You’re Gonna Have a Bad United Flight When a Drunk Man Sits Next To You, Writes on Your Note Pad

Jennifer Rafieyan claims that last month, while onboard a United flight from Newark to Phoenix, a flight attendant moved a visibly drunk passenger to the empty aisle seat beside her and her 12 year old daughter.


United Airlines Gates at Newark Airport

Even though the flight hadn’t taken off yet, she says “the man was intoxicated enough that the attendant had to guide him by his hips.”

She says the 64-year-old man groped her, “rubbed her legs, grabbed her knee, kissed her hands, put his head on her shoulder” and took her pen to write her a note. She was making a ‘to do’ list, and he added to it: “PASIONAT NITE XX”

Her daughter got up to use the lavatory and spoke to a flight attendant, who allegedly responded,

‘I’m so sorry. We felt really bad putting him next to you, but there was nothing we could do. He was doing the same kind of stuff to the other flight attendant.’

Yet flight attendants, it’s claimed, continued to serve the man 3 additional whiskeys and an individual coach-sized bottle of wine.


United Jets Parked at Newark Gates

The man then “became belligerent” accusing other passengers of stealing his passport. He refused to be seated (which probably was a relief to the woman), but a flight attendant “threatened to divert the plane and land early because of his behavior.” It sounds like police should have been called on this guy rather than the doctor onboard United flight 3411.

She complained to United and received (4) $100 travel vouchers.

Listen, gentlemen as a middle-aged man myself I think it’s incumbent upon me to share a brutal truth. If you’re sandwiched into a coach seat, you’re over 35 (let alone near 65), and you smell like whiskey you probably lack the attributes necessary to pick up the mother of a 12 year old girl you’re seated beside.

Air travel would be far better if more passengers were sufficiently meta rational. If we understand our own limitations and biases, we’re more likely to understand others’ likely reactions. This is of course difficult when drinking alcohol.

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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Comments

  1. put the guy in a FA seat, keep him away from other pax. And if he were already that drunk who’s the gate agent that actually let him board???

  2. Correction your title should say “You’re Gonna Have a Bad United Flight When a Drunk Man Sits Next To You, Writes on Your Note Pad”
    Instead of “You’re Gonna Have a Bad United When Flight a Drunk Man Sits Next To You, Writes on Your Note Pad”

    Sorry was going through boardingarea.com posts and saw this, thought I should highlight to you

  3. She also should complain to DOT — 14 CFR Sec. 121.575 prohibits an airline from serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated passenger, and from boarding an intoxicated passenger. The airline is required to self-report any “disturbance” by an intoxicated passenger.

    $400 in vouchers is an empty gesture.

    But perhaps United didn’t want to wrestle him to the floor – or put a paying passenger off one of their planes once he was boarded.

  4. And — again — it is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone who is visibly intoxicated . . . .

  5. I love this…

    “Listen, gentlemen as a middle-aged man myself I think it’s incumbent upon me to share a brutal truth. If you’re sandwiched into a coach seat, you’re over 35 (let alone near 65), and you smell like whiskey you probably lack the attributes necessary to pick up the mother of a 12 year old girl you’re seated beside.”

  6. I flew Southwest this past Monday, and the captain actually came back and told a woman that she could not fly because she was so intoxicated. It was apparently her 50th birthday, and she had way too much to drink. She was with some friends and one of them got off with her. Sound like that same protocol should have been followed here.

  7. GREAT article, Gary. Thanks for exposing Kirby and Parker for the greedy men they have become.

    I just don’t get it. What happened to these two men? When they were at US Airways, miles were truly worth something. Miles were relatively easy to accrue and award availability was good. And redemption levels were good, too.

    OK, the economy was in bad shape then — so maybe they felt that they needed to roll out mileage promos on a regular basis. But come on!

  8. I’m not defending the guy but I know plenty of especially older men that think inappropriate comments to women are totally acceptable when stone sober. I suspect he has tendencies to do this to everyone. I also know plenty of older folks in their 60’s that aren’t super mobile when stone sober so giving the benefit of the doubt that the FA’s didn’t think he was drunk before takeoff; just old and cutely inappropriate. That said giving him more booze probably didn’t make much sense…

    I love to drink heavily on afternoon or night flights but the more I drink the less I get annoyed by other pax and the less I have any desire to talk to anyone. I just keep the headphones rocking and type away on my laptop.

  9. Retired Lawyer gives interesting advice but forgets that if said passenger attempted to document the drunken man’s conduct or the flight attendants serving him alcohol prior to obtaining their permission using her phone or camera, she could have been tossed off the plane per United’s photography (aka CYA) policy.

    So if I understand things correctly, United’s solution to DOT — 14 CFR Sec. 121.575 is simply to toss off passengers who photographically document illegal airline behavior. United can also destroy their phones or cameras while having said passengers beaten and dragged bloody from the plane. Welcome to the friendly skies!

  10. Something similar happened to my daughter and me years ago, on a Continental flight. Not only was the man next to us extremely drunk when he got on the plane (and they continue to serve him alcohol), but he was also bleeding from multiple cuts on his arms. He kept reaching over me to touch my daughter with the blood soaking through his shirt. All they gave me was a lousy $100 voucher.

  11. Something similar happened to my daughter and me years ago on a Continental flight. Not only was the guy extremely drunk when he got on the plane and sat next to us, (and they continued to serve him alcohol for awhile), but he was also bleeding from multiple cuts or scabs on his arms. He kept reaching over me to touch my daughter with the blood soaking through his shirt. And all Continental gave me was a lousy $100 voucher!

  12. I can’t begin to imagine how traumatizing it must have been for that young girl. Why would the flight attendants give him more whiskey? Whether it was his right or not, his drunken state was enough reason not to offer him more. And giving that lady the travel tickets, that’s nothing compared to the bad flight experience she had.

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