Flight Diverts When United Passengers “Riot” After Being Caught Self-Upgrading

On Thursday night United Airlines flight UA90 from Newark to Tel Aviv turned around and flew back to Newark after a dispute between passengers and flight attendants turned ugly.

Two individuals decided that they needed the comfort of empty business class seats for the long journey across the Atlantic and onward to the Mideast, even though they hadn’t paid for the seats. A flight attendant caught the self-upgraders, and disagreed vehemently. The passengers didn’t return to their assigned seats, though, and in the words of someone else in the cabin began to “riot.”

The Boeing 787-10 departed at 11:03 p.m. and by the time it made it to the U.S. – Canada border the captain decided to turn around. The airline initially rescheduled for a 2:20 a.m. departure, but the aircraft’s crew didn’t have duty hours let and United was unable to source replacement crew that late so they ultimately cancelled the flight.

When the plane arrived back at Newark, officers took the self-upgraders into custody.

According to United Airlines,

United flight 90 from New York/Newark to Tel Aviv on 20 January 2022 returned to New York/Newark Airport due to disruptive passengers on board. Law enforcement officials met the aircraft upon landing. The flight was subsequently cancelled. Our team at New York/Newark have provided our customers with meal vouchers and hotel accommodation and have made arrangements for customers to complete their journeys.

It’s amazing that things escalate this way. If you’re self-upgrading, you’re taking a shot that it’ll work. It usually doesn’t, at least on U.S. and European carriers. Once you’re caught, your gamble didn’t pay off. Proceeding to argue with the flight crew, let alone becoming belligerent, isn’t an effective way to prosecute your position (unless your position is that you want to be prosecuted). You have a weak hand to play, and at that point should throw in the towel, to mix metaphors – not go all in.

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

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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Comments

  1. Airlines should start carrying parachutes and be given the legal authority require unruly passengers to continue their journey with one. They might also add life preservers when over water.

  2. Other passengers should be allowed to sue the disruptive passenger (s). I’m sure this type of behavior would stop very quickly.

  3. Hope they are charges with the highest possible offence – highjacking, terrorism, and jailed for a long long stretch.
    Consider the cost to the airline, the inconvenience to the other passengers and these criminals with their entitlement could carte a jot
    Jail them!

  4. It’s a big loss for the airline as well as for the passengers. However if the airlines doesn’t stand their grounds passengers will play musical chairs which would create chaos on future flights. Besides not being fair for those passengers that pay for their economy seats.
    So I give up to United.

  5. It’s a big loss for the airline as well as for the passengers. However if the airlines doesn’t stand their grounds passengers will play musical chairs which would create chaos on future flights. Besides not being fair for those passengers that pay for their economy seats. So I give thumbs up to United and all other carriers that stands their ground against airline abuse.
    You get what you pay for.

  6. Criminal charges should apply, of course. Also, the airline and/or individual passengers should also sue in civil court for damages.

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