United Express Flight Delayed Yesterday When Pilot and Co-Pilot Got Into a Fight

Saturday’s 1:41pm United Express Lubbock – Houston flight operated by ExpressJet was delayed 5 hours for an unusually interesting reason.

The pilot and copilot got into a fight. It’s something we expect in India or in China, not here in the States.

An eyewitness shares,

Stewardess says pilot and copilot are in dispute and she doesn’t feel safe flying. She asks us if we agree. [Passengers were offloaded.] Dispute continues with pilot (or copilot) upset and demanding to know who said they were fighting. Now police are here…

The outcome? “Good news. New plane here. Old pilots not here.”
A five hour delay of course is quite a lot for a flight that never leaves the state of Texas, though Texas is a big state and Google tells me driving still wouldn’t have been faster.

An ExpressJet spokesperson tells me,

ExpressJet flight 4453, operating as United Express from Lubbock, Texas (LBB) to Houston was delayed due to crew availability. All passengers were re-accommodated with a new crew. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

I guess the crew did make themselves ‘unavailable’ by virtue of their actions. The question is, how long will these particular crew members be unavailable? Would you feel comfortable flying on an aircraft piloted by people who let their tempers flare up in this way?

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. Since a new aircraft was swapped in, don’t you think the dispute was probably about the airworthiness of the “old” aircraft and whether they should proceed with some known problem?

  2. Safety first with a new crew, new jet and bonus frequent flyer miles to all for another United Express five hour delay. Remember, United is something special in the air and now…the flight deck. Maybe their flight deck should be renamed the “fight deck”.

  3. “The pilot and copilot got into a fight. It’s something we expect in India or in China, not here in the States.” That is so true. Over here in Texas, we settle things with guns, not fistfights. 😉

    I admire the FA for her actions.

  4. just like you expect in India and China? for real?
    just like you find fat and obese people like you in America?

  5. Its bad to make assumptions without the facts. The co pilot and flight attendant refused to fly with the captain over a concern but leave it to “media sources” to half arse it all of the way.

  6. Serval years ago my Saturday afternoon USair flight PHX – CLT was cancelled after “the pilot ‘downchecked’ the co-pilot” and there were “no replacements”.

  7. I personally think a disagreement is healthy. They are there to discuss about better routes or best attitudes towards difficult situations. In Korea and Colombia when pilot and co-pilot dos not fight it lead to accidents in the past.

  8. I’m sure this would never happen on an airline where the pilots were well paid. These commuter pilots make about 20-30K per year which usually works out to about 10.00 per hour. You get what you pay for.

  9. Bill, that’s an interesting statement. What carrier do you fly for? Or perhaps what airline do you work for? 30% of the actual facts are presented here so to make such a statement is to set yourself up for libel. The fact that this article exists in itself is borderline absurd because of the lack of fact and or fact checks done. Save your reputation while you are ahead. And for the record, I am not an Expressjet pilot but I am familiar with the event and actual facts. Take care.

  10. Why don’t you wait and get all the facts before spouting off about things you so obviously don’t understand!

    It could have been that one pilot noticed something unsafe about the other and refused to fly! Pilots like that are heroes for standing up for the safety of the passengers.

    Stories like yours are ignorant.

  11. Leave it to some half-assed “journalist” to go making wild (and incorrect) assumptions about the reason for the altercation.

    I’ll just say that you have no idea what actually happened, and for you to assert your “expert” opinions on the subject is pure ignorance.

  12. Bill really $10 -$20 a hour fact check that. The flight attendants get paid better. McDonald’s workers do too

  13. Home- airline pilot here! Last year working for a United Express carrier I made $19,248. I just looked at my W2. And that is full time employment. We are amid a pilot shortage right now, because of the low wages. It is different for all airlines, but most do not pay for anything other than “flight time”. I regularly have days where I will be at the airport for 12-14 hours, waiting on a delayed flight and only make 2-3 hours of pay ($60). It sucks. Typically I make about $390-420 a week, which is funny because I made more part-time at Home Depot while in college. :/

  14. Gary you take one anecdote, stereotype it and expect it to happen in India or China?

    Are you sure were good at debating? You make the most egregious logical errors.

  15. Bill, why do you write things that are blatantly false? “Commuter” pilots at the airline in question make up to $109 an hour. Don’t inject your “knowledge” of an industry you obviously don’t know too much about.

  16. home I,

    Maybe you should do a little research yourself. Starting pay at this particular regional airline, and most of them, is $23/hr but you only get paid for 75hrs per month.

    23 x 75 = $1725/month
    $1725 x 12 = $20,700/yr gross pay.

    Since we are on duty 40hrs per week on average and we only get paid for flight time, this actually works out to about $10.80/hr. Factor in taxes, health care and union dues and a first year regional airline pilot takes home about $14,500. These are the facts as I work for this airline and have endured first year pay.

    And yes, you can make more at McDonald’s. Don’t belive me, go ask around on the airline pilot forums.

    If only I made what everyone thinks I make, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

  17. Hey Girlie, and the rest of you bashing me, You are ignorant. They don’t make squat, it’s a fact. They have the potential to make money down the road, but they don’t at these commuter jobs. Go buy a ticket to the clue bus.

  18. Bill, it’s not about the money. It’s about your remark “you get what you pay for” which would mean you undervalue a pilot for the aircraft type they fly. I happen to know the First Officer from this flight, I have flown with him, I grew up with him, I work for a major and I know quite a few people at the majors and in Corp. aviation I would rather swap said FO with any day. “You get what you pay for” is off base and has zero tact. I am sure you are an absolute pleasure to be around. Do you even know how to fly a plane? Keep it moving sugar.

    And on the pay scale side of things, the number is skewed based on the base rate for the first 12 to 24 months. Most RJ drivers net over 50 and some break 145K a year while a Delta A320 FO can expect to make about 57 or so in year one and marginally more in year two unless they are an absolute wizard of FLICA on days off and max out or find a way to over credit on every trip awarded. But hey, what do I know, I’m only approaching 10 years in the airlines.

  19. @A c

    Can you explain why an intelligent and educated person would work as a pilot for $10.80/hour? Can’t be for the love of the job as you describe it. Is it like playing baseball in the Minors for that same kind of pay but with the hopes of making it to the Majors and the big bucks?

    At least with ballplayers, most of them really do love the game.

  20. You answered your own question, it is a necessary stepping stone to the majors and yes we do love flying or we wouldn’t put up with the crap we have to deal with for that kind of pay.

  21. @A c

    Well, that being the case, I think it comes of as a bit of whining, then. What do you think college, Residency and Interning are all about?

  22. Why are you people fighting on here? Google it and you will see that wages are very low for first year pilots…. They must make sacrifices to build up hours and experience in order to get into the higher paying “right seat” on a major. It’s a fact. They are grossly underpaid and their working conditions aren’t great either. People have misconceptions about lots of things in our world today. A physician gets $11 for a twenty minute visit with a Medicare patient (this I know for a fact). Do the math on that one too. It’s similar to this scenario. There are things that are broken that need to be fixed and this is one of them. Doctors and pilots are highly educated, highly skilled individuals who we rely on to keep us safe and alive. They should be compensated fairly.

  23. This was not just some stupid argument or pissing contest. You claim to be an expert yet your article is poorly written, and you do not even know much about the incident. Other than the fact that driving would not have been quicker. If the plane had to be swapped it was 99.9% a mechanical problem. One of the pilots more likely than not wanted to push the envelope and take the more dangerous route where the other stood up and said no. Which is what all of us pilots are taught from day 1 in flight training is to never compromise the safety of the aircraft and everyone on board because you want to satisfy an employer or get to a destination now instead of later.

  24. As FactChecker writes “I am familiar with the event and actual facts” please tell everyone what really happened on this flight.

  25. Jerry B,

    I was merely trying to clear up some common misinformation and now you’re just trying to start a pissing match. Find something better to do.

  26. I thought I was asking a reasonable question to your long and detailed post about making $10.80/hour. I am in no way looking to start anything with you or anyone else.

    P.S. You’re the pilot. You’re the one who should be looking for something better to do while you’re waiting to get that call. I’m retired and sweet well spend my time as I please.

  27. Ben

    Your comment regarding the “stewardess” FA was uncalled for and defintely not true . I know the FA She should be congratulated for her concern for her passengers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Will the 2 people who keep changing their names take their fight to another blog?! You don’t have any credibility, posting anonymously- just because you claim to know the pilot, stewardess, fly for this airline or some other, have googled some facts, doesn’t make it true.

    Similarly, this is a blog, people- Gary mainly reposts items found elsewhere, and comments on them based on prior posts and personal experience. It’s not meant to be the same as regular journalism, nor is held to the same editing or lack of bias standards. It’s personal anecdotes, and updates on fast breaking frequent flyer opportunities. If you don’t like what he says, then just unsubscribe to the blog.

  29. @George – Are you sure that you are not Gary’s Anger Translator?

    (as sketched by Key & Peele, for the uninitiated)…

  30. I find it (truly) UNBELIEVABLE that so many of you on here know so many of the people who were involved in this “incident”.

    I also find it insulting that anyone would berate a young pilot for his or her salary.

    I also cannot believe somebody (Bill) would make the inference that the people who fly for this airline, this flight crew specifically, are unprofessional due to whatever wages they are paid.

    If you know *anything* about the airline industry, you know that being a pilot is an honor bestowed only upon those who are qualified in terms of skill and also mental capacity. It is an elegant profession and anything but the “low rent” type of thing that you suggest.

    And as for the comment from the retired man saying the young pilot should find something better to do why he waits for that call……. What a nasty thing to say.

    You owe these pilots gratitude, not rudeness and immature snark. I am assuming you are a grown man, given your retired status, so why do you think it is acceptable to insult a person’s chosen (and honorable) occupation? May I ask, what field did YOU work in?

  31. Did you ever think that perhaps those of us aware of the event and who know the crew might have found the page? Just saying. The FO threw a safety flag on an issue. Leave it at that and return to your non crewmember seat in the back.

  32. I have a story that JUST happened to my friend when he booked a flight to The Philippines ONE WAY on UNITED.
    My friend called United airlines to use his points and he asked if it was possible to book a one way ticket to the Philippines(Phone calls are recorded when you book a flight) .He was going to meet his girlfriend and wanted to possibly stay a bit longer with her and then just buy a ticket and fly back in a month or so.He asked United on the phone 3-times if that was OK and they assured him it would be fine.He ends up flying from Houston all the way to the Philippines and finds out after he gets off the plane that he cannot enter the country because he does NOT have round trip ticket…He is like what is going on here?
    The next thing they do is NOT allow him to buy a ticket back home at a later date.They take him in the back and detain him for 12 hours for talking loud(he is partially deaf in one ear and talks a bit loud)
    So the airline books him a $2100.00 one way ticket back and he is back home now.I have never heard of such a thing or such a story…Is this common practice to do to a flying customer?
    He is the type of person to write letters and call and call until this company makes it right.
    Just imagine -Plan all year to go on vacation just to arrive there and be sent back from no fault of your own.

  33. Fact checker, I don’t doubt your credibility but I do doubt the other people on here who “know” somebody who was involved. There are just too many of them. Thank you for your explanation. I was standing up for the aviation industry in case it was not clear. I still say the FA was unprofessional for “over sharing” with the passengers.

  34. Marie, that is an awful story. I hope your friend gets this worked out. Also, I hope in the future he checks the entry requirements for international travel before he flies. Most countries won’t allow you to fly in on a one way ticket with no proof of return unless you have a work visa.

  35. co-pilot was from Notre Dame and the pilot was from Texas, wrong subject to bring up before a flight …

  36. I just enjoy all of the bickering, at least for the moment. So ill take a stab at keeping it going. All of you are idiots. Stereo types are always true. Flight attendants are always promiscuous. Pilots are always hotheads. Blogs are always the best place to find accurate information. Airlines are always low paying, high fare charging, non-accurate information giving, low intelligence hiring, inadequate equipment maintaining, executive big bonus giving circle jerks. All human beings alive are rude and insensitive morons who want to protect somebody else and place themselves in harms way for the glory of it and never for the virtue of it, until it comes to the moment of truth when they realize how selfish they really are and just step aside to let the carnage ensue. And by the way I could have landed that south jet in the holy roller field in that movie named Flight with out killing anyone on board and everyone in a white robe on the ground.

  37. Okay “Atlantaane” and Fact CHECKER have forced me to add my $.02.

    Yes I am sure that being a regional pilot is an “honor bestowed” on only the best and brightest, yada yada.

    I am not questioning the training and the overall competency. But the simple facts are this: with $65k tuition/fees and 18 months in school, you too can become a regional pilot. To then make $20-30k a year for who knows how long.

    Its an absolute fact of market economics that plenty of qualified candidates self-select OUT of this pool and proposition. Leaving a smaller pool who can live with this (broken) proposition. Doesn’t make them worse pilots – but it is actually a fact that we ARE getting what we pay for.

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