United Airlines throws man in 'Make America Great Again' hat off plane (and passengers love it)


See what you think about how United handled this.

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

No, the hat didn't say "Make American Great Again."

That would have only added to the flavor.

However, this latest United Airlines controversy involves a man who appeared to be unhappy that he hadn't been given an upgrade on a Sunday flight from Shanghai to Newark.

So, as NBC Bay Area reports, the man in a "Make America Great Again" hat went to the back of the plane and purloined a whole row of economy seats for himself. He apparently forbade other passengers from sitting in his row.

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All of United Airlines' recent PR nightmares
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All of United Airlines' recent PR nightmares

1. United Airlines Flight 3411

Footage of Dr. David Dao being dragged off United Airlines Flight 3411 from Chicago, Illinois, to Louisville, Kentucky, went viral on April 10.

The incident, in which Dao lost teeth and broke his nose, sparked international uproar and turned into a public relations nightmare for the carrier.

Dao will be suing the company, according to his attorney.

2. Second United Airlines passenger comes forward

Amid the social media firestorm set off by Dr. Dao's incident, a second passenger came forward to say that he, too, recently experienced mistreatment on a different United Airlines flight.

Geoff Fearns, 59, told KCAL he was removed from his first-class seat on a flight from Kauai, Hawaii to Los Angeles, California last month.

Although Fearns said he tried to resist the flight attendant's orders at first, he eventually caved once she threatened to have him put in handcuffs.

3. Scorpion falls from overhead bin and bites passenger

A Canadian couple's Mexican vacation came to an unfortunate end when they were flying home to Calgary from Houston on April 11.

Richard and Linda Bell were on a United Airlines flight when a scorpion fell from an overhead bin onto Richard's head.

He dropped it on his plate, then picked it up again, when the scorpion stung him.

The animal was stomped on and thrown in the toilet.

Emergency services were called in, but Bell was reportedly not in distress. He declined medical treatment.

4. Woman claims she was sexually harassed by drunk man on United Airlines flight

A New Jersey woman said that United Airlines flight attendants continued to serve alcohol to a visibly inebriated passenger after she complained that he sexually harassed her.

Jennifer Rafieyan was traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to Phoenix, Arizona, with her 12-year-old daughter when the drunken passenger was escorted onto the plane.

Over the course of the flight, Rafieyan said the man repeatedly groped her and rubbed her legs and knees, while occasionally kissing her hands and putting his head on her shoulder.

Rafieyan reported the passenger to a crew member after her daughter got up to use the bathroom, but it did little to help her situation.

"She said, '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,'" Rafieyan recalled.

5. Couple kicked off United flight on way to their wedding

A couple was kicked off their United flight as they were headed from Houston to Costa Rica for their wedding on April 15.

Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell had boarded their flight when they noticed a passenger napping across the row they were supposed to be sitting in.

Instead of waking up the snoozing man, the pair decided to sit a few rows in front of their assigned seats.

Hohl said that after he and Maxwell sat down, a flight attendant asked if they were in their assigned seats. When the couple said no and explained why they had moved, Hohl said the attendant declined their request for an upgrade and asked them to return to their original seats.

Hohl said that although he and Maxwell did as they were told, a U.S. Marshall later boarded the flight and asked them to get off the plane.

6. United Airlines CEO's heart transplant comes under scrutiny

Following United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz's apology over Flight 3411, people began questioning whether his wealth played a role in the heart transplant he received last year.

Munoz had a heart attack on October 15, 2015, one month after he took over as United's new CEO.

Less than three months later, he received a new organ.

Since the waiting list for a new heart was reportedly up to 4,200 people at the time, questions have risen about how he was able to get a new heart without waiting very long.

7. Dad accused of trafficking his own daughter on United plane

The wife of a Mexican man who was accused of trafficking his own 3-year-old daughter on a United Airlines flight spoke out about the incident on April 17.

Maura Furfey, a Spanish teacher and mother of three, says that her husband and daughter were returning from a trip to Mexico to visit her husband's mother and great-grandmother, "who they see but once a year."

Apparently another passenger, who Furfey says was "obviously inebriated," expressed concern to an airline employee that the fair-skinned child didn't look like her Mexican father, raising suspicion that he had kidnapped her.

The mother of three says she burst into tears when she learned the details of what her family had gone through.

8. United Airlines stock plummets $800 million amid controversy

United Continental lost about $800 million in total value the day after the video of Dr. Dao being dragged off Flight 3411 became a major news story.

Shares in the company declined about 3.8 percent in mid-morning trading, a steep drop for a major company like United.

9. Woman claims United Airlines employee forced her to back of plane in tears without explanation

A New York woman filed a $150,000 lawsuit against United Airlines, claiming she was forced from her business class seat to the back of the plane by an employee without any explanation during a flight last year.

Karen Shiboleth, a 24-year-old Columbia graduate, was traveling to London to attend a master's degree program at Kings College on September 10, 2016.

Shiboleth claims that ten minutes prior to take off, a United employee boarded the craft and demanded she vacate her seat in United BusinessFirst and move to the back of the plane.

The lawsuit alleges that nobody would explain to Shiboleth why she was being moved, and that when she expressed her confusion, the employee took her arm "without consent" and forced her to a middle seat in the back of the plane.

To make matters worse, the unidentified worker reportedly called her a "c--t" during the interaction, bringing Shiboleth to tears.

10. Professional golfer claims his clubs were snapped on United Airlines flight

An Australian professional golfer took to Twitter on April 24, claiming his golf clubs were destroyed during a recent United Airlines flight.

Veteran golf pro Matthew Goggin said he opened his checked bag after his trip, only to discover that his precious clubs were snapped in two.

"First time in 20+ years I've opened my bag to find this..." he wrote. "I was going to complain but I must admit I'm a little intimidated by United."

11. Giant rabbit mysteriously dies aboard United Airlines flight

The sudden death of a 10-month-old continental giant rabbit in the cargo of a United Airlines flight prompted an internal investigation.

Simon, a 35-inch behemoth, was traveling from London's Heathrow to Chicago's O'Hare to meet his new "celebrity owner" when he mysteriously died in the airline's care.

Annette Edwards, Simon's breeder, says that both she and Simon's buyer are extremely upset and confused by the incident.

"Simon had a vet's check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle," Edwards said. "Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I've sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before."

Simon was the son of the world's current largest rabbit, Darius, who is a whopping 51 inches long.

The 10-month-old rabbit was reportedly on track to out grow his father and eventually steal his title.

United Airlines' says PR team is hiring

Feeling up for a challenge? 

There are currently three job openings in Houston, New Jersey, and California for a brand manager in the United public relations department.

Good luck with that.

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Perhaps this was some sort of "America First" policy on his part.

Indeed, footage posted to Twitter by Daniel O'Connell shows the man berating other passengers. His collected wisdom included that another passenger was a "moron" who "didn't know how to speak English."

Ah.

The man, who still hasn't been named, insisted he was "entitled to that seat," even though it doesn't appear to have been the one he'd been assigned.

It's unclear why he was quite so inflamed. O'Connell, though, offered this speculation on Twitter: "This guy has been delaying my wife's Shanghai to EWR United flt this a.m. He wants to be dragged off so he can get his 25 million. MAGA hat."

United's staff are in a very difficult situation, now that the airline has become famous for dragging the bloodied Dr. David Dao off a flight, solely because he refused to be bumped once he'd been seated.

What the airline ought to find uplifting here is that its cabin crew and passengers seemed to have been on the same side.

Another passenger who said he was on the flight--Clark Gredoa--also intimated on Facebook that the man was looking to become a victim.

"Captain, crew, and airport staff come over. Man threatens that they'll have to drag him off the plane," Gredoa said.

It seems that the cabin crew wouldn't be baited. Gredoa offered them fulsome praise, which he didn't offer MAGA Man.

"He finally relents, but not before berating some female passengers and crew, calling one passenger 'Hillary' (lol) and 'lesbian,'" he said.

A United spokesman told me: "While boarding flight 87 from Shanghai to Newark, a customer refused to comply with crew member instructions and became increasingly disruptive when asked to deplane the aircraft."

To solve this impasse, airline staff simply emptied the whole plane and waited for MAGA Man to leave too. As he exited into the terminal, footage posted by NBC shows passengers shouting "Lock Him Up!", which some might find a witty retort--especially when their plane was now severely delayed--to one of his political persuasion.

This seems an instructive lesson in how airline staff and passengers can come together and defend common sense. (I'm not speaking of politics here, merely of flying common sense.)

All is not lost when it comes to flying. Most is, but not all.

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