United Airlines Captain On Diverting Flight: ‘Hey Kids, This Isn’t A School Bus’

A United Airlines captain is heard discussing with the company whether or not he’s going to need to divert the flight, because “three schools” are on the plane “climbing over the seats” and “this isn’t a school bus.”

We have three schools that were traveling together. They’re all in the back of the airplane. They’re climbing over the seats, they’re not being respectful of the airplane.

My FO and I were talking about it. We get it, that they’re kids they want to have fund and they’re with their friends. Unfortunately this isn’t a school bus and they’ve been very disrespectful to the flight attendants in the back. And we’re trying to figure out, if they don’t calm down, our next course of action to divert to one of the bases and kick them off or [inaudible] pretty beside myself with the actions that have been discussed to me over the intercom…

I agree with that, my FO agrees with that too. I’m waiting for another call back to see if they’ve actually calmed down to see if we need to make that statement. I’ve made a PA over, and kind of made a gesture of ‘hey you guys gotte be respectful..to respect the airplane’ they’ve kinda calmed down but I’m not too sure what’s going on. We just got a call from the flight attendants about a light, so we’re going to see what that’s going on about and we’ll get back to you.

Some of the best suggestions from the online peanut gallery,

  • Tell them ‘this is a Boeing aircraft and we’re not too sure how well it’s put together so everyone needs to stay in their seats and not take risks’
  • Ask ATC for a 3,000 foot drop and scare everyone into submission
  • “Don’t make me turn this plane around.”

Who thought three schools traveling together was a good idea? And where are the teachers and parent chaperones?

Ironically, United Airlines does offer bus service from Landline. That’s where they should put school trips, maybe?

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. Smart pilot, getting corporate involved as kicking them off would be a PR nightmare. Regardless, there should be actions taken before the return flight to avoid a repeat. At the very least, break the group up among several flights.

  2. Confiscate their mobile phones and devices , and do not return them until the last return flight is completed . That’ll set them off .

  3. I agree with Ron. The only thing worse than the current incident would be letting it happen again. It’s obvious that either there weren’t enough chaperones or they had no control of the students.
    Maybe having the cops meet the flight and give the kids a lecture before they’re allowed to deplane might get their attention. IDK

  4. The question is, as Gary states, where are the adults? It’s their job to set boundaries long before the flight crew needs to intervene.

  5. I go with plan “B” above. Get ATC clearance then deploy the speed brakes for a few seconds.

  6. The chaperones undoubtedly are getting drunk as a skunk to be able to put up with these schoolchildren. As anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, U.S. public school kids are untouchable under U.S. law. They can and do get away with murder. The end off civil society.

  7. Shouldn’t have been allowed on the plane in the first place. Guaranteed they were out of sorts at the gate as well.

  8. You seriously went with the cheap Boeing joke? For someone that is supposed to be knowledgeable about airplanes, you sure went lowbrow with that one. Do me a favor: Other than the two MAX crashes, list all of the incidents that have resulted in fatalities due to Boeing design or manufacture from the last twenty years. Shouldn’t take you too much time to figure that one out. In fact, you might want to look at the only 777 crash that occurred in the US with fatalities. The pilot clearly screwed up the landing, and what should have been a cataclysmic loss of life was reduced to only three people; one of those from being run over on the runway by the emergency response equipment.

  9. I’ve seen cases where chaperones sat by themselves and ignored the kids completely. On a Southwest flight years ago, Southwest let the kids/chaperones board first and the kids sat in the back and the chaperones grabbed the emergency exit seats and were not seated by the kids.

    Like too many parents they just want to ignore the kids.

  10. Screaming “Brace for impact!” over the intercom would put them in their seats quickly.

  11. OMFG someone is defending Boeing in the comments section. Boeing is indefensible. There’s no such thing as too big to fail and Boeing has proved it in spades.

  12. Where’s Bob Hoover or Tex Johnson when you need ’em? A dual engine shut-down, followed by a slow roll, would impress the students – AND – shut them up.

    Even a mild wingover would work wonders. Hey, Boeing aircraft are built tough, despite the latest news about possible (unlikely) issues with manufacturing. I’ve done it. Tex did it. Roll ’em Baby!

  13. To be honest I can’t believe so many people commenting above are taking this far too seriously.

    The kids were climbing over seats.
    The kids were rude to the FAs.

    How did this become international newsworthy events?

    Deplane the shits and their incompetent chaperones at the nearest airport that has no open facilities at that time and where the locals don’t speak English. (Anywhere Texas works).


  14. The adults should be told to read the riot act to the kids Otherwise divert and then send the bill to the organizers of this trip.

  15. What are teachers and chaperones going to do exactly?
    These kids don’t respect them and if the adults say anything to them they will most likely be accused of some sort of abuse.
    This is not just American kids either.

  16. @calling_it….OTHER than the 2 max crashes? What was that, 300-400 people dead because of a failed safety culture that boeng took so seriously that they still have doors flying out of planes years later?

    Boeing has it coming.

  17. Have the first officer (FO) pull the circuit breaker controlling the cabin pressurization valve.
    In two minutes, all will be very – very quite.

  18. Any fool who defends Boeing is someone who is patriotic over smart. It is a corporate greed problem. They are not to be trusted in my family.

  19. American teenagers are brats. This is our future? They don’t deserve to be on an aircraft–at all. Imagine in our day if we got to have such a privilege. And you never know it could just come apart. Hopefully the flight crew has parachutes.

  20. Lack of respect for the crew means no control in the event of an emergency. The adults are the ones who need to be addressed. Definitely have the authorities meet the flight. Take a good cut out of whatever event they were traveling for and let them know they’ll be finding their own way home.

  21. Boeing has nothing to do with bad parenting. Get over it you people are pathetic blaming them for ruining a flight of brats and bad chaperones

  22. What about the other people aboard who are expected to keep with good behavior? I have flown during COVID and the pilot didn’t play with people who didn’t keep their masks on.

    I am a teacher and taught in a needy district. Always . . . We spoke about behavior expectations and consequences.

    In saying this, bad behaving passengers should have been returned to where they started and parents should be asked to come and escort them home. I would inconvenience them too. Otherwise, those kids were a safety hazard for all aboard that flight for the whole flight.

  23. FA’s speak with chaperones on camera, record bad behaviour AFTER FA’s request the chaperones tell students to be seated and obey FA and FC instructions. If it continues, call ahead and request police presence at arrival gate. Show recordings to police then arrest all the troublemakers. ZERO TOLERANCE!

  24. Then they graduate, go to college, and are told the loans they took out are not their responsibility. The working tax payers, many of which didn’t go to college themselves, will pick up the bill. And we wonder why they continue to act irresponsible.

  25. Safety first. Because the pilot-in-charge reports harmful on-board student behavior, consider cutting off the teenagers from further drinking from their private alcohol stash. I would also confiscate their inhalants like airplane glue and vape paraphernalia for the remainder of the flight. If that fails to get immediate compliance, consider double secret probation for these unprincipled miscreants.

  26. Was on a plane with a middle school group from China. The kids didn’t understand English and wouldn’t heed the flight attendants’ instructions and the chaperones were overwhelmed. The kids kept having to be reminded about the seatbelt sign and not walking around during turbulence. Particularly when we were preparing to land — they would not follow instructions and kept taking off their seatbelts to turn around and lean over seats to talk to people behind them or get up and walk around. It was like they had never been on a plane before and didnt know how to behave. Or maybe they were all so rich and privileged they never had to obey anyone. They were super boisterous and noisy too. And the way they acted with the food and beverage service!!! What a nightmare that flight was!

  27. The Calling_it Boeing rep really took your Boeing joke personally. They came out swinging with statistics! LOL!

  28. Charge the school and their chaperones eith the diversion costs. Won’t directly punish the kids, but I guarantee it send a message to not bring brat kids.

    Single drunk people have been charged by the airline for the entire diversion bill, so why not a group of unruly brats?

  29. Blame the food industry. 10 teaspoons of sugar in each can of coke/ soda, what do you expect. Or is it because they are American?

  30. Divert, get rid of all the kids and their chaperones (if any), and continue the journey peacefully. And send the bill to the school/parents. I know that some innocent kids will be unfairly treated because of this, but it’ll be a great life lesson for them ie life’s unfair and if you hang with vermin you’re going to get sick.

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