complain about the lady in 1C who has a husband who won't SWITCH SEATS WITH HER to solve the problem. You let your wife get moved out of first class!?!?!?! Were you in the middle of a meal, a drink, or a nap that you weren't willing to interrupt for her?!
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Old Jun 20, 2010, 4:32 AM
The_Judge The_Judge is offline
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Welcome eAAgleguy. Nice to have a new airline guy onboard.

Just a friendly reminder under the rules that can be found in the FAQ section....

"If you are affiliated with the Airline Industry, you are required to express that affiliation upon registration. Failure to do so is grounds for permanent banning."

Register asap as we don't want you getting kicked out before you had a chance to hang around for a bit.
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  #18  
Old Jun 20, 2010, 2:43 PM
eAAgleguy eAAgleguy is offline
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Thanks, Troy. I looked when I signed up and just looked again and don't see where to admit to working for the airlines.

I bet you would have switched your seat to quickly and easily solved the problem!
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Old Jun 20, 2010, 5:55 PM
AirlineComplaints.org AirlineComplaints.org is offline
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Originally Posted by eAAgleguy View Post
I looked when I signed up and just looked again and don't see where to admit to working for the airlines.
You can do so here: http://www.airlinecomplaints.org/pro...editusergroups
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Old Jun 20, 2010, 8:47 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Quote:
I signed up and just looked again and don't see where to admit to working for the airlines.
Welcome aboard eAAgleGuy, even though you admit to such a sin!! lol
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  #21  
Old Jun 30, 2010, 2:40 AM
Robert Kvavik Robert Kvavik is offline
 
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I wasn't on the plane. Had that been the case, it wouldn't have been an issue. And I never suggested the pilot come out and talk to a passenger. How stupid is that! But I do think that something could have been done after the flight was completed. Nothing as far as I can tell was ever done.

And to chrisH, I suspect if someone repeatedly kept touching you after you asked them to stop, you'd have probably taken some action too and been complaining. We are not talking about a friendly pat. I suppose you would have cheerfully moved.

In any event, I didn't bother wasting time going to a court. What I have done is never fly United again, which I suspect doesn't bother them either, even a platinum flyer.
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