United Airlines Makes Major League Pitcher’s Wife Clean Popcorn On Her Hands And Knees

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Anthony Bass blasted United Airlines after a flight attendant asked his pregnant wife to clean up her seating area after their two year old daughter spilled popcorn on the floor.

According to Bass, cleaning up after his kids isn’t his wife’s job – that’s for the cleaning crew.

While I do wish airlines still paid as much attention to cleaning in-between flights as early in Covid, generally there are only a few minutes while passengers are deplaning and before the next flight begins boarding for cleaners to tidy up. You’ll often find that very little has been done, even when there are cleaners that are given that much time between flights.

The popcorn was an inflight snack. Judging by the photo this was a regional jet. It would have been sold by United and marketed as United (Express). But technically the flight attendant would have been employed by a regional carrier operating for United.

Here a roughly week-old photo of the family.

Apparently given how high profile the complainer is, United is mollifying the situation and siding with the passengers over the flight crew, as relayed by Bass.

Honestly though asking passengers to clean up after themselves doesn’t seem all that outrageous to me. Indeed it’s an important lesson to teach children, and the flight attendant shouldn’t even have to ask! And as a consequence for making a mess that’s far less significant than being banned from the airline and having your return ticket cancelled which happened to someone on another U.S. air carrier.

Kids can be messy. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, though in my view it’s not unreasonable for the carrier to want passengers to control and clean up after their children. I wonder if how you feel about this decision depends on whether you’re a parent or not, or whether you’re the parent of a current toddler or not?

(HT: @Coolrun84)

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. If your child makes a mess, CLEAN it up. They do not clean cabins after every flight!! One this ENTITLED parent noticed the child was making a mess, it should have been corrected immediately! Everyone doesn’t have children, and I’m sure they aren’t thrilled to sit on the next flight with popcorn all over the place from prior ENTITLED parent. Pick up after your children, make them pick it up or bring you own non messy snacks for them. Or if you feel ENTITLED enough, leave the kids home. The rest of society has to deal with the mess left behind. I’d LOVE to see childess flights

  2. I think that there should be a small broom and dustpan onboard planes (both with a medium length handle appropriate for the space). Sometimes messes happen and this would have been a simple one to sweep up but to reach by hand is hard in the tight seating.

  3. I work for an airline, people can leave reasonable popcorn messes, and very UNreasonable popcorn messes. Id have to see it to judge, I traveled a ton with little kids and I’d say pickup any big piles so it’s manageable by the cleaners. And consider, if every passenger in every seat left a huge mess, even with a good cleaning crew the next flight goes out late, now inconveniencing all subsequent flights/passengers for that jet that day….could be 100s of people. Flight attendant ratio is about 1 per 50 pax, so your time is basically 1/50th of 1 flight attendant, in economy, but people do try and command a lot of attention who don’t get that concept Just be respectful of what’s really possible to do on that ratio and between flights not to delay the next 5+ following flights is my best advice.

  4. Airlines aren’t perfect, but I would have been bummed to see airline get slammed for this.

    It’s nice to see a huge majority of reactions to his tweet tell him to clean up after his kids the way you clean up after your pet at a park, or to fly with a nanny to help, or to not bring messy snacks for kids. Why would you bring popcorn for young kids to eat on a plane? So clueless and inconsiderate.

  5. Dear Mister B Ass: You throw a ball for a living in some children’s game instead of contributing something to society, and you’ve also contributed to overpopulation if this is the third child you’ve been the sperm donor toward. You have nothing valuable to say, so shut up.

  6. They are not our servers but they are supposed to clean the plane ,the lady have enough with 2 small children to take care and 1 in the oven. ,
    That fly attendant suck

  7. Wow he’s really getting raked over the coals for this, especially from other parents who know what it’s like to raise kids. I hope it was a learning experience for him and he comes away with a new perspective on being responsible.

    But I’m not optimistic on that part.

  8. If the parent was not trying to prevent her kids from tossing popcorn all over the seating area she/he needs to clean it up as much as she can. If we are talking the normal spillage from eating popcorn the call out was out of line. The choice to give toddlers a bag of small bits of food was incredibly dumb. Kids wave bags like popcorn around often, in effect throwing the popcorn all over the place.

  9. Entitle much, dude? Your kid made a mess and it’s the responsibility of ‘ the cleaning crew’ to pick up after your little darling? Get a napkin: you are drooling all around that silver spoon in your mouth.

  10. If the airline was stupid enough to serve popcorn, then they should expect to clean up. Any parent would tell you that is not a snack they would bring in a public area with a toddler.

  11. A classless passenger adds to America’s morbid obesity by giving snacks to a child who throws it like a toy. And gets a wage slave fired. Morality? Civility? Millionaire sports family can afford to fly PJ; I can’t. Next time I fly UA, I’m going to throw popcorn until I get GS for life. Why not?

  12. omg–i wonder what their house looks like–does mom not clean at home as she is pregnant? and why cant you make this a teaching/learning moment and have your kid pick it up??

  13. Seriously?! Traveling with a two year old requires a great deal of physical stamina! If the woman is physically fit enough to do that she is physically fit enough to clean up after said kid. I can’t believe these people are so entitled that they are complaining about being asked to clean up their own mess. I’m betting this woman handed the bag to the two year old and let her/him go to town without a single thought to the person who had to go behind her and clean it up. I for one am glad that person was her.

  14. As expensive as airline tickets are one would think the airline could afford a clean up crew

  15. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a parent cleaning up after his/her child. However requiring a 22 week pregnant woman to do it on her hands and knees (as a matter of fact any passenger on their hands and knees) is ridiculous and unacceptable. I get there is little time in between flights but there is no reason that Airlines don’t have a small broom and passenger in the events of accident!

  16. If you are careless enough to give your 2-year-old popcorn on an airplane, you should be willing and able to clean up after that 2-year-old. The justification that it was an airline provided snack abrogates any parental responsibility for their kid and said kid’s behavior.

  17. The sad part is he thinks his wife is too good to clean up their children. She wasn’t too pregnant to pack and get herself and the children ready for travel but she is too pregnant to pick up after them. Maybe she shouldn’t have more kids because she can’t handle the responsibility. A flight attendants job isn’t to be your personal servant but to ensure you can get off that plane in the event of an emergency and to save your life if needed. Furthermore, you have no problem with a flight attendant crawling on their hands and knees for your obviously entitled family. I’m surprised you don’t have your own private jet.

  18. Ultimately they’re all in the wrong. The passenger should have been proactively cleaning up after her kids, but if she was going to be entitled about it, the flight attendant should NOT be asking passengers to clean.

    If Untied doesn’t provision planes with the equipment to clean up small messes in the aisle (any passenger is capable of accidentally spilling a bag of airline-provided popcorn) that’s an airline problem.

    Coming from someone who recently spilled some to-go food at the feet of the flight attendant doing the safety briefing. I was mortified. He handed me napkins and I quickly picked it up hoping as few people as possible noticed.

  19. As a former flight attendant, no I wouldn’t have asked a customer to clean up popcorn . They can call ahead for a cleaning crew to handle even if a short turn around. To specify popcorn, cleaners can bring in the proper tools for clean up. This was degrading to the passenger and poor customer service.

  20. Sh*t happens. Just ignore the F/A. It isn’t her job to clean the plane either. Remember, they are there primarily for your safety.

  21. Witnessing my kids making a mess would have resulted in my taking the popcorn away and having them clean it up once it was safe to do so. That’s how they learn. Also as a parent if they are too young to clean it up it is my MY responsibility to leave the area as we found it.
    Call me “old school” but that’s how it went down. I guess the expectations here was do as you want and leave the problem for someone else?

  22. Just got off a DCA-ORD flight. The inbound aircraft was delayed so our outbound was also delayed. We started boarding while the wheelchair passengers were still deplaning. If a clean airplane isn’t that important to the airline,, it’s not that important to me either.

  23. This would get no attention if she were the wife of a truck driver.

    If she was the wife of a truck driver that looks like the flight attendant should not have been asked to pick up the popcorn. Which kids need to be taught manners? I am sure the kids that look like the flight attendants are allowed to kick the back of others’ seats while playing video games or have the giant dogs sit next to people because animals have more rights that people who do not look like the flight attendants.

    When did manners trump being a brat???

  24. Former UAL flight attendant here. I don’t care if you are pregnant, handicapped or a major celebrity. No one deserves to be able to treat employees as if they are dirt. At 22 weeks pregnant the baby is about the size of an orange- no one would even be able to tell that you are pregnant! Also, as the mother of 3, I know better than to hand out snacks that they are guaranteed to destroy a public environment with. Come on, check your privilege- you just play a sport.

  25. He has a 3 million dollar contract this year. Spend a little of that and have a helper travel with your wife if she is so incapable of cleaning her kids’ mess. Just another example of an entitled couple that doesn’t think they have to answer to anyone.

  26. United really should rethink offering popcorn as a snack on a flight. Do they not see what a movie theater looks like after just one showing, and there isn’t even turbulence there. I don’t think flight attendants should demand anything from passengers. He definitely sounds entitled in his tweets, but the airline is in a service business. Part of that service is cleaning up after passengers.

  27. ‪Ever seen the floor of the economy cabin of a 747 littered with ‬opened, empty tuna cans?

  28. If the mom weren’t pregnant, I’d be more sympathetic to the criticisms of her, but if she’s 22 weeks pregnant, I wouldn’t ask her to do it.

  29. Regional airlines makes the FA clean the cabins (too cheap for cleaning crew). The cabin attendant did not want the clean up after the kids and made the wife get to work. Parents should clean up after their kids but it’s not always possible to get everything. FA’s at regionals are usually lower end and very, very controlling since they have little in their life. The regional carrier should be contacted in addition to United.

  30. Check out the photo. It’s not a huge mess so the 5 yr old could have easily picked up the popcorn. And did the FA really ask your wife to “get on her hands and knees” to pick up the mess? I doubt it. Your wife could have just leaned down to clean up most of it. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. Get over yourself.
    Two rules to live by: you break it you buy it. You make a mess you clean it up.

  31. Unreasonable to ask anyone to clean floor. Airplanes are so cramped I can’ barely move let alone pick something off the floor! Duh… don’t serve popcorn… or anything else that is excessively messy.

  32. You do not give a small child a whole bag of popcorn..You give them 6 at a time ..If you let them dump it on the ground maybe they need to help with the clean=up.. And if 22 weeks is too much fo her bring the nanny and she can keep the popcorn from being dumped..

  33. Just because your husband is a @bluejays super nothing, doesn’t mean you can be a #Canadian slob. Are you that entitled that maybe you could’ve apologized to the flight crew, they are not custodians. They are there for your safety. #United thank you for making this “Karen” get on her hands a knees to clean up her children’s mess.

  34. First off airline didn’t give them popcorn. It’s Garrett’s that they can buy on the plane. I can’t imagine this was a normal mess. The flight attendant wouldn’t risk her job over a small normal mess.

  35. The cramped economy class seats that airlines have stuffed passengers into make it very difficult for the average American adult to clean up a mess of popcorn off the floor of a full flight.

    For much like the same reason like the crew now say it’s not allowed for passengers to lie down on the floor between seats/rows to sleep, should they really be encouraging passengers — particularly pregnant passengers — to be down on the floor for prolonged periods to pick up a mess that takes a very long time to pick up without having the tools provided to do so?

    By the way, just as with LEGOs, so with popcorn here’s what I’ve seen some do to pick up a mess off the floor: use one flight safety briefing card to scrape the pieces onto a floor-hugging open safety briefing card; and once the pieces are on the flat/open briefing card, pour carefully into an unused barf bag; repeat above until clean.

  36. Gee, this kind of situation sounds like a good time to teach one’s kids how to become responsible adults. If I made a mess, I was to clean it myself, no matter what age I was.

  37. I read about this incident in another platform. It was bothersome to read the dad’s audacity regarding his wife having to clean up after their children. After learning the emphasis being placed on the fact dad is a professional athlete and is entitled makes this situation even less favorable. Clean up after your kids. Period.

  38. If I throw garbage out the window as I drive….. Can I say ‘its the citys sanitation job to pick this up’? Or should I dispose the trash in a proper receptacle?

  39. Vasectomy might be a solution if you think you are that entitled. Bring a nanny. You should be able to afford it since what you do is not really necessary in society.

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