I’ve Criticized Airlines a Lot Lately. These Two Passengers Are Worse.

Earlier in the month two passengers turned up late in Los Angeles for an American Airlines flight to Phoenix. They’re at Gate 52F for an American Eagle flight (operated by Envoy). And they showed up as the doors closed 10 minutes to departure.

And they went ballistic. They believe they have a right to be on the flight because they have boarding passes. They wanted the standby passengers given their seats to be pulled off. Their bags were supposed to be checked onto the flight, they want to be on the flight.

Not only did they make it known, they made is known loud and proud and didn’t let go (“are you f’ing out of your f’ing mind” the male passenger yells at the gate agent).

They claimed they had to wait for the bus out to the midfield concourse for too long and that’s why they’re late. I do believe they had to wait for the bus, and I hate when that happens.

The woman claims she has to be on the flight so she can do open heart surgery in the morning. She also says she’s a cardiologist, and cardiologists don’t generally do major surgeries.

If she were really supposed to perform heart surgery in the morning, and there was no one to back her up, what’s she doing cutting it so close to the departure time? Or even being out of town in the first place since flights cancel all the time for reasons outside an airline’s control. So she’s either a liar or the most irresponsible surgeon in the country.

Commenters on the video’s Facebook thread claim she’s a nurse or nurse’s assistant in a plastic surgery office. “The man ends up in handcuffs. She ends up bawling on the floor.”

I’m a strong opponent of turning customer service problems into law enforcement problems, but the male passenger wasn’t just loud he was menacing and physically in the face of the employees. And they let him go on for some time before law enforcement got involved.

The Envoy Air shift manager and the gate agent in the video dealing with the passengers remain professional throughout. Kudos!

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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  1. I wonder if they really had their bags checked in. Wouldn’t the airline be alarmed/notified if bags tied to a boarding pass were checked in but the owner(s) never showed up at the gate…? (surprisingly enough I’ve never had to check bags in for a domestic flight so I don’t exactly know how this works)

    Whether or not it would be possible to pull the stand-by off the plane, I don’t think I would have let them on the plane after that outburst. (although I suppose there could have been an underlying reason we don’t know about… maybe they’re super angry about missing a loved one’s last moment, missing a funeral, etc…. which still wouldn’t excuse someone from behaving that way though..)

  2. So there are of course the two sides of this.

    The Gate staff handled this great, IMO.
    The Police handled it as they should, IMO.
    The Couple were belligerent and attempting to intimidate the staff to get onto the flight. They got what they deserved due to their behavior.


    AA’s boarding times once again rears their ugly head. Departure times on a boarding pass are misleading if that’s not the time that’s important for the passenger. Doors Close is what’s important, and if that’s 10min prior to departure, then the BP needs to have Doors Close time instead. The monitors, schedule, etc etc can all have Departure time listed. That’s fine. But BPs should ONLY have doors close listed, since any time after that the passenger effectively forfeits their seats and are designated a no-show.

  3. I’m surprised that the gate agents didn’t contact the police sooner
    If she really was a cardiologist
    Why did she wait till last minute to get back?
    I’m certainly surprised that she played that card … seems people REALLY don’t know the rules.
    I hate getting to airport early but I can tell you – S**t happens … flat tire – traffic – lines – buses etc.
    Airlines enforce the 20 or 10 minute rule to ensure the other
    100+++ passengers aren’t inconvenienced and that the plane leaves ONTIME …
    What crossed my mind during the video is the mans aggressive behavior and how he felt his having a boarding pass allowed him to show up and get on …
    Travel has become an area of entitlement???? Airlines have rules to follow – but so do Passengers…. only they don’t seem to remember that.

  4. Trump supporters?

    It could have been a lot worse. They could have taken out guns and shot everyone. Thank god, they listened to their Jesus this time.

  5. I agree the staff handled it well except for the fact that they gave away these pax’s to other passengers and did not allow the two people on board. If the boarding pass says to departure at say 15:10 then if you are there by 15:10 you get on, if the airlines wants you to be there 14:30 to insure you get your assigned seat, then the boarding pass should say BE AT GATE BY 14:30 OR YOU ARE SCREWED!!!

    Airlines are always cutting the time change time close and then the pax must catch a shuttle, buses, trams and/or run through an airport to make it. If I book a flight with DL, AA, UA or any other airlines, I mean on their site that they arrange and schedule connector’s for, I expect for them have their ducks in order. If I get off a connector flight at 13:10 to be able to get to my next gate whether is 13:40, 13:55, 15:40 or 22:10 hrs. If it not possible taking in any small delays caused by them or the airport, then the 2 flights should not be linked together on their site.

  6. The couple behaved terribly and get no sympathy.

    However, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the gate agents handled it well either. They seemed, for most of the video snippet, to just be standing there passively rather than either diffuse the situation or (if what the pax were saying was true and seats were available) to at least help them get on that flight. On the other hand the guy in particular was so aggressive and rude that he got what he deserved. This might have been a case of you sow what you reap for the couple.

  7. @Jon. Last time I took a flight, the boarding pass said please be at the gate 30 minutes before departure.

  8. She’s a heart surgeon? Really? I wouldn’t let her operate on my hangnail!
    I never realized that missing a flight was so dramatic. Those two are pathetic losers.

  9. So I am a physician, and the invoking of some kind of “physician privilege” really irks me—–Not because she seems to have fibbed ( i hope she gets called out for her fibbing) , but because me having patients in the morning is no more important than my best friend teaching in the morning or, for that matter, my Dad trying to get to my son’s graduation the next morning.
    Get to the airport and gate in time to get to your flight!
    Not to invoke the dreaded dr Dao story again , but….the Dr Dao incident was ridiculous in so many ways…No one should be beaten up as badly as he was, and it would have upset me to be seated then be asked to leave—not because I am a physician, but because I am a person!
    I am no more important than any other person!
    I would really like to know just how many patients he had scheduled the next morning….I really hope I am retired at 69 years old…..

  10. While the passengers went way out of line, we still may not know all of the circumstances that got them so upset. Maybe they waited an inordinately long time for the AA bus to get them to the gate. It also sounds like they might have been right behind the standby folks who got their seats. I’m by no means excusing their conduct, and I’m not saying they should have been boarded – and it does seem like the gate agents handled their mounting belligerence very well – but it’s another situation where we may not know everything that was going on.

    To minimize (though assuredly not eliminate) such situations, maybe boarding passes need to more clearly warn passengers that “If you are not at the gate by xx:xx, there is the possibility that you will not be allowed to board the flight.”

  11. @Credit A political comment, seriously? There’s bad apples that behave like this no matter who they voted for.

    I’m more pissed that people can go around impersonating professionals for personal gain with zero consequence. Additionally, the entitlement that people think they deserve because of their actual profession makes me want to vomit. We all bleed red and end up dust in the end, so get over the entitlement attitude already, people.

  12. Its another beautiful day in the (boarding gate) neighborhood!. Nobody beaten, no invalids left for hours at the wrong boarding gate and no unaccompanied minors tossed out of their seats.

  13. Obviously boorish and ill mannered people, possibly under the influence of something, but I’m not sure I see any reason to have handcuffed or arrested the guy. I have no problem with the staff having called the police (if they did), but I do have a problem with the police arresting this jerk based upon what is in the video. I don’t see any commission of a crime or reasonable suspicion that he committed one, and that is the only grounds on which to arrest somebody — its not yet a crime in the USA to be a loud jerk.

  14. @credit

    Are you smoking meth again? No comments say anything political, but yours.

    That being said, everyday, entitled liberals show this behavior. Stay off the drugs…

  15. WHAAAAAT? The Eagle’s Nest causing confusion? I’m SHOCKED. Eagle’s Nest at LAX is not intuitive for casual fliers… not at all.

  16. It only takes 8 hours to drive to Phoenix from LA. There is a slew of commercial flights. Plus if she was a cardiologist with an important surgery to get to, it would be worth it to charter a private plane.

  17. You know I never pull my ‘Imma board certified ethno-proctologist healer person’ because I respect the authorities

  18. I’m not of fan of their behavior but underneath their wrath I feel the same way on a given day even without losing my seat
    Having said that it’s less the unempowered agents and more at Americans inferior management
    But part of that frustration is what Mr Parker has done to American it’s program and it’s very business culture of people reasonably caring
    But I am better than that couple at dealing with Americans severe deficiencies and defects
    But I do believe that American is clearly also to blame here
    American had somewhat improved their commuter terminal at LAX for American Eagle
    Yet It’s still comparable to some 3rd world country back woods tool shed
    It’s an aberration with an ok mediocre admirals club tossed in
    But really it’s a disgusting excuse for an airline terminal and a near disgrace in 2017
    It lacks organization and clear communication. In almost every way and a horrible lack of customer service and recovery when something does go wrong
    It’s so bad that after 20 plus years I have to ask pilots questions because many of the Eagle folks are inferior in skill set and personality as well as communication skills
    I call that satellite terminal the worst in America hands down
    I’ve driven to avoid it and its simply chaos if one is handicapped
    I have come to hate American even with the little that is still good with the company
    My 2 cents

  19. The issue changed from their being accomodated either as an exception on the same flight or on another flight (even if requested on another airline to get their sooner) if necessary with hotels and meals, when the man become physically threatening. Then that became the only issue and he wasn’t going to be boarded anyway solely because of that. They could have been holding the seat for them and had they behaved that way they would have been denied boarding. BTW what happened to holding the seats for passengers known to be tight-connecting, and especially on that horrible midfield shuttle?

    It would have been interesting to see if the quiet professionals would have pulled the standbys off had the pax handled it deftly. You simply never get anything from them (except trouble) if you don’t act diplomatic in exact equal measure to your expections – no matter who is at fault.

  20. ” gee, I wanted it closed captioned.
    Looks like they were pretty desperate to get on that flight.
    It does not excuse their behaviour though.

  21. I don’t understand. They have the boarding pass and they checked their luggage already. Why the hell is the airline giving away their seats when they have checked in and even given the airline their frickin luggage? The guy was over the line and shouldn’t have been shoving his finger in people’s faces but come on. Its not like they checked in online but had not been seen at the airport. Wouldn’t they know that these people were physically in the airport for the flight?

  22. @Greg – Agreed. There would be no reason that a pilot would let these two pax onboard in that “state” – especially with a male pax of his size being that aggressive. I hope they’re banned from flying on AA because of their unstable behavior.

    If this incident took place in a hospital or even a bank, law enforcement would have been called much sooner. I have to give the gate agents credit for their passive demeanor, because they may have recognized that nothing they did or offered would settle the male pax down. Also, they kept both pax off the aircraft (e.g. for safety reasons) – as a passenger, I wouldn’t want anyone like these two sitting near me.

    I do have to wonder what effect this will have on AA management’s rationale for implementing their on-time departure (D0?) program? If I were a member of that team and watched this clip, I’d be considering the effects that the D0 decision and looking at changing things up to avoid future incidents – especially if my employees are in face-to-face scenarios like this daily.

  23. One time at ORD I walked up to the Virgin America counter and explained I was missing my flight (My fault)… Agent informed me of the fee which I accepted, thanked them for thier assitance. A supervisor walked up, asked what was happening, called the gate, they reopened the flight and ran me to the front of security, gave me instructions on how to get to the gate and told me to “run.”

    I did, I made my flight after all even though I did not have the right to and the airline owed me nothing.

    Being polite doesn’t always get you everything you want but sometimes it does and you never end up in handcuff or on YouTube…..

  24. Passengers should realize that they were in an airport, which is like a police state. One cannot have a fit. They should have worked with the airline staff, if possible to obtain another flight. They should have handled it better. Calm and cool works way better than yelling. But then, I fly a lot, so I know better.

    Nevertheless, I side with the passengers for the following reasons:
    (1) Their bags were checked in. Minimum check in time for baggage according to American policy is 45 minutes before the flight. That tends to collaborate their story.
    (2) They had boarding passes. The desk agent should have known they were in the airport before giving their seats away.
    (3) American often (like any time the plane is not late) boards early. I am guessing the gate agents boarded the plane 10 to 15 minutes early and then gave away seats to stand-byes early. I have arrived at the gate 10 minutes early more than once to see the plane half boarded and they want to check my carry on. Luckily I was in first and I kept my carry on.
    (4) The warning is that the plane closed 10 minutes before departure. The plane clearly boarded more than 10 minutes before departure: (a) The gate bridge is still open. (b)The video is 14 minutes long. (c) And it appears that the argument had been going one well before the video started.
    (5) It sounds like they arrive at the gate as it was boarding (ie skateboarder who boarded) and saw people boarding, while they were denied.
    (6) It sounds like the woman really needed to be on the flight. Whether she was puffing up her credentials to get on the flight is kind of irrelevant. Even though the couple was being unreasonable, I kind of felt sorry for them too. If I was them, I would want to have a fit, but would know better.

    On the issue of the man being menacing, I think that is incorrect. The man was acting the same way as the woman, but the woman is smaller. People treat women differently. Also, I am guessing the man was being much more aggressive in support of the woman. Yet she got out of it by crumbling on the floor and crying. He gets taken away in handcuffs. Hopefully, they don’t charge him with anything or officially arrest him, which would be on his record the rest of his life. Sure, he could get it sealed, but sealed stuff still shows up on computer searches.

  25. These two entitled clowns deserve the treatment they got after their display. The whole I was late because of something else is nonsense. Guess what? That means you didn’t plan ahead. You are a pair of adults, you should by now have the ability to arrive at the airport in time to catch a flight. You knew the flight time, then why weren’t you there early? Oh wait, because you don’t think the rules apply to you. Well, they do. =)

  26. This sucks but could have been avoiding if Kirby didn’t obsess so much over D0. And now that buffoon wants to take D0 to United. Scott Kirby is the worst thing that happened to the airline industry since deregulation.

  27. I have a semi related anecdote on this and I kind of side with the passengers (not their behavior though). I flew a Delta flight, arrived on time, boarded on time, departure time comes and we haven’t moved. A few minutes later, we’re told we are waiting on a few passengers that are still going through security. We depart 20 minutes late but arrive 10 minutes early. All is well.

    Quick hop in time to my last AA flight. I get stuck in US security. I arrived 2.5h early, I checked in, I go make my line (no precheck, no GE, no nexus, no priority). As I am making it to the ABC machines, the officers stop me and let 3 families of 5+ people before me (cause they have kids), suffice to say, this is already cutting it close to my departure time which I clearly mention to the officer whom gives me the “sucks to be you” look. I get to my gate THREE minutes before my departure time and the GA just looks at me and goes like “Are you on this flight? … Are you sure?”, rolls her eyes and scans my BP., and radios “a passenger is late and boarding”. I sat on my seat at the exact departure time. From this interaction, I got the impression that AA was not aware I was stuck in immigration and was going to depart without me.

    So what I’m trying to say here is AA should know better (like Delta did), luggage is checked in, they have boarding passes, they should know the passengers were there and should have done better. The passengers behavior, however, is inexcusable.

  28. To the folks suggesting that boarding passes should list the “boarding time” – American Airlines paper boarding passes *do* have a large “boarding time” printed on them already, with a much smaller “departure time” down below. This is true of most other major airlines at this point. And if you’re using a mobile boarding pass , the app will remind you over and over about the boarding deadline and cutoff. As do all the monitors. And the website. And announcements in the terminals. One has to be pretty dense, really inattentive and blind to numerous warning around you, or incredibly inexperienced at commercial air travel to think that rolling up to a gate less than 10 minutes before departure is going to work.

  29. @ Reese. The passengers were at the gate MORE THAN 10 minutes before departure time printed on the ticket. WHY? Because (a) the video was 14 minutes long and started AFTER they started arguing, (b) When they arrived, people were boarding (like the guy with a skateboard) and American typically completes boarding before the 10 minute window, and (c) American usually boards on time planes early, before the printed boarding times.

    The passenger’s behavior was horrible, but I can see why they were upset.

  30. I hope my heart doctor doesn’t break down and cry when I’m on the table.
    So much for D0

  31. For a hot minute I thought this was an endless loop video because the couple’s arguments were so repetitive LOL

    I don’t feel that the guy was menacing at all, just a jerk with big muscles

    American could’ve solved the problem instantly by just pushing back and taxiing away.

    If I was the ramp agent, I would’ve radioed to get the plane to push back, ASAP.

    Once the plane taxis away, the argument is over, so why the arrest?

    Be that as it may, sick and tired of people in airports and on aircraft acting like they are on set at the Jerry Springer show

  32. If you behave in a civilized way you will get treated in a civilized way. If you scream and shout and throw out the “f” word liberally, you can only expect to be treated like an effing idiot. The AA ground crew behaved impeccably; it looks like they explained the situation and then simply ignored them until the man became a threat to those in the gate area. Then the police came and restrained him. Hopefully by the next time they fly they will have learned some basic manners and upgraded their vocabulary. Oh and yes I accept that the reason why they arrived at the gate so close to the departure time may have been through no fault of their own, but things happen through no fault of our own that we suffer for. A couple of years ago my wife nearly missed a connecting AA flight from London to New York when the subway train she was on [she left the airport as she had an eight hour layover] was delayed in a tunnel for well over an hour by a signal failure. When she got into the airport she politely asked an AA supervisor to help her get on her flight. The supervisor was great, calling ahead and personally escorting her through the airport. Politeness gets you a long way. Effing gets you treated like an effing idiot.

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