As her plane made its way toward the runway at Chicago’s Midway International Airport, Peggy Uhle switched off her phone and prepared for take-off. After all, Uhle no doubt believed this flight would be no different than any other she’d ever experienced. But before the pilot could guide the aircraft off the ground, he made an unexpected detour back to the departure gate. Then a flight attendant approached Uhle – and she was told she had to get off the plane immediately.
There are all kinds of fliers, of course. Some passengers can be nervous, while others might only worry during the take-off and landing procedures. Still more might, meanwhile, find catching a plane nothing but fun. But on her scheduled flight in May 2015, passenger Peggy Uhle didn’t have the opportunity to experience either fear or exhilaration.
She got close, though. As we’ve noted, Uhle initially followed protocol by switching off her phone before the plane taxied toward the runway. She likely also had her seatbelt fastened, seat in the upright position and all personal effects clear of the aisle – as any diligent passenger would. And at that point, the Southwest Airlines flight was ready for take-off.
The journey from Chicago, Illinois, was scheduled to head toward Cleveland, Ohio. It’s a route that normally takes a little over an hour, saving a chunk of time compared to the near six-hour – or around 350-mile – drive. However, as we explored earlier, the pilot turned the plane around and headed back to the departure gate before it reached the runway.
Then, as the plane came to a halt back where it had started, Uhle was approached by a flight attendant. What was going on? Well, Uhle told the blog BoardingArea.com in May 2015, “I figured I was on the wrong plane.” But then the airline employee told her something that she hadn’t expected to hear: she had to get off the plane immediately.
For her part, Uhle had been in Chicago’s Midway International Airport on a layover, waiting for her connecting flight to Cleveland in Ohio. Also known as Midway Airport, the place opened in 1927 and was the city’s principal conduit for flights until O’Hare International Airport opened 28 years later.
But Uhle never made it to her destination that day in May 2015. And when the flight attendants initially stopped her from flying, she had little idea of the reason why. At least, as Uhle discovered, she hadn’t been on the wrong plane. Yet the situation was far more serious for the confused mom.
Perhaps Uhle then thought about other people who’ve been removed from flights in Chicago. In April 2017, for instance, Vietnamese-American doctor David Dao Duy Anh was aggressively taken off a United Express flight. Trouble had arisen after no one had volunteered to give up their seats for four airline staffers who needed to reach the flight’s destination of Louisville.
So, with no passengers offering up their seats, staff randomly selected four passengers to vacate the plane. And while three customers complied, Dao refused to be removed from his seat. According to The New York Times, company CEO Oscar Munoz described the passenger, in a subsequent email to staff, as being “disruptive” and “belligerent.” Witnesses, however, told a very different story.
In fact, onlookers described Dao to The Courier-Journal in April 2017 as “polite and matter-of-fact.” Dao is a pulmonologist and reportedly needed to get to Louisville to work a shift the following morning. So, he argued, being bumped from the flight simply was not an option. But video footage captured by passengers revealed what then turned into a seemingly horrific incident.
Witnesses on that plane in Chicago O’Hare International Airport also claimed that airline staff were less than friendly. Then, after security officers arrived to escort Dao from the aircraft, the onlookers said the staff became aggressive. Cellphone video recorded by a passenger even shows staff knocking Dao’s face against an armrest as he’s yanked out of his seat. The passenger is then pulled by his arms off the plane. Later, Dao agreed a settlement with the airline for his mistreatment.
In other cases, though, passengers have been removed from flights for unacceptable behavior. For instance, in an episode on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Houston in October 2018, one female passenger became difficult after a flight attendant asked her to fold up her table for take-off.
Witnesses later described the unidentified woman as getting cranky at the airline staff member’s request to fold her table. And when she refused to comply with the flight attendant’s instructions, she apparently became verbally abusive. This exchange was also captured on a cellphone by another passenger.
As a result of the female passenger’s rant, then, the pilot taxied the aircraft back to the departure gate before take-off. And as the woman was escorted from the plane, the video footage shows her launching into a racially abusive tirade against airline staff. That’s probably why the other passengers didn’t seem to mind being delayed by an hour; they cheered as the woman was ejected from the flight.
A statement released by Southwest Airlines and published by the Daily Mail in October 2018 claimed that the passenger had ignored airline staff when instructed to follow safety procedures. It said, “The customer became unruly and verbally abusive toward our flight attendants, and the decision was made to return to the gate to deplane the customer, where she was met by local law enforcement officers.”
Another passenger was removed from a Southwest Airlines aircraft for far less than that, though. In May 2019 a flight was due to depart from Sacramento, California, heading for Austin, Texas, via Los Angeles. But, according to KTXL, problems arose when refueling and maintenance issues delayed its scheduled flight by several hours.
Concerned with keeping their customers hydrated, airline staff then started to hand out water to those waiting patiently on board the flight. And perhaps to make light of the situation, a passenger reportedly suggested that the staff serve vodka instead of water. But the flight attendant apparently didn’t find his quip funny.
Peter Uzelac, who witnessed the incident, told KTXL in May 2019, “He said something [like], ‘They should be passing out vodka because we’ve been waiting so long.’ [The flight attendant] came by and was like, ‘I don’t think that, and I didn’t like your joke.’” The situation then seemingly escalated when Uzelac’s wife intervened.
As Uzelac described, “Then my wife tried to butt in there and say, ‘Look, we’ve been on this plane for hours.’ And [the attendant] says, ‘Well, so have I, so get used to it.’ Then all of a sudden I see her on the telephone up in front.” The plane then returned to the gate, and the man was removed by Sacramento County sheriff officers.
Although Southwest Airlines didn’t apologize for the incident, the company did later issue a statement. As reported by MSN, it said, “We regret any less-than-positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft. We welcome over 100 million customers each year, and we aim to maintain the comfort of all while delivering Southwest hospitality.”
Just a few weeks before Peggy Uhle’s experience with Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, another passenger claimed that they’d had a particularly unpleasant experience, too. The customer alleged that the company had prevented her from contacting her husband after she’d received a disturbing message from him.
Passenger Karen Momsen-Evers from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, actually claimed that her husband had said that he intended to take his own life. It seems that Momsen-Evers replied to her spouse before her flight from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Milwaukee departed. Then the distraught wife apparently made a further request to airline staff to make an emergency phone call.
However, the crew supposedly instructed Momsen-Evers to set her phone to flight mode. So, according to the Daily Mail, once the plane had taken to the air, Momsen-Evers asked another crew member for an opportunity to make an urgent call to her husband. And their response allegedly was that there wasn’t anything they could do for her.
Momsen-Evers then continued her journey home. But when she got there, she was greeted by police officers who broke the news that her husband had committed suicide. Southwest Airlines later insisted that it’s routine for aircrew to inform pilots of emergencies in which passengers or the aircraft are at risk. However, that seemingly didn’t happen on this occasion.
So why did Peggy Uhle’s pilots feel it necessary to turn the plane back to the departure gate in 2015? Had the passenger become unruly, like the woman on the flight from Chicago to Houston? Or had she offended airline staff like the man on a delayed flight from Sacramento to Houston? Well, as it turns out, Uhlr had done neither of these things.
Uhle, as we explored earlier, hadn’t requested to make a call herself when she received bad news, unlike Momsen-Evers weeks earlier. Instead, there was an emergency that the Southwest Airlines passenger wasn’t aware of at home. As we discussed, you see, the diligent passenger had prepared for the flight’s departure by turning her phone off.
So, as Uhle sat in her seat waiting to take off, a flight attendant came over with instructions for her. Because Uhle’s phone had been turned off, she’d been unaware that her husband had been desperately trying to contact her. But the staff member wasn’t directing her to the departure gate.
That’s because Uhle’s husband, unable to reach Uhle directly, had been forced to find another way to get in contact with her. After all, a desperate situation had unfolded at home that he needed to make his wife aware of. So he’d contacted Southwest Airlines directly in the hope that they could pass a message on.
And realizing the urgency of the situation, airline staff had subsequently alerted the pilot of the circumstances. The captain had then made provisions for Uhle to return to the departure gate. With the plane already taxiing toward the runway, though, the pilot had turned the craft around and headed back to its starting point. And when it got there, gate staff instructed Uhle to call home.
But when Uhle contacted her husband, he told her some devastating news. It turned out that their son had suffered a head injury and was in a coma in Denver. It’s distressing news for any parent, but Uhle was thousands of miles away in Chicago and heading for Columbus. So how would she get to her boy?
With Uhle frantic about her son’s life-threatening condition, the stricken mom had the added stress of figuring out how to get back to Denver and how she would pay for it all. Southwest Airlines was, however, aware of the circumstances, and the company was one step ahead of her.
“The gate attendant already knew the situation and had booked me on a direct flight to Denver that was leaving in the next two hours,” Uhle later told BoardingArea.com. But Southwest Airlines’ efforts and hospitality didn’t end there. It seems that staff had thought of everything so that the distraught mom didn’t have to.
Uhle continued, “[Southwest Airlines] offered a private waiting area, rerouted my luggage, allowed me to board first, and [even] packed a lunch for when I got off the plane in Denver.” So the shattered mom didn’t have to do anything, because airline staff had kindly taken care of all her needs.
Southwest Airlines staff didn’t merely send Uhle on her way and forget about her, either. As she explained to the Daily Mail, “My luggage was delivered to where I was staying, and I even received a call from Southwest asking how my son was doing.” So how much did the extra service cost Uhle?
No doubt the best part of Uhle’s predicament was that she got to be with her son with little delay. However, that the service came at no further cost to the heartbroken mom must have been an added relief. Yes, Southwest Airlines provided Uhle’s unexpected travel requirements completely free of charge.
So it seems that Southwest Airlines’ care commitment extends beyond its employees. As the company’s website states, “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”
A further statement of intent on Southwest Airlines’ website underlines its level of loyalty. It reads, “We don’t take our commitments lightly. We are dedicated to doing the right thing, we take great strides to ensure [passengers’] safety, and fostering trusting relationships between our employees, our customer[s], our suppliers, and our planet.”
In a statement made to MailOnline Travel in May 2015, a spokesperson also addressed the Uhle incident. They said, “This example is a direct reflection of the Southwest Airlines culture. Employees are empowered at Southwest to go above and beyond the call of duty…”
The Southwest Airlines statement continued, saying that staff have the freedom to “follow their hearts to make decisions that positively impact [its] customers.” It also said, “We’re certainly proud of, but not surprised by, any of the hard work that went into doing the right thing for Ms. Uhle and her family.” So the staff’s hospitality is seemingly something that their employers expect.
Nevertheless, the airline’s attentiveness was a move hugely appreciated by Uhle. As she described to BoardingArea.com, “The care that I was shown is second to none. We have always liked Southwest Airlines and now I can’t say enough good things about them.” But what of Uhle’s son? Well, it turns out that despite suffering head trauma, he was soon on the mend, according to Metaspoon.
Many people have strange anecdotes about flights that they’ve been on, of course. Yet one particular woman’s behavior left her fellow passengers completely speechless. You see, passengers en route from Atlanta to Chicago probably weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to take place during their trip. Their hopes of an incident-free flight were dashed, though, when one woman started being disruptive. And although her fellow fliers begged her to behave herself, she ignored them, and as a result the flight was delayed by a mind-numbing four hours.
Indeed, air travel can be stressful at times. Not only do passengers have to organize their luggage, stand in line, pay attention to instructions and sit in a cramped space, but they also have to do so in the company of scores of other travelers. In other words, it takes patience to fly.
And, perhaps inevitably, there has been a rise in incidences of aggression on airplanes. But given shrinking leg room in the airplane cabin, severe delays and surly security staff, it’s perhaps not surprising that passenger violence is on the increase.
Badly-designed airports can also prove a real bugbear to the traveling public – in particular, the apparent need to fill as much floor space as possible with expensive stores. If even one or two of these were removed, there would be more room for waiting passengers to sit down.
What’s more, an article in British newspaper The Guardian has even suggested that air travel exposes divisions in status. Essentially, rich people enjoy a much better flying experience, skipping lines and enjoying first class travel. Consequently, people who witness this may feel worse because they contrast their own discomfort with what they see.
Perhaps the biggest complaint from regular flyers, though, concerns other passengers. Unfortunately, when humans are put in stressful, cramped conditions, they tend to notice the personal habits of other people all the more acutely.
But despite this, what happened on the flight to Chicago is still beyond the pale. As the American Airlines plane was on the tarmac awaiting take-off, one woman was angrily confronting a flight attendant. Additionally, she was allowing her dog to run around wherever it wanted on the plane.
And, allegedly, the ruckus all started when a flight attendant asked Ariana Fletcher to restore her seat to the upright position in preparation for take-off. Apparently, that was enough to drive Fletcher to incoherent rage. For this reason, Fletcher stopped minding her dog, which then ran amok down the aisle.
However, fellow passenger Michael Nash caught most of the ensuing confrontation on camera. And in his video of the incident, we can see Fletcher throwing her hands up threateningly. Furthermore, although we can’t hear exactly what’s being said, other passengers are angrily telling the woman to sit back down.
In Nash’s video, moreover, the woman can be seen repeatedly ignoring instructions to return to her seat. Then another attendant appears on the scene and tries to pick up the errant dog. But before she can do so, Fletcher turns and scoops up the animal herself.
Then finally, and only after a lot of argument, Fletcher takes the dog and returns to her seat. Subsequently, a person can be heard saying, “We just wanna go home… we all just wanna go home.” The story isn’t over yet, though.
That’s because Ariana Fletcher apparently isn’t about to let anyone else have the last word. Indeed, as can be seen in the clip, her tirade begins anew. She shouts loudly, “You motherf**kers, lucky I wanna go home too because there’s gonna be a problem when we get back to Chicago.”
It’s not clear who this vague threat is directed towards; although she’s responding to her fellow passenger’s words, she doesn’t seem to know where they came from. As a result, she appears to be addressing the plane in general.
Unfortunately for everyone else on the plane, though, the flight attendant has bad news for Fletcher if she thinks she’s about to fly back to Chicago. She announces instead that the plane will be returning to the gate. The news is met with groans of frustration from those within earshot.
Eventually, Fletcher was removed from the aircraft and the plane later took off. However, the delay endured by the other passengers reportedly lasted an agonizing four hours. And, perhaps surprisingly, the disruptive woman was not arrested; in fact, she was even allowed to board a later flight.
Of course, this isn’t the first occasion that flight attendants have been forced to remove an unruly passenger from a flight. One woman on another American Airlines flight in 2016, for instance, had allegedly stopped taking her medication, leading to her behaving erratically. The captain therefore radioed for help and Charlotte police boarded the plane in order to remove her.
In a video of the incident, she’s sadly clearly in some distress, muttering, “My dad used to be a captain, I don’t want to talk to the captain.” Furthermore, she insists, “This is a real-life story.” And, eventually, three police officers are needed to attend to the distraught and apparently confused passenger.
One of the officers then addresses the person in the seat next to her, asking whether they are traveling together. He then leans over the woman, but she makes a grab for his sunglasses, causing him to sternly reprimand her. Then things start to turn very ugly.
Subsequently, the woman begins angrily shouting at one of the officers, seemingly goading him into hitting her. She yells, “Hit me, hit me… I dare you to hit me.” Finally, despite her struggling, officers are able to get a pair of handcuffs on her.
Ultimately, an unruly passenger on a flight causes distress to just about everyone involved, including themselves. Sometimes that passenger is experiencing some kind of mental difficulty and so can’t be blamed for their actions; on other occasions, though, the blame may just lie much closer to home.