American Airlines Kicks Off First Class Robin Hood For Sending Drinks Back to Coach

Justin Ross Lee is known for playing Robin Hood and taking bottles of first class champagne and running through the economy cabin and pouring it for passengers.

Flavor Flav once passed out peanuts and pretzels on a plane in a supposed effort to democratize air travel.

But don’t try this at home kids. Katie Genter writes that on American Airlines flight 1862 from Philadelphia to Atlanta on Saturday a first class passenger was kicked off the plane for sending too many predeparture beverages back to coach.

The flight is operated by an Airbus A319 with just 8 first class seats (far too few for the route!) and this passenger was sitting in bulkhead window seat 1A. It’s a flight out of a legacy US Airways hub so predeparture beverages are possible.

The man ordered a drink. Then as boarding was finishing he asked for two more. The flight attendant refused, saying he could “only order one drink at a time” — so he ordered a double for himself and also for the woman sitting beside him whom he did not know.

Both drinks were delivered. He headed back to coach with two cocktails, but the first class flight attendant stopped him. He argued he should be able to leave his ticketed cabin to go to the bathroom, she told him to use the one in First. Then he tried to have his friends in coach come up to collect their drinks. That didn’t work either.

And the man was kicked off the flight, while his friends were allowed to remain.

The 12:54pm departure time passed with the boarding door still open. Ten minutes after scheduled departure an American Airlines representative boarded the plane with a printout and asked to speak with 1A in the jetway. I couldn’t hear the discussion, but 1A returned to get his carry-on baggage and left the plane with no further comments.

Katie Genter says ordering drinks and sending them back to coach “can and should get you removed from a flight.” I’m not so sure.

Some airlines — like American’s anti-trust immunized revenue-sharing joint venture partner British Airways even — will allow passengers to come up to your cabin to share a drink with you. I’ve flown up front while a work colleague road in back and I sent my ice cream sundae dessert back out of guilt.

As a coach passenger on American I’ve used my Executive Platinum status to get a free drink and snack, even when I didn’t want either, to make the day of a neighbor in my row just a little bit better.

In my view it’s always a good idea to bring the flight attendant in on the plot though, not try to sneak something by them. What do you think?

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 don’t think he should have been kicked off the flight, but obviously he was making unnecessary extra work for the flight attendant, who was trying to enforce several company policies while also attending to all the other passengers. He was out of line here. Buy them a drink when you get to Atlanta.

  2. Preflight service is always hard for FAs. They are trying to do five things at once. People are getting seated, there are all the regular arguments about overhead bin space, etc. Then this guy makes it more difficult by wandering around the cabin to drink with his buddies? There’s a difference between asking the FA if you can send a drink back to your friend once the flight is underway and deciding to try to trick the crew and serve alcohol to other passengers yourself. Throwing him off the flight was 100% the correct decision. ‍♀️

  3. One issue is controlling alcohol consumption. Having flow on several long distance flights to FRA I have seen people past their limit. The cabin attendants and only the cabin attendants should be providing alcoholic drinks.

  4. Depends on how one spins this story. You are leaving out Quite a bit of details that were reported by other bloggers. That don’t go with the Robin Hood theme. Plus calling him Robin Hood. Shows the power of being a writer and exercising what details to report in making your case. Very interesting though reading this same story as reported by different sources. Like listening to CNN or Fox. More interesting to spin the tale. You are entertaining for sure.

  5. This is a low class version of stealing cooling gel pillows. This clown is not a Robin Hood. He is a nuisance.

  6. Gary, I’m hoping your behavior did not compare to this guys, though. Comparing your experience to his is doing yourself a disservice.

  7. I’m mostly with Gary on this one. From the other stories it sounds like he was kicked off primarily for being a rowdy asshole that no one else wanted to deal with. While obviously against the rules, I don’t think trying to pass the drinks back would have gotten him kicked off if people weren’t already annoyed at his group for being rowdy and annoying. Unclear why the flight attendant delivered a second drink to the lady in the seat next to him if it really was obvious she didn’t want it and didn’t know him.

  8. Gary wrote: “I’ve flown up front while a work colleague road in back and I sent my ice cream sundae dessert back out of guilt.”

    An Absolute LIE. Gary never feels guilt, even if the doctor said ice cream causes high cholesterol levels.

  9. @ Gary — I wish the FAs would enforce “He argued he should be able to leave his ticketed cabin to go to the bathroom, she told him to use the one in First. ” in reverse. Coach dwellers should never be allowed into First Class.

  10. @ Gene- “Never”? How about when the bev. cart is blocking the way to the coach lavs? Lighten up.

  11. Yeah, such generosity with other people’s money. I wonder how the FA would have reacted if he asked to pay for the drinks he wanted to send back to coach. Guessing he wouldn’t have been kicked off the flight.

  12. @Gene – you must be a fun guy (read: motherfucker), I hope you shit your pants and die

  13. What a DYKWIA! Agree with Robert F – If “Robin Hood” really wanted to be generous to the folks sitting in steerage, he could offer to buy them all drinks. Otherwise, what does he do when the one bottle he’s pouring from runs out – break into the plane’s liquor cabinet? I wouldn’t lose any sleep if this moron was booted off of the airlines for life.

  14. Passing out drinks without FA knowledge is the same concept as bringing and serving your own booze. FAs need to be able to keep tabs on how much people are drinking for safety reasons. It’s one thing to tell the FA to give someone else your drink and another to just freely hand them over to a stranger.

  15. Only issue I have for this is that he did it with PDBs. Flight’s trying to get out on time and that’s just gonna piss off any FA.

    Once they’re in the air? Let it flow, dude.

  16. @Gary —> To me, the answer is simple. Passenger “1A” was booted off the flight NOT because of the “PDB” but because he pissed off the FA and AA in general.

    1. He definitely should NOT have been allowed past the gate with excessive carry-on luggage. He should have been forced to check the extras right then and there as a condition of being allowed to board. With AA’s gate crew having failed at that, and 1A then ignoring the FA, the in-flight crew was already predisposed (by 1A’s own actions) to dislike the passenger, to be irritated by his “jerkiness” and selfish attitude, and to be en garde re: any future missteps/bad behavior.

    2. Sending a PDB back to his friends is NOT a huge deal. I’ve done it several times.¹ However, since he was already placed on the “watch list” for this flight by the crew, this was all it took to give him the heave-ho.

    Was 1A a self-entitled, obnoxious jerk? Absolutely! Should he have been kicked off the plane for the PDB? No, absolutely not. Should he have been denied boarding for failing to comply with FAA regulations with regard to carry-on baggage? Yes, absolutely!

    ¹ Admittedly, however, I always asked the FA to send it back; I’ve never tried to deliver it myself.

  17. All this for internet fame? What a douche! Just buy the drinks for your bros… dude!

  18. So easy to play Robin Hood, when the airline is supplying the booze.

    Why doesn’t that Jew bring his own Champagne to the airport and serve the plebs before going through security?


  19. The problem here is that its an FAA regulation that only air cabin crew can serve alcoholic beverages. This violates the CFR and the airline and the flight attendants could have been fined had there been FAA or DOT inspectors on board.

  20. @WilliamC —> I take it you were referring to Justin Ross Lee, the man in the Twitter photo pouring a bottle of Dom Pérignon to passengers in Coach. I’ll even give you the benefit of the doubt that, in referring to him as “that Jew,” you did so due to the fact he self-identified as “the Jewish Robin Hood” and not as the well known epithet derogatorily to people who happen to be Jewish. But I *am* somewhat surprised you’d make the remark at all as Mr. Lee was NOT the subject nor focus of the article, but rather “Passenger 1A,” neither his identity nor his religious affiliation is known.

  21. one time while flying back to the states from Copenhagen my seatmate was a female golfer and it was her birthday. I went to a FC fa and asked if she had any champaign and glasses for the b’day gal got both and had a nice drink.

  22. Mr. McDaniels was too drunk, stupid and/or obnoxious to even take his rebooked flight 2 hours later, how anyone could think AA wasn’t right to throw him off after his behavior is beyond explanation, kudos to AA on this one.

  23. Agree with those who think Gary left out key details; to the extent that maybe he has a relationship with the offender. This guy is another Casey Neistat (sp?) – trying to make a name for himself and make money off social media. He wasn’t trying to ‘help’ anyone – shameless self-promoter.

    Bottom line: you’re a guest on their airplane – accept their rules and rulings, silly or not, or get used to taking trains/ships/cars/buses. I hope AA bans him – and the rest of OneWorld also. Would hate to get stuck on a flight with him.

  24. This is in line with the behavior of many (not all) FAs. Outside the plane they are just another girl, subject to the same treatment as any. Inside the plane, some feel they are The Law. She could have just let him do it, and scold him if he took too long or blocked the aisles, or just told him “I’ll do it for you”. But throwing a tantrum and kicking a passenger out sound far more theatrical.

  25. The main issue here that everyone seems to not know or is overlooking is the fact that FAA, Federal Aviation Administration sets strict rules and guidelines for Flight attendants and those in aviation to follow. The First class passenger, by attempting to serve drinks to his friends broke a FAA rule. Rule # 14 CFR 121.575, which states that drinks can only be served by the Flight Attendant. The FAA enforces these rules and the Flight Attendant and the airline would have been in violation of the rule had she let the First Class passenger serve passengers alcohol. Crew are required to file a report of instances of breaking rule 121. 575 to the FAA within 5 days. These violations carry steep penalties from the FAA.

  26. FWIW: the full text of 14 CFR 121.575
    (Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter I, Subchapter G, Part 121, Subpart T, Section 121.575)

    § 121.575 Alcoholic beverages.
    (a) No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.

    (b) No certificate holder may serve any alcoholic beverage to any person aboard any of its aircraft who –
    — (1) Appears to be intoxicated;
    — (2) Is escorting a person or being escorted in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.221; or
    — (3) Has a deadly or dangerous weapon accessible to him while aboard the aircraft in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.219, 1544.221, or 1544.223.

    (c) No certificate holder may allow any person to board any of its aircraft if that person appears to be intoxicated.

    (d) Each certificate holder shall, within five days after the incident, report to the Administrator the refusal of any person to comply with paragraph (a) of this section, or of any disturbance caused by a person who appears to be intoxicated aboard any of its aircraft.


    Now, I have been *told* — and thus, this may or may not be true — that paragraph (a) has a loophole in that the word “served” is used instead of “sold.” It was written that way to permit airlines to give away free alcoholic drinks to passengers (think F w/Champagne or the bar open to VS Upper Class passengers). The loophole is the aspect of BYOB with the original writers did not anticipate.

    In terms of EVERY INCIDENT of someone being intoxicated and doing something stupid, obnoxious, or dangerous (which Gary loves to post about), these incidents would NEVER HAPPEN if airlines followed paragraphs (b)(1) and (c).

    In the FWIW mode, “(3) Has a deadly or dangerous weapon accessible to him while aboard the aircraft in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.219, 1544.221, or 1544.223,” these sections refer to Law Enforcement, the transfer of prisoners, and Air Marshalls, respectively.

  27. I’ve seen several comments about sending drinks back to coach with the flight attendants. WE DON’T DO THAT. Actually, pre-merger American used to allow a FC passenger to take something to a friend in coach themselves but the FA would not do it. Post-merger policy is that neither is permitted.

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