Breakdown: Woman Can’t Face the Idea of Four Hours in a United Coach Middle Seat

It’s hard to imagine anything worse than flying Newark – Hong Kong on United in coach, traveling for more than an entire day on the airline, diverting and not getting where you’re going, and winding up back in Newark.

But every single day an inner battle boils in the skies, just below the service, threatening to bubble over. Coach passengers, packed in and sitting on slimline seats with less padding than passengers have been used to for years, facing the prospect of what the next several hours of their life will be like.

Tensions are running high, and people are thrown together from all walks of life. A side effect of traveling being more affordable than ever is that the skies are incredible small-d democratic, a true Mos Eisley spaceport melting pot. We all bring our own baggage and who knows how it’s going to come out?

A passenger videotaped a woman melting down after boarding her United flight. She said she had four hours ahead of her in a middle seat.

She declares “I can’t do this.” Later, “I can’t breathe I’m so squished.” It’s the United seats but she complains also about the size of the two passengers on either side of her. She says she’s small in comparison (she isn’t), “I eat salad.”

Her seatmate in the window though can’t take it and asks a flight attendant to find the ranting woman a new seat “because I will not be verbally abused…”

The flight attendant asks the woman in the middle to get out, stand in the back, and says they’ll find a new seat for her. This woman is leaving her seat but gets into a verbal altercation with the woman from the window seat, who we learn is a MileagePlus Platinum elite.

Look at those slimline seats. Four hours is a long time without padding in the seats. The last time I flew in those United seats – in November – I was on a three hour flight and at least was in an aisle seat. I could easily get up a few times, stand in the aisle, stretch my back.

I don’t want to sit in United slimline coach for four hours. I don’t want to sit in a United slimline coach middle seat for four hours. But know that regardless of where you’re sitting, whom you sit next to is a matter of chance and there’s not a lot you can do. She was lucky this flight wasn’t full. It’s really better to approach these things in a friendly manner, or risk getting kicked off the flight or even David Dao’d down the aisle.

Bizarrely things really broke down after the excellent and helpful United flight attendant had already intervened to help. What’s with people?

To make the story absolutely perfect, as the woman is headed towards the back she gets yelled at by Jonathan Fernandez of Love & Hip Hop

That has to be the ultimate indignity.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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