Air Marshal Sues Because He Was Denied Onboard Meal Choice, Predeparture Beverage Spilled on Him

Perhaps the most surprising thing, looking over the last 14 years of air travel, is that we haven’t had another 9/11. Put a different way, thinking back on travel in the weeks and months that followed it sure felt different back then, that air travel was less safe than it used to be. But nearly a decade and a half of experience now suggests otherwise.

What’s changed since 9/11 is that a terrorist could no longer get control of a passenger aircraft the way they once could.

Decades of experience up to that point led practice to be that a hijacker could direct a pilot to fly somewhere, there would be negotiations, and most passengers would eventually be safe. Post-9/11, hijackers do not get access to the cockpit (in fact, cockpit doors have been reinforced) and passengers do not sit idly by assuming that if they play it cool they’ll be safe. Anyone posing a risk to an aircraft is immediately the target of everyone on board.

Against this changed backdrop we have air marshals flying around the skies. They are on a very small percentage of flights, and it’s obvious who they are when they board (even though their dress code now instructs them to blend in, they board first and conspicuously identify themselves to gate agents).

They more or less fly around uselessly. And with the exception of a few assigned routes, they can arrange their schedules to fly more or less where they wish. So they go on vacation for work, and they meet up with each other for sexual liasons. That’s not a threat to the skies, because air marshals receive insufficient training to protect a plane if something did happen and they happened to be onboard.

But don’t mess with their authoritah. (HT: One Mile at a Time)

An air marshal was served a predeparture beverage but the flight attendant spilled the drink on him (i.e. he was wasting a premium cabin seat).

He is suing because:

  • he claims the flight attendant walked “away without apologizing … or offering to clean the spill,” and he says she laughed.

  • there were three meal choices on the flight, but he was only offered the beef (the airline was either taking meal orders based on status and full fare, or he was seated where he’d be asked last)

  • he approached the cockpit to report these incidents to the captain, and threatened “to report the incidents to the TSA’s Mission Operation Center in Washington, D.C.”

  • and after all that, the captain responded in the most appropriate awesome way ever:

    “Are you mad? Because I don’t want a mad person with a gun on my plane,” the captain said, according to the suit.

    “I didn’t serve 21 f—–g years in the military being shot at so that you can threaten me with a phone call!” the captain said, according to court papers.

    Maldonado made good on his threat, but the captain barred him from getting back on the plane.

The air marshal was suspended for seven days — which means he was deemed temperamentally suitable to return to the skies with a weapon after only a week. He claims that seven day suspension was retaliatory.

While I don’t suspect the flight attendant spilled a drink on him on purpose, I hope that a future flight attendant will.

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. What an arrogant post. Yes the guy was wrong and most likely a jackass, but you sound like a bigger one saying they are all useless. I highly doubt if you were on a plane without an Air Marshal that you’d be first up to tackle someone.

  2. @Tyler–

    “…most likely a jackass?”. LIKELY? The captain was totally in the right, as anyone with a weapon and displaying that kind of behavior is not of sound mind,

  3. Sounds like a “he said, she said” incident, with too many facts missing. Not enough info to take sides. My impression is 1 clumsy waitress, and 2 men who were both reacting instead of being calm. But who knows. The truth will never come out.

  4. @Tyler: When was the last time you were on a plane and someone needed tackling? I’ve flown over a million miles and it’s never happened on any of my flights. Air marshals are a huge waste of money.

  5. And the rest of the story. And all you need to know to realize the marshal has a problem.

    “Maldonado was suspended for seven days following the incident which occurred in August 2012 and is now suing the Transport Security Administration’s (TSA) Mission Operation Center in Washington, D.C.
    He claims he was demoted because of the incident and his bosses used it against him claiming he had anger management issues and needed counseling.
    He alleges that his superiors at the TSA had been mistreating him because he had also filed two discrimination complaints in 2007.
    Maldonado, who is from Puerto Rico, alleged that his white colleagues who had been caught drinking on duty while armed were not treated as harshly as he was.”

  6. Let’s see. Guns, booze, food and drink flying everywhere, armed men with attitudes and pilots who don’t realize they’re not special while the airplane is still on the ground, flight attendants with textbook passive-aggressive issues, and of course lawyers. It sounds a lot like “Cheers”. Let’s shoot a pilot and sell it to a network — no, no, not that kind of pilot.

  7. Retired Federal LEO here. I watched a good number of fellow agents go over the the Air Marshal program after 9/11. Yep, mostly all useless people and a HUGE waste of gummint money, that is for sure. That guy, obviously a problem child, management knows it and they will try and get rid of him if he gets enough cases of punishment in a specific period of time.

  8. At the very best I’ve always thought this program was a misappropriation of funds that could be used more effectively elsewhere (as is much of what the TSA does).. Let’s wind it down, except perhaps in response to a specific concern or as an occasional check of operational systems.

  9. Has it ever been reported how many air marshals there actually are?

    I’ve always had the impression that it was quickly realized that this program wasn’t going to be very cost-effective, and that not many marshals were actually deployed. Obviously, making terrorists think there are more marshals than there really are would be a smart move.

    Logic would suggest keeping the program — both for its “you never know if there’s a marshall on-board” aspect and for their availability to fly in response to specific threats. But if there’s more than a couple dozen marshals out there, a RIF would seem in order.

  10. @iahphx. – don’t know the answer to your specific question regarding the total number of Air Marshals in the TSA. However, on the particular flight in this lawsuit, Agent Maldonado was one of FOUR (4) Air Marshals on that flight. Remember that the next time your upgrade doesn’t clear. We need to get rid of these bozos and soon. Let them party on someone else’s dime.

  11. @Bob — has it been explained why their were 4 air marshals about one flight? Any flight that “needs” 4 marshals probably shouldn’t be flying. 🙂

  12. Sorry, I have drop from your mailing list. I come here for news not personal opinion or ramblings.
    Please consider going back to when the information was value add to the industry and readers. You have modified your approach which may or may not be working for you. Not for me, unfortunately. You have to much completion out there. I look forward to a change. I will keep checking back periodically.

  13. This seems like news. It’s also something I wrote two years ago. So I’m not sure how it suggests I am now writing something different than what I was writing before? Thanks for checking back periodically!

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