16 OTHER Times An Airline Controversially Removed A Passenger
The internet has been in an uproar the last week over the April 9 incident in which an elderly doctor was brutally dragged off United Airlines flight 3411 to make room for members of a crew that needed to get to Louisville, Kentucky. Of course, the world was quick to jump on the I-Hate-United bandwagon before getting all the facts. It turns out that not all was what it seemed. There are many behind-the-scenes details of this unfortunate incident that people did not bother to learn before just assuming that United was in the wrong. But in fact, United employees were not even the ones who removed the passenger, Dr. David Dao, in the disturbing video — that was the federal aviation security. By all passenger accounts, the United crew remained calm and even pleasant during the ordeal.
Like it or not, the rules are there for a reason — it’s called 9/11. And really, if a member of an airline crew tells you to do something, you do it. They may not be right 100% of the time (as you will soon see), but more often than not, they have a reason for what they’re saying.
United Airlines is not even close to being the only airline to have crazy incidents like this. In fact, they all do. But since United is one of the biggest carriers in the world, we hear about their “transgressions” much more often. Last year alone, there were over 40,000 people who were either involuntarily removed from planes or were denied boarding on 12 major U.S. airlines. These are people who refused an airline’s offer of compensation for their seat but got kicked off, anyway. The numbers work out to where one out of every 16,000 people will be denied their right to fly, even with a ticket. And this is not even counting the 434,000 people who do give up their seats per year.
I have rounded up some of the more questionable events that have centered around the removal of a passenger or passengers from an aircraft. These situations are all ones that have been debated, disputed, and ultimately, never fully agreed upon. Following are 16 other times people were controversially removed from airplanes for all sorts of weird reasons.
16. Removed For Literally Nothing
A particularly mind-boggling story of a passenger being removed from a plane is that of Tiana Fough. A mother of two toddlers, she was on her connecting flight back to Portland, Oregon from a vacation with girlfriends in Tucson when out of nowhere, while in the aisle boarding, a flight attendant started yelling at her. “Stay right there,” he shouted. “I asked you three times.” She refused to give him her name since he did not have on the same uniform as the other flight attendants, nor a nametag, and he said, “I will throw you off this plane.” In her seat, she began to sob, and when he came back, he asked where her bag was and told her he, backed by another flight attendant, was kicking her off the plane. The passengers all began to boo the crew and the airline, and some even complained after the flight. (Fough took another flight four hours later). Strangely, another man took her seat almost as soon as she got up. Fough, herself, probably sums it up best when she says, “It’s a little coincidental that I’m being attacked verbally for no reason, and then all of a sudden, another guy is getting my seat.”
15. Trans Black Woman Removed For Wearing a Superhero Hat
What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Black Panther”? The Marvel superhero or the revolutionary black nationalist and socialist organization? Apparently, the folks at United saw the hat worn by Amanda Stevens and saw the latter. Last October, while wearing the superhero hat and a t-shirt with an upside-down American flag on the front, the freelance e-sports journalist was removed from a Chicago-bound flight because her attire made the pilot “uncomfortable.” She agreed to turn the shirt inside-out even though she had flown in it before but still had a tense exchange with a flight attendant and said she didn’t know if she would be allowed to stay on the plane or not. This conversation was given as the official reason for her ultimately getting kicked off the flight, but Amanda disagrees. In her opinion, she was targeted because she was a transgender black woman.
14. Removed For a Toddler’s Gibberish
In 2007, Kate Penland and her 19-month-old son, Garren, were traveling on a Continental ExpressJet flight from Houston to Atlanta when they were kicked off the plane. The reason? Little Garren kept saying the phrase, “Bye, bye, plane.” Now, most logical people would assume that the toddler, who was looking out the window at the other planes on the tarmac and waving goodbye, was simply talking jibber-jabber. Which he was. Unfortunately, however, the flight attendant was upset by this and told Penland that she needed to shut her baby up. She said, “It’s called baby Benadryl.” Penland told the woman that she would not drug her baby, and then they were forced off the plane because the flight attendant had told the pilot that Penland had threatened her. By the time they had taxied back to the gate, Garren had fallen fast asleep. Fellow passengers were stunned and came to her defense, but to no avail. Already six years post 9/11, any words uttered on a plane — even from the mouth of a toddler — are still being taken very seriously.
13. Army Vet Removed For an Emotional Support Dog
Last year, a U.S. Army vet was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight from Denver to Houston because the airline apparently did not consider her emotional support dog a real service dog. Janae Fowler had flown with Spirit to Denver with her dog Ziggy and had no issues, but on the return trip, it was a different story. Fowler said the flight attendant who raised the issue said that a service animal is for someone with “real disabilities,” which angered Fowler since there are plenty of people — vets and civilians, alike — who have disabilities not visible to the eye. The problem began when the flight attendant asked if Ziggy was a pitbull to which Fowler replied that he was a pitbull and a chocolate lab mix. Situations like this seem even more dumbfounding when they happen to someone who has served our country and is disabled (in any way) because of it.
12. Lesbians Removed For Kissing
The L-Word actress Leisha Hailey was kicked off a Southwest flight in 2011 for kissing her girlfriend, Camila Grey, leading them to accuse the airline of homophobia. The couple were flying from Baltimore to St. Louis, and had shared a kiss that, according to the flight attendant, was not appropriate for a “family-oriented flight.” While the airline insisted that Hailey was escorted off the plane due to her behavior and not her sexuality, Hailey did not believe it and tweeted the whole thing. One of the last tweets on the matter was, “I have been discriminated against by @SouthwestAir. Flt. attendant said that it was a ‘family’ airline and kissing was not ok. This is an outrage. I demand a public apology by @SouthwestAir and a refund. I will never fly this airline. @SouthwestAir endorses homophobic employees. No one made her accountable.”