Stolen Valor? United Passenger Reported For Faking Military Service To Get Free Snack

A passenger flying United Airlines from San Francisco to Newark watched a woman in coach use what they say is fake military status to get free food.

  • As a Premier 1K MileagePlus member, he was offered a free snack item.
  • This woman chimes in “I am military and ask don’t we get free food”
  • She’s offered “a list of boxes and cheese plate. She took the cheese plate.”

The United Airlines elite passenger says “she was not military” and had MIT graduate school stickers on her laptop.

Now, not being in uniform doesn’t mean this passenger wasn’t military. And having a graduate degree (or pursuing one) doesn’t mean they aren’t military, either. So under United’s policies they might well have been entitled to the snack.

It’s always seemed a little bit odd to offer priority boarding to active duty military, except that airlines don’t want military having to check their carry-on bags while on orders.

There are people who will dress in military uniform just to get priority boarding.

It also always struck me odd that American invites military in uniform to use Admirals Club lounges (plus guests) and then they get heat when lounges are full and they’re not extending the courtesy. United does this too.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I’m a disabled veteran (Navy LAMPS pilot) and I never, EVER ask for priorities for anything – except – when on an overseas flight with a large aircraft if my leg / hip is bugging me I MIGHT (maybe) ask for priority boarding in order to “attempt to” get comfortable as the rest of the aircraft gets ready for departure.

    United has been exceptionally good at permitting me to board as I show my VA military ID.

  2. There is nothing honorable about serving in the US military. Every war since Korea has been an illegal war of aggression with tens of thousands of civilian deaths at the hands of american killers.

  3. They should simply stop the Military priority and lounge access. Air travel should be pay for play only. i.e you pay for what service level/access you wish to receive.

  4. It’s easy to ask for identification. A VA card or as is the case in my state, they will stamp your drivers license with a designation if you bring in a DD214 when you renew. I’ll avoid a dialog with AndyS for fear he will have to retreat to his (or they/them now) and have mom send another shot Pocket to the basement.

  5. I’ve lived in a few countries where military service is compulsory.
    Everybody was in the military so nobody gives a shit. I’ve never understood the American obsession with jerking these guys off everywhere.

  6. There is a 99.99% probability that AndyS is also a hamas sympathizer. The leftist belief system is beyond moronic.

  7. This is another hard social question that we aren’t going to solve here. I was never in the military (2 years of ROTC was enough to show me we weren’t a good match) but have a lot of respect for the hard working people who want to serve the country.

    On the other hand…being in college during the Vietnam period and seeing the same lies recycled for Iraq as well as the other horribly ill-advised foreign adventures this country gets into doesn’t give one much hope. Our “leaders” often stick with bankrupt policies because they don’t have the courage to admit these are mistakes. (They can be profitable too, and the military budget is eating this country alive, like some sort of vampire.)

    So my opinion is that those in the military/naval forces are too often misused for the political or economic benefit of others. And maybe on some level a lot of citizens understand this. If that is so then benefits like early boarding are a sort of small atonement for their guilt in going along with these things. Flying the POW flag could be another example.

  8. @AndyS
    Why don’t you defect to North Korea and the communist paradise while we “suffer” under the US dictatorship where you can actually express your opposition to the government without getting shot.
    The US Army has been the only thing in the past 100+ years that has prevented the world from turning into one big prison under evil states such as Germany, the USSR, and nowadays, China, Russia, Iran and a host of other terrible places…

  9. We have military who do study at some of the best universities in the country, so there is nothing inherently incongruent between being an MIT grad student and being a DOD-employed officer.

  10. When I was at MIT back in the 80’s, there were several active duty officers pursuing graduate degrees especially in Aeronautical and Naval engineering. In fact, the front row of the pack in the MIT rugby club was me and two Annapolis grads, one of whom was actually a submarine commander.

  11. Never in the military. No problem giving vets perks with boarding and other things. Thanks for your service.

    And sure, if you don’t support decisions the POLITICIANS make, don’t blame the troops.

  12. AndyS posts as if a white supremacist who hates Muslim and “brown” and “black” persons. And the AndyS views on the Israeli-Palestinian war in Gaza is ______? Probably copying whatever chaos-producing element that would make jealous a North Korean or Russian internet troll factory intent on running up societal conflict. Sort of ironic that the “communist” North Koreans and “former” “communist” Putin types love to creatively support the far right wing in countries which they consider “hostile”.

  13. I was in the Marines from 67/ 71 and got half price tickets to see Led Zeppelin.
    3 dollars for 3 roll center
    Now that’s when America was great

  14. @James Thurber … +1 . When a Navy fellow and I ( Army ) had been discharged , and were heading home , in uniform , in the regular line , we were sent to the last end of the line by a Western Airlines gate agent . The Navy guy had visible burns , and I was bent over and limping . On the airplane , we each bought each other a drink . I always remembered that , and never flew Western again .

  15. @GU Wonder , and @Thing 1 … +1 . I ( Army ) have met many veterans going to university and grad school at USC , including Marines . Fortunately for our nation , Marines are far superior of anyone disparaging us . Whenever I meet a Marine , I give them an extra little bow , although I am already bent over , and I always offer to buy them a drink . They lost nearly 15,000 killed in Vietnam .

  16. @GU Wonder … ( P.S> to above post ) … Many former Enlisted veterans also are likely to be attending MIT and other graduate schools . I have met many .

  17. @drrichard … I have always felt pride ( not guilt ) for my military service , and many non-military have offered respect to us . We appreciate it . In fairness to us , please obtain first-hand eye-witness information , not unsubstantiated suspicions .

  18. Alert,

    I have met my share of veterans doing undergrad and grad degrees at some of our best universities, but I tend to be more connected with the grad student ones who are not veterans while studying but are/were still active while studying as part of career development within the military.

  19. Thanks Alert, that was a reasonable answer and as said I certainly do respect the people who are in the service. But if you trace back who owns what in the Military-Industrial complex it is pretty clear there are big profits here and often the quality or need for what they sell is questionable. Cheney’s Halliburton and KBR connections are just one of many examples. (I should call it the MI-Security complex as those machines are from companies with a lot of heavy hitting investors, and they give plenty to Congress people who support them too.)

    As far as experience, I was in Iran before the revolution and it was obvious that the place was ripe for an uprising, this being the long term result of US meddling in the 1950s. I also went to Afghanistan and Iraq. And it didn’t take much to see from the lands and peoples in these places that permanent victory in either–especially the former–was a pipe dream. But of course no one wanted to hear that. After the disaster with destabilizing Iraq the next step was to do exactly the same thing in Libya and expect a better outcome. The first law of holes is: when in one, stop digging. Until things completely fall apart the U.S. government rarely remembers this, and too often uses the military as its shovel.

  20. @drrichard … I also was in Iran before the revolution ( in 1977 ) , and my travel experience had nothing to do with any result of “US meddling” . My experience had to do with them being jerks . The airline gave me a hotel room voucher whilst I awaited my next flight the following day . The hotel took the voucher , and then the ‘peace-loving adherents’ demanded I pay a second time for the room before they let me go . When I later complained to the airline ( from a safer country ) , the airline cancelled their voucher payment , but did not re-imburse me . Needless to say , I believe I was a victim of the Iranian opportunist jerks , not “US meddling” .

  21. @Wayne … Every Marine is totally a good person in my estimation . I especially admire Marine CAS (close air support) doctrine [ that their runs be parallel to friendly lines ] . The air force , contrarily , made their runs over the top of us , which is dangerous for us .

  22. Alert, our problems here go back to the US overthrowing their legitimate government in 1953 and putting in a puppet dictator. The people never forgot. And with a fairly fundamentalist form of Islam there the combination was dangerous. I cannot speak to your experience except that there are opportunistic jerks everywhere. Personally I was traveling overland through Asia and saw things from the bottom up. Everyone I ran into there was fine, but it was obvious cracks were forming. The picture of the Shah was too much in evidence, there was some religious meeting near the cheap hotel where I was staying and I was told to ignore it, and so on. It was a beautiful country and I saw most of it, taking buses all over the place before heading east. Maybe some day they will have a better government, but the one we have here does have to learn some history too. You can’t force other cultures to be what you want them to be.

  23. I hope this excellent website stays focused on air travel and doesn’t devolve into a political rant platform. If I want to hear guys like Chris blather, I’ll fart more.

  24. AndyS hits it out of the park! Of course, a case can be made for most every war prior to the Korean conflict.

  25. Andy…grow up.
    The rest quit judging liberals. There are Always horses asses, and Andy qualifies.
    My brother a marine my dad flew in b17s. Not fun jobs but believed in our country.
    Ditto for me and I am liberal. Get a life you non serving self appointed judges.
    I’ve lived allover the world….Everyone wants to come here….lightbulb yet?
    Fake Valor is lower than whale dung

  26. Given the all-volunteer paid status of the military, I don’t feel like these extra privileges and entitlements are all that neccessary. Just more airline pork wheeling and dealing for taxpayer subsidies.

  27. @Mantis,
    Your accusation is the definition of defamation and sounds like something Nikki Haley or Lindsey Graham would say. There are many legitimate reasons to criticize the military-industrial complex.

  28. Another perk? Military pay is good and 100% health benefits. Military Pensions are GReat too. Other voluntary jobs do not get these benefits Walmart workers do not get these benefits and they are subject to hostile Karen’s on a daily basis.

  29. @AndyS & @James you 2 clueless POS. You have no F’n clue about twat! Karma will get you!

  30. Andy s – if you think there is nothing honorable about being a military veteran? Then 1) feel free to just get the hell out of the USA instead of living under the blanket of freedom you enjoy because of the sacrifices my brothers in arms! 2) how does it feel to have been raised and fed on such hate for the country you occupy! GTFO!!!!

  31. Yes Chris, I volunteered for 5 Middle East deployments totaling 3 1/2 years away from my country and lost some good friends so people like you didn’t have to. Does 5% off a few stores and boarding a few minutes before you twist your underwear that bad? Nobody is “jerking” us off as you whined about. Grow up. As for Andy? Well clearly even beta males/theys have access to the internet.

  32. Dad served 26 years in the Navy. Got his BS from MIT. Got a Masters from USC.
    While on active duty.

    I served 23 years. Got a BS degree along the way.

    Not sure why an MIT sticker says the individual was not military, active, reserve or retired.

    The flight attendant could have easily verified status if there was a question.

    Looks like a big giant nothing burger to me.

  33. Andy S.: As a honorably discharged United States Air Force Veteran, I deplore your remarks with every fiber of my soul. It is the Veterans that served to protect and defend this country and the United States Constitution that allow you and your ilk to spew the venom that you spew. In many other countries, you would go to jail for even a hint of your feelings. In this country, you have the RIGHT to your opinions and, in most cases, the right to say them. However, you will suffer the backlash from your insipid mouth. If you hate this country, then get the hell out. Renounce your citizenship and promise never to return to this soil again. It would be good riddance to me.

  34. The military is a job, just a job like many others. The weird hard-on America has for the military is a mystery to most of the world. In many countries everyone serves. There’s nothing “special” about it.

  35. Years ago, a PAX in an Army uniform flubbed an innocent question about his rank. The police intervened upon the request of the gate agent who had former Army service. Turns out the motive was early boarding.

  36. The only time my military status had to be brought into the equation was when they tried to bump me from a flight. I told them I was flying on orders and provided them with a copy of my orders. They said, “Welp, I guess someone else is getting bumped today.” That’s literally the only time I used it, to avoid violating orders from the US Government. I can’t imagine using it for a damn cheese plate.

  37. @Mike
    I’ll fix some of what you said:
    “I volunteered for 5 Middle East”
    This should be “I visited a recruiting office (also known as applying) and was accepted (hired). I was then given a steady paycheck, heath insurance, housing and paid vacation time.”

    Thank you for applying for a job and not being dumb enough to be rejected.

  38. @CHRIS,

    Whatsa matter boy, couldn’t make the cut or just too scared to step forward and try?

    Must be tough watching all the other alphas around you go out and get it done while you and the other betas sit on the sidelines and wish your balls were bigger.

    Bet your boss just luuvs you, a real team player hidin’ in the john when crunch time comes, one screw-up away from getting kicked out the door to the next menial job.

  39. Not one single person refuted anything AndyS wrote. They resorted to red herrings, strawman arguments and ad hominem attacks. There are no untruths in his comments.

  40. Military has been overated post draft. Biggest fraud in the country and abuser of compensation and pension while they use drugs and homeless while on 3k paycheck tax free. Plus state disability and.and they claim that 5k tax free is still not enough

  41. As a retired Air Force officer, this really infuriates me. I would have politely said, “Oh, I’m retired military, what branch are you in?” Then I would have asked where she was stationed and what unit. Would love to see her hem and haw. And to AndyS, if not for the military, you would not have your freedom today and Europe would be under Nazi rule. I respect anyone who makes the sacrifice to serve in our armed forces.

  42. @Darby
    Oh, I’ve quite well for myself with out having my ego stroked everywhere I go.
    Does it hurt you when people don’t say “Thank you for your service”?

  43. @CHRIS

    “Does it hurt you when people don’t say “Thank you for your service”?”

    Not that it matters, but it actually makes me very uncomfortable because I come from a military family where pretty much everyone in every generation served and we were brought up to do the right thing and to not expect to get our egos stroked for doing so.

    In fact, in my day soldiers were spit upon and harassed simply for serving; I’ve been asked “how many babies are you gonna kill” and “how many villages are you going to burn” so while it makes me uncomfortable when someone thanks me for my service, I’m glad that the right-thinking, more civilized members of society have their hearts in the right place and do the right thing by saying “thank you” to a vet.

  44. I’m retired USAF.

    I’ve always thought the practice of giving such priority to active military duty was a bit too much and excessive. There are many professions that pose real risk of life and good health to their members – it’s not just the military.

    And the benefits accorded to active U.S. duty military are unmatched anywhere. Even in 1975, as a junior enlistee, I could afford a new car and my own apartment off base.

Comments are closed.