“A Less-Than-Positive Experience”: Southwest Flight Attendant Kicks Man Off Plane For Bad Joke

Years ago, I wrote a column on how the TSA had effectively made up a crime of telling a joke at an airport. It appears that TSA is not the only humor-challenged airport staff. Southwest Airlines passenger Peter Uzelac told a relatively innocent joke after being delayed for several hours due to a maintenance issue. A flight attendant did not think it was funny and had the plane return to the gate and Uzelac thrown off of the flight over the vehement objections of the other passengers. Rather than pledge to deal with the flight attendant, Southwest simply expressed regret for a “less-than-positive experience.”

According to KTXL, Uzelac was on a May 8 flight from Sacramento, California to Austin, Texas by way of Los Angeles. After waiting for several hours, the flight attendants began to hand out water bottles and Uzelac simply quipped something along the lines of ‘They should be passing out vodka because we’ve been waiting so long.”

The flight attendant reportedly said that she did not like the joke and Uzelac’s wife intervened and said it was just a joke because they had been on the plane for hours. The flight attendant is quoted as saying “Well, so have I, so get used to it.” She then went to spoke to the pilots who returned to the gate and kicked off Uzelac. Other passengers reportedly objected that he had done nothing wrong but it did not seem to matter.

I don’t recall flight attendants holding such authority years ago. Here passengers were vocally objecting about the treatment of the passenger but there appeared to be no ability to get a second opinion or review.

Moreover, the airline left the passengers with the almost creepy statement

“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.”

I would make a joke but I might need to fly Southwest in the future.

48 thoughts on ““A Less-Than-Positive Experience”: Southwest Flight Attendant Kicks Man Off Plane For Bad Joke”

  1. Southwest is a joke. They cancelled 10,000 flights in the first quarter, largely before the 737 max was grounded. I had a flight from Houston to SJC cancelled the morning of, a mere few hours before I was scheduled to take off. Their response? They could reroute me to Oakland or SFO, which to them was good enough, never mind that my car was parked at SJC, I’d arrive hours later than originally scheduled, and would be on my own to figure out transportation from Oakland/SFO to my car. I refunded my flight, went with another airline, and wont ever fly them again.

    For a company that tries to trade on its consumer friendly policies, they sure do come up short when they actually screw over customers due to their own incompetence.

  2. Sounds like airline attendants are a tough crowd.

    A series of airline employees were abusive towards this passenger.

  3. It’s arrogant to 2nd-guess the judgment of a flight attendant. She has much greater responsibility on a flight than any passenger. She has much more time on-board flights and that forms her judgment. I think a “captive” planeload pf passengers after several hours represents a possible powderkeg if mutiny signals are allowed to build.
    Someone on the plane may incorrectly estimate that that it’s a democracy, and the flight crew can be “lobbied” into changing their course of action….totally wrong read of the situation. I believe that the flight attendant was trained to put down a rebellion at its earliest appearance, and what was claimed to be a “joke” was half-serious but not accountable for consequences….can you imagine an imprisoned planeload becoming slowly drunk??

    1. How could they become drunk if they don’t serve alcohol onboard?

      Total failure of customer service. He wasn’t making a threat, according to eyewitnesses. Literally all he said was the joke about vodka. People get frustrated during hours’ long delays. Flight attendants are supposed to be trained how to handle customers smoothly and lower tensions, not add to them.

      Claiming that a joke about alcohol was a threat to airplane safety was an abuse of power, and an indefensible move.

    2. I’ve been on flights in the past that were terribly delayed and the captain offered a free drink to anyone wanting one.

    3. It’s not ‘arrogant’ at all. And if the reportage on the incident is accurate, the people sitting near him witnesses to the incident objected vociferously. Go ahead, defend the indefensible.

    4. I can much better imagine you typed a really weak argument.

      I don’t have to imagine anything. Passengers are the first to petition to eject an unwanted passenger. The fact that fellow passengers petitioned in favor of the ejected passengers proves beyond my reasonable doubt that the attendant is a “snowflake” and/or person having a rough day who wrongly picked two innocent passengers as surrogates for the person or persons with whom the attendant had anger issues. I presume the latter.

      IMO it would be very easy in deposition to ask the attendant absolutely legal questions about the state of her mind in the minutes and hours prior to her ejecting the passengers. Either the attendant is fully unqualified for such service job or somethin’ triggered her prior to her ejecting the passengers.

      Lacking a pre-existing written rule forbidding any and all humor, I’d consider suing SW and/or the attendant, at least for the trouble and time lost, and of course for legal fees. IMO SW would settle out of court in a heart beat. This thing is already quite the you know what show. How does this joke rise to the level of a threat? If the attendant requested an apology and the passenger refused, maybe.

  4. SW is pretty good. Recently I had a good flight on UAL except it was late as hell leaving and then arriving for a tight connection. I had to speedwalk across a mile of a massive sprawling airport only to miss the connection by about three minutes and then another series of hassles for the incompetent “customer help” staff which couldn’t seem to get me to my destination for another day so we hopped the bus. The bus was roomy cool and easy compared to the flight. I’ll seriously consider bus and train over plane if the opportunity arises in the future.

    Next day hours on the computer asking for refunds a month or so later, about half of which have been given and the other half are being held up since they need me to give them the information which was already supplied to them

    oh, what a joy it is to talk to computers who can’t understand you, foreigners that you cant understand, and then Americans who can’t do anything for you even if they can speak English.

    banks and airlines and insurance companies have the worst customer service in general and sadly they are necessities

    1. Even worse, unless you actually rob a bank, banks don’t have Congressional protection when they abuse customers in this way. They are stuck with laws that don’t give them super-powers to do evil.

      This man was abused as badly as he was because Congress gave airliner crews (in 49 USC 46504) arbitrary power to declare that a passenger interferes “with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties” and defraud that passenger of service the airline contracted to provide.

      The local police may have no choice but to assist airliner crews when asked to, even when they are asked to help perpetrate an injustice, because they are not triers of fact. The only real remedy for this as it stands would be for the man tnot just to sue for damages, but file charges for false arrest.

      Perhaps criminal fraud comes into play here, too – the man was deprived of transportation he’d paid for, on the false assertion he’d interfered with the flight crew’s ability to conduct a flight. Airline walks away with money they didn’t earn because of a rogue flight crew misusing their authority.

  5. It’s time to either rewrite the laws enabling airline staff to strand or otherwise penalize airline passengers unless one poses a true hazard to passenger and crew safety, or criminalize that kind of behavior. Civil remedies apparently don’t impress either the airlines or their employees.

    Since the airlines have the US criminal code on their side and their employees routinely abuse it, it’s time to make airliner crews liable to criminal penalties for removing passengers from flights unless a threat to the safety of the passengers is actually present.

    After a few stewardesses and airliner captains are sent to Federal prison or fined heavily for being stranding passengers without a good reason, cases like this would be MUCH less common.

    1. Jean, though I think at times the airlines have been egregious I hesitate to write laws especially those that create more litigation. I think local airports might have specific regulations and control what airlines get what spots so that IMO would be a better place to apply pressure.

      1. Allan, Airports yearn to be “hubs” for scheduled airlines – it’s not plausible that an airline would be shown the door by an airport for abusing its customers, when that airline generates seven-figure income just by routing flights to a destination.

        The airlines handle abuse of passengers by their staff as “isolated incidents” and buy their way out of trouble instead of dealing with those who are personally responsible.

        I’d prefer to see 49 USC 46504 either repealed or its application to passengers drastically curtailed, but there always seems to be support for civil rights abuses in the name of airport security. Fine. Make sure the passengers are secure from incidents like this.

        1. loup, who owns the airports? I believe municipalities are the major owners. Therefore, local government plays a part . We the people elect our local governments. Many airports maintain a large degree of control as to what gates or how many gates a particular airline should have along with control over their schedules. Millions of people’s jobs are dependent on airline traffic. Airports are part of communities so people should have a strong voice in how the airlines are run but it seems we spend too much of our time believing and acting upon ridiculous assumptions such as the President lost the election or the President should be impeached when both of those ideas are stupid and counterproductive.

  6. You are right, it wasn’t like that before. I remember making a similar statement in a similar situation only I wasn’t kidding. I asked for champagne and got it (and I wasn’t in first class). I guess I’m lucky I didn’t get thrown off the plane. Oh for the times when flight attendants thought they were there to serve passengers and make them comfortable.

  7. As Tin pointed out, the really significant fact about this episode is that the cops were involved. There you have it. That’s what this is ultimately about: the prerogatives of arbitrary power. Here it happened to be that of a corporation backed by the state, which is the form this behavior takes frequently enough. But the individual person has no rights whatsoever in general anymore against this kind of capricious overreaching by any institution or person in a position of any authority, because we’ve lost the commitment to individual liberty, sovereignty, or freedom after having been cowed for two decades by an obsession with security. How will it end? Probably violently, I’m sorry to say, and there is no guarantee that we will come out on the other side with that liberty, sovereignty, and freedom restored (That’s not a threat, by the way, just a prediction, which I hope is wrong).

    1. The stewardess in question is sleeping with the pilot. The airline stonewalls because that’s what their legal counsel tells them to do. Recall what happened to Ann Coulter.

        1. mespo…Thank you! He really enjoyed it, too! He said you love being in the courtroom as much as he.
          Sorry we don’t take long trips up there like we used too.

          1. Cindy:

            Me too. I might make an exception if I can finagle an invite to the ranch and all those longhorns. Mom and Nonno were butchers! Hubby and I really are kindred spirits.

            1. Oh wow…..butchers!. Y’all must have had some great steaks and hamburgers.
              Alas we sold the ‘horns when the grandkids came along. But back here in town, where we live, we can give you the artistic tour…….we have an incredible art center, esp for a little town… our daughter is Events Coordinator and assist. director there.
              Hubby is Pres of Board for the old Opera House. We is cultured! LOL

  8. The situation was actually worse than reported here. The airline had two Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies board the plane and remove the passenger, and other passengers were standing up and yelling that he did nothing wrong. It was entirely disruptive, abusive and unnecessary. I think the passenger should sue Southwest. They’ll settle out of court rather than face a California jury, and the ensuing bad publicity is unfortunately the only thing that will motivate them to reign-in their petty tyrant employee.

  9. We need this flight attendant for shows like Saturday Night Live and all the other late night comedy that is looking for applause rather than laughter.

  10. I will no longer fly SW. It is better to go South and then directly West. It it is less than a thousand miles then drive a car.

  11. I’ve actually found SW flight attendants to generally be pretty easy-going and have a good sense of humor.
    Bouncing a passenger for an inocuous joke like that seems pretty extreme, especially considering the circumstances of being stuck on the ground for so long, jammed into metal tube.

  12. The flight attendant will make a fine camp guard when the time comes. They may even promote him or her to “Sorter.”

    1. She is an abortionist who relishes, like Democrats, cutting off the heads of newborn infants since it is, after all, her body. The Flight Attendant was triggered and couldn’t find a pair of forceps to extract the head of the passenger so pushing the passenger out of her “fuselage” was the next best thing since it was her right to choose

  13. As a former airline guy, these kinds of reports were more common than many people might realize. Many may not be aware of CFRs that flight crew members are very much aware of:

    U.S. Code 46504 Interference with flight crew members and attendants:

    “An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both. However, if a dangerous weapon is used in assaulting or intimidating the member or attendant, the individual shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”

    Sadly, common sense is often the least common of all senses. No intent here to justify actions taken.

    1. Time to modify that section of the US Code to punish flight crew members who misrepresent passenger behavior in order to invoke 49 USC 46504 or in any other way unduly punish a passenger who hasn’t actually engaged in “assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft” or interfered “with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties”

      The penalty for misusing 49 USC 46504 ought to be just as severe as it is for passengers who violate the existing statute.

      1. ” punish flight crew members who misrepresent passenger behavior”

        Careful, terrorist groups use testing of all sorts to seek out vulnerabilities. We don’t want flight personal libel so that potential terrorists can use that fear and reduce our safety in the air.

  14. What happens when you give stupid people power.

    That the pilots supported her is incredible.

      1. You really are a piece of work. Over time, you’ve given yourself away, as have many of your blog pals.

        1. Bipolar assisted living center resident lays down the law. Must never suggest a woman is behaving as if she were an unscrupulous slut. Because reasons.

          1. TIAx7:
            The Left crushes all traditional sexual mores and then complains when you make the logical next step that encouraged promiscuity actually leads to manipulation which was, of course, the reason for sexual mores in the first place. They really don’t think things through. Oh and how have you “given yourself away”? How have I?

            1. We all should take a collective moment to heap praise on the decades of success of the world’s major intel operation’s Pysops in brainwashing most of once us gullible fools.

              Thanks a lot IC, but we’ve been seeing through your Scams for a long time now!

              & please take all your Vaccines & don’t filter your water. LOL;)

    1. There’s a cure for that – but one unlikely to be applied, for 49 USC 46504 would have to be drastically amended. Airlines routinely buy members of Congress off routinely by flying them first class or bumping other passengers off flights to accomodate our civil masters. Thus, airlnes conspire with Congress against taxpayers who aren’t elected officials. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) has done worse than the man in this article and gotten first-class perks, not ejected from the aircraft.

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