The Most Persistent Self Upgrader Ever, Dragged Off Flight After Drinking Stolen Champagne in the Aisles

Saturday night’s United Shanghai – Newark flight, UA87, was delayed a couple of hours when a man (not identified, but speculated to be a professor at Southwest University of Finance and Economics) engaged in one of the most persistent self-upgrade schemes I’ve seen.

The man was apparently caught multiple times trying to seat himself in business class, and apparently stole champagne from up front and drank it walking through the aisles. A veritable Chinese Justin Ross Lee.

Crew ejected him from the flight but he refused to leave so police were called. It apparently took the help of passengers, and zip ties from onboard the aircraft, to drag the man off. He went kicking and screaming, laying down in the aisle. Three officers were injured to some degree during the struggle.

No word whether he was self-upgrading from economy plus or economy minus, but he was at least dedicated to securing a seat in legacy Continental 777 business class (six across) rather than United’s legacy 777 dorm-style eight across business seats. That hardly would have seemed worth the effort.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m saddened that parents are paying thousands to have this man teach their children. Shouldn’t an economics professor know about using points?

  2. Wow!!! All this trouble for a seat and champagne served on United? If it was on Emirates or Singapore it was probably worth the hassle but on United??? :(((

  3. It’s funny see people struggle with their phones in an attempt to take videos or pictures.

  4. Looks like he did it while still at the gate?

    Thank goodness then rather than in the air with a diversion and more.

    1.5 hours delay is OK for the entertainment and story here.

  5. Can we do the same thing to people who lie about having a disability to take their pets on for free?

  6. Clearly this “professor” doesn’t know about points or about Champagne. UA does not serve Champagne on the ground, reserving it for after take-off, so he’ll have stolen the wrong stuff. Clearly our professor is a bright spark.

  7. The Chinese really are a juvenile society. You should read the reviews from Western travelers who have cruise with them on Royal Caribbean from Shanghai. It’s like right out of the rice paddy and into civilization!

  8. Lee is actually a great person, today we should be celebrating his great creativity, courage, and spirit. He embodies what is inherently a human adventurous and incessant effort in the face of mass negativity. Columbus, Galileo, Joan of Ark, what our society will be without someone like Lee? Nothing but a rigid, cold life-less routine merely roaming through one’s short stay in this world!

  9. this is sad. obviously there were no US Air Marshals on this flight, and obviously the Chinese Police don’t seem too competent…One of them looks as if he has given up dealing with this guy. No wonder this flight took off so late. Have the Chinese Police heard of handcuffs?

  10. Back before I switched to American, I preferred the 8 across United seats (although usually flew 767’s which were 2-2-2), as the foot-cubbies of the B/E Aerospace Continental Seat is too small for me.

    Of course, if you ask me, its lucky this guy was on a UA 772, I’m not sure he’d actually be able to lay down flat in a 77W’s aisle!

  11. We call them Squaters, or protesters in America.

    It takes at least 69 days to get a non paying renter out of a property.

    Glad they had a quick eviction process.

  12. Why aren’t Chinese cops armed? Taser, pepper spray, baton, anything? If this guy was an actual threat those cops would have been useless in stopping him.

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