American Airlines Forces Passenger To Ride In Urine-Saturated Seat

An American Airlines passenger says they had to sit through an entire flight in a seat soaked with urine from a previous passenger, the Fort Wayne Observed blog reports. Here’s an excerpt of the complaint letter they emailed the airline:

Upon boarding this flight, my [spouse] was assigned seat 24E. Upon reaching the seat, the gentleman in seat 24F indicated that seat 24E was soaked and that it smelled badly. That kept [my spouse] from immediately sitting in the seat. In fact, the seat was soaked with urine. The flight attendant’s solution was to put a couple of blankets and a plastic bag on the seat. [Your passenger] literally sat in a urine soaked seat (the seat belt was soaked also) for the duration of this 2 hour flight! [There] was offered no compensation, no alternative seating, nothing.

… I believe that, at a minimum, we are entitled to a full refund of [my spouse’s] ticket for that flight. Once the flight attendant was made aware of the situation, something should have been done. Seat cushions switched out, [offer of] another seat (except the plane was full), or…offered an alternative flight. I look forward to your quick resolution of this appalling situation.

This is what happens when crews are under the knife to turn over the airplane between flights with enough time for a thorough cleaning, or, in this case, the construction of a vacuum-sealed hazmat quarantine. The story is disgusting, and so is the crew’s indifference and jerry-rigged solution. The only thing I can remember that tops it is Continental Airlines flight 1970 from Amsterdam to New Jersey on Thursday, June 14, 2007, where the toilets overflowed and streamed down the aisles. And in December ’07, AirTran let a lady traveling to Boston sit in a seat that was similarly anointed. She got her airfare and the cost of her clothing refunded.

Personally, I would have refused to sit down and insisted on getting booked on the next flight. Still, that passenger definitely deserves a free ticket voucher and a hell of an apology.

Airline flight became more than a piddling matter [Fort Wayne Observed]
(Photo: JohnKit)

Comments

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  1. Chairman-Meow says:

    I’m truly surprised that American didn’t charge a fee for the “upgrade”.

  2. Wicked pissah, AA!

  3. am84 says:

    Well, there goes my breakfast.

  4. bukz68 says:

    That’s got to violate some kind of health code…

  5. BabyGorilla says:

    This what we in the business call the R. Kelly upgrade

  6. Annika-Lux says:

    I wouldn’t have sat in that seat no matter how many plastic bags and towels they put on it. That is absolutely disgusting.

  7. mike says:

    @bukz68: Urine in sterile. There’s no health hazard from sitting in it.

    It doesn’t mean that it’s not discusting though.

  8. ThunderRoad says:

    Seat Warming Fee – $25

  9. @linus: I’ve always heard that your own urine is temporarily sterile when initially discharged, but not for long. Any medical people around to help us out with this?

  10. Bladefist says:

    I would have made a huge scene.

  11. @linus: Actually, urine is only sterile as it exits the body. Once it gets into the seat and interacts with all the other muck in the seat, it is a health hazzard.

  12. BlondeGrlz says:

    @ThunderRoad: I bet they charged him for the blankets too.

  13. chrisjames says:

    Either deal with it and sit in urine for two hours, or risk a tantrum and playing musical chairs with the following flights? Yeah, that’s a tough choice. I might have picked the seat like [your passenger].

    Nice graphic, too.

  14. Bladefist says:

    I try to find the positives in every situation. Atleast it wasn’t #2

  15. “it’s Pissant, not Pisseat…get it right!”

  16. ab12 says:

    @Ash78: Well something is sterile or its not so the source is of no issue (whether its your own or someone else’s). Also, yes the urine would be temporarily sterile, but only because once it leaves you its entering a non-sterile environment. So the urine becoming non-sterile is true but only because its contaminated by the outside, therefore any danger it poses (health-wise) is not due to the urine itself but must come from another source. So its not any more dangerous than a water-soaked seat, but its way more disgusting.

  17. Big Poppa Pimp says:

    Any bets on compensation? My guess is a $50 voucher.

  18. I’m surprised that they didn’t pat themselves on the back for not making the passenger wrap in a blanket.

  19. Tightlines says:

    I believe they prefer to call it a pee-pee soaked heckhole.

  20. cmdrsass says:

    This seems to be a regular occurrence. Who are these serial urinators who are menacing the airways?

  21. SuffolkHouse says:

    I sat in a seat that had a vomit-filled sickness bag in the magazine pocket.

  22. quagmire0 says:

    Wow, I don’t blame them for being pissed. What a golden opportunity to break the seal of corporate injustice.

  23. badgeman46 says:

    @linus: While urine is sterile, old urine breaks down into ammonia, which is both a respiratory hazard and a toxin.

  24. macinjosh says:

    @cmdrsass:

    Mwwahahahahaha

    *hiding face in cape and slinking off*

  25. quagmire0 says:

    In all seriousness though, it’s totally unacceptable. The airline should have either had someone clean the seat before takeoff or put the passenger on another flight with compensation and clean the seat at the next stop. With the price of airfare these days, you should be able to expect a certain quality of service.

  26. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @badgeman46: As someone who almost died of a massive urinary tract infection, I can assure you that all urine is not sterile.

  27. ninjatoddler says:

    @BabyGorilla: I’m sorry but it was recently renamed the “astronaut” upgrade.

  28. Nighthawke says:

    Any form of body fluid is considered a biohazard. The airline has a responsibility to maintain clean and safe accommodations for the paying mob. This needs to be fired off at the CDC and the FAA and let them hammer on AA for awhile.

  29. celticgina says:

    In a related story, American Airlines announces that it takes the extra weight of the urine burned more fuel and therefore will charge ALL passengers a

    “Weighted Bodily Fluid Fuel Surcharge”

  30. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    I’m NOT flying anymore.

  31. MissTicklebritches says:

    That’s absolutely disgusting and unacceptable — unless, of course, the man forced to sit in urine was my ex. Then it’s hilarious!

  32. macinjosh says:

    The real outrage is if it consisted of more than 3 ounces.

  33. dbson says:

    That’s fcking disgusting.

  34. bologna_wallet says:

    Urine is sterile when it leaves the body… but it’s full of stuff that bacteria love. It’s like miracle gro for germs. And it smells.

  35. AD8BC says:

    At least the plane didn’t crash and she didn’t have to use the cushion as a floatation device.

  36. grumpygirl says:

    i want to know the outcome.

  37. BrianU says:

    “Forced” and not given a convenient or practical option isn’t the same thing. It would have to be an extreme circumstance for me to sit there without being held down or having the certainty of arrest for exiting the aircraft. On the other hand, I’ve been in worse situations, and tickets are expensive…. BTW I’m almost certain the proper expression is “jury rigged.”

  38. RogueSophist says:

    @speedwell: So true. Urine should be sterile exiting the body, but it exceedingly often is not because of UTIs, bladder infections, kidney problems, and similar afflictions.

    Also: it occurs to me that the correlation between wetting your airplane seat and having one of these afflictions might be rather high.

  39. forgottenpassword says:

    If she’d have refused to sit down in that urine-soaked seat…. she would have been dragged off that plain with a “disruption of the flight crew” charge.

  40. bohemian says:

    Sit in a urine soaked seat for $1000? That sounds like some sort of expensive S&M treatment.

    I would have refused and left said plane. People need to have a little dignity.

    Who the hell pees in a plane seat?

  41. Michifernication says:

    Was the flight attendant switching with the customer not an option? I just hate how some of these people put their customers in a position that they wouldn’t put themselves in. If the blanket, the plastic wrap and all that is so secure then why don’t you sit in it? I mean you’re going to be walking around for most of the flight passing out peanuts anyway..

  42. rolla says:

    american airlines has to be one of the “ghetto” airlines out there. their airplanes are nasty and old. i personally never choose them, even if they are the cheapest.

  43. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @RogueSophist: Haha. Good point. I used to wholly believe the “urine is sterile” argument until I heard the “blood in the urine” (and UTI, etc) possibility long ago.

  44. @quagmire0: Wow, I don’t blame them for being pissed. What a golden opportunity to break the seal of corporate injustice.

    Well played sir.

  45. IrisMR says:

    @Diet-Orange-Soda: There’s still no worry on a toilet seat though. But a soaked seat? Quite frankly I don’t know if there’s a health hazard there either but it’s DISGUSTING!

    I’d sue their asses.

  46. SacraBos says:

    Cold hard cash back. And a voucher. That’s disgusting. The worst I’ve had to do is have the drunk sitting next to me spill his drink in my seat. But at least it wasn’t human refuse. I’d even suggest a charge-back if they don’t respond well enough.

    In most places, you can’t get someone to touch bodily fluids without being in a bunny suit, and they expect a paying passenger to SIT in it?

  47. QuintanaThymoetes says:

    I’m not surprised the employees of American were this callous. The
    last time I flew on American, the plane smelled heavily of
    insecticide. My friend instantly started having an allergy attack and
    I instantly got a headache. When I asked what the smell was and if we
    could move to different seats, the flight attendant would only say
    that they “sprayed.” Sprayed what? Then, I overheard him make a
    snide comment about me to another flight attendant and when I
    confronted him on it, he completely denied it. I was going to write
    American to complain, but it seemed futile seeing as the American
    clearly does not care about its customers. I wouldn’t fly on American
    again even if the ticket was free. Many other problems occurred on
    that flight beyond the stench filled plane, but the stench was the
    only problem pertinent to this discussion.

  48. beavis88 says:

    God, flying sucks.

  49. Kay Bee says:

    @Ash78: urine can be used as a replacement for sterile saline! (not a medical professional tho)

  50. ChrisNF says:

    Given what goes through as a lawsuit these days, I’d say get a lawyer for compensation for the distress. I don’t like frivolous suits (we had a case in Canada of a guy who won [later turned over on appeal] a case for being traumatized by a fly in an unopened bottle of water which he never drank) but I think this is a clear case where AA needs to be taught that passengers should no be degraded and humiliated in such disgusting ways.

  51. I wonder what was happening at the traveler’s destination that was so important that they didn’t get off the plane and wait for the next flight. Speaking for myself, I would’ve had to have been rushing to my dying grandmother’s hospital bedside to take that flight. (True story)

    I could see a civil lawsuit seeking emotional distress damages coming from this lunacy.

  52. amyschiff says:

    ugh.

  53. friendlynerd says:

    @Kevin V:
    Rinse your contacts with that for a week and let us know how it’s going.

  54. girly says:

    How can this keep happening? Obviously NASA cares more about their passengers.

  55. Edward Lionheart says:

    The passenger knew it was urine and sat down in it anyway–so he, in effect, accepted the terms of the contract. I don’t see why the airline owes him anything and I’m really sick of all you whiny-baby consumers who refuse to accept control over your own fates.

    Ha ha. Just kidding. It’s disgusting. But I wanted to be the first to take the company’s part. Where are all Consumerist’s corporate tools?

  56. girly says:

    Can they cross check these pee-flights for a common passenger? Do they know who does this? Can they diaper-list offenders for future flights?

  57. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @girly: It could have been someone sick, senile, or retarded. What purpose would it serve to blacklist them? Passengers dirtying seats with various body fluids, food, or God alone knows what is hardly a rare occurrence in flight. If the airlines don’t have an effective policy for cleaning up the airlines after this happens, they bloody (no pun intended) well should.

  58. davebg5 says:

    I’d file a chargeback on those tickets before you could say American Express.

    I’d love to hear how AA could try to justify forcing someone to pay good money to sit in a puddle of someone else’s piss to your credit card company.

  59. JollyJumjuck says:

    Under the new industry-wide “Like It Or Lump It” policy, no action will be taken to make amends. They’ll counter with, “Well, at least you didn’t have to sit in a pile of poop.”

  60. samurailynn says:

    So, the guy let his wife stay in that seat? My husband isn’t the most chivalrous guy around, but I can’t imagine encountering that situation and having him say “well, go ahead and sit there, honey, we’ll see what we can do about it later”. I’m pretty sure that at the least he would have taken the nasty seat and allowed me to sit in the [relatively] pristine seat.

  61. bbagdan says:

    I would have gone to the bathroom, crapped in a bag, then smeared the poop on the attendant on the way out.

  62. ringo00 says:

    @BrianU: No. it is “jerry rigged” or “gerry rigged”. It is a military slang term from the latter days of WWII when the German army was running low on funds and had to resort to non-standard methods of weapons and vehicle repair. It is a slight on the German military implying that their work was substandard or hacked together. The term Gerry was a negative ethnic epithet toward the Germans.

  63. @samurailynn: Yeah. I would have let my girlfriend sit in the non urine seat. I wear crappy clothes normally and don’t care if I need to throw away a pair of jeans.

    However, I’d refuse to sit in the seat.

  64. killakhan4 says:

    Airlines are getting out of hand surely. What kind of inhumane ethics are they practicing? Since when has the world so darn concerned about cutting costs and capitalizing…. rather than creating a service just for that.. for satisfying a customer. Do they just see dollar signs when they see passengers or are they even interested in creating a genuinely happy experience in return!

  65. Lambasted says:

    With the amount of negative press American Airlines has been receiving lately, Northwest must be skipping down the street in glee to be out of the headlines for a while. American Airlines used to be quite a distinguished airline. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

    I feel for this passenger. What do you do if it is too late or not feasible to get off the plane but you don’t want to sit in piss section? I can’t honestly say what I’d do in the same circumstance. No one wants to get arrested for causing a disturbance. However, given the flight attendants callous disregard for situation, a disturbance may have been the only catalyst to elicit alternatives.

    I am truly outraged. It is beyond human decency to have to sit in urine. I hope this passenger looks into suing AA for their reprehensible behavior. This passenger is owed far more than the cost of their ticket. Let me sit on the jury, I would gladly award punitive damages worth a king’s ransom. I don’t necessarily support legal windfalls but this passenger has earned theirs.

  66. girly says:

    @speedwell: I would say if they are a serial wetter they do need to have some requirement. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel sorry for them, though.

  67. They should’ve had a replacement seat cushion handy. The planes always have extra cushions. I don’t understand why the cushion wasn’t changed.

  68. philipbarrett2003 says:

    Bad picture – AA dropped the little head cloths that protect you from the previous occupant’s lice many years ago.

  69. hanoverfiste says:

    How Bizarre, I thought this was the same American flight I was on this weekend. Same Row, wrong cities. The guy on the aisle seat discovered his seat was wet and at first they did the blanket thing, followed by plastic and more blankets. However, within 20 minutes he was given another seat…

  70. idx says:

    One time I sat next to an old man with a colostomy bag on a Delta flight from Hawaii to LA. About half way it sprang a leak. They moved me and a few other people immediately, but there wasn’t enough room in first class to redistribute everyone, so me and another guy went to coach. They did everything calmly and discreetly to avoid embarrassing the old guy, and after the flight I was met by a manager who gave me 2 round trip vouchers. This was almost 10 years ago now; I doubt they would offer the same excellent service now.

  71. sarahandthecity says:

    my friend once had to sit on a vomit-soaked seat. also on american. gross.

  72. ekthesy says:

    @ringo00:

    My understanding is that “jerry-rigged” began as a US Army term for retrofitting discarded German equipment that they found as the Allies advanced and the Germans retreated. I could be wrong, though…your explanation also makes sense.

    “Jerrican” is the word for the gasoline cans used by the German army, which was better than the ones the US Army used, so our boys picked up these “jerry cans” as the Germans discarded them.

  73. WTRickman says:

    “Here at American Airlines, we take our passengers’ bodily waste very seriously.”

    How long before we see the “taking it seriously” letter from AA?

  74. picardia says:

    Now I am seriously regretting the AA tickets I bought yesterday.

    ::packs raincoat::

  75. remedies says:

    @ringo00: idk, i’ve seen it in print as ‘jury-rigged’, but it could’ve just been a spelling based on dialect.

  76. …and then they should apologize to her again later when they charge her $100 to use her voucher.

  77. Landru says:

    @forgottenpassword: Fear of being arrested is probably what kept her on the plane.

  78. Zekeklikklak says:

    I’d ask for the flight attendants seat, the flight attendant can sit in pee

  79. RichardMosquito says:

    The same thing happened with me on a United flight, LAX -> JFK.

    Except a bit worse. My seat was urine, my boyfriend’s was vomit. We
    brought this to the attention of the crew as soon as we sat down (it was
    very obvious.) No offer to move seats, no apology other than “we had a
    quick turnaround” and my boyfriend was sick for a week afterwards with
    whatever the person who was throwing up had.

    United’s response to my complaint? $50 credit on another flight.

    Needless to say, we never used those credits, and never flew United again.

  80. spryte says:

    Dude.

    DUDE.

    Makes me wonder, what if it was one of the flight attendants’ seats that was peed on? If an attendant on an earlier flight had had an accident and just left it that way? I’m pretty damn sure they’d be switching out the cushions in a heartbeat. But those lame passengers, screw them.

    And the whole “urine is/isn’t sterile” issue. Seriously, who cares? I couldn’t give a damn about the sterility, it’s freaking PISS. Imagine how horribly the seat must have smelled, and the passenger’s clothing afterward. Stale urine is a nasty smell. I live in San Francisco in one of our more, umm…fragrant neighborhoods. I’ve been here a year and have spent much time in the city prior to that, and that smell still makes me gag.

  81. JiminyChristmas says:

    This is not unlike the story of the passenger who has asked to sit in the lav for his flight. It seems like the best strategy here is to ask for your preferred solution. If soaking in piss is unacceptable to you, the plane is full, and you are amenable to taking a later flight…then insist on being rebooked.

    Obviously, the flight attendant doesn’t give a shit and you sitting on a urine-soaked seat covered in plast is a convenient solution for her. The most pathetic thing about this whole episode is you can’t rely on the airline to offer decent service or creatively solve their own problems. The passenger has to insist on decent treatment and lead the business by the nose to doing the right thing.

  82. econobiker says:

    I have seen a young child get up from sleeping during a flight with soaked clothing. No telling on the seat condition…

  83. ClevelandCub says:

    @picardia: Hum… better put that in your carry-on.

  84. u1itn0w2day says:

    I am not surprised at the flight attendants response and attitude.I am appauled.That’s a potential health issue for everyone on that plane including the crew.I can’t believe the airlines don’t train the crew to at least question or foward ANY health concerns higher up.

    I’m also surprised that’s not a bigger problem given the wait times and how cramped and crowed some of these planes are.Many won’t bother to get up and go the restroom because it’s such a hassle.

    They’re going to have to start issuing NASA astronaut diapers.

    Hate to say it but sue away.

  85. Wow… nobody blamed the victim… I’m so proud of you guys!

  86. u1itn0w2day says:

    Your right ceejeemcbeegee but after seeing the news about disorderly passengers being arrested for complaining or just be suspected of something I’d be leary to complain too much.Throw in some time constraints or deadlines the passenger is at the mercy of the crew.

    Personally I would’ve made a bigger issue.I’m surprised the passangers in the adjoining seats didn’t COMPLAIN.But the thing is the second the issue was pointed out to the crew much more should’ve been done for the passenger.

    And being in an airport let alone the airplane you’re in a very controlled enviorment where you are expected to be COMPLIANT.Most people don’t even want to question authority in circumstances like that-and that’s exactly what they want and exploit all the time.

  87. yourbffjill says:

    while flying a few months ago, there was an empty seat in the middle. Someone near the front of the plane had some unknown disgusting brown/green substance on theirs, and since our middle seat was empty a flight attendant came and switched the seat cushions on us. I’m happy the lady did not have to sit ON whatever that was, but I did not want it next to me either. The man in the aisle seat and I complained, and asked that the cushion just be removed entirely, but the flight attendant said the plane cannot depart without all seat cushions in place. (I know, what?) His solution was to cover it with a blanket.

    A second flight attendant came up to us right after and said “This is completely unacceptable, when you guys land, you need to complain to our headquarters”, which is ridiculous, because if it’s unacceptable, then YOU should do something about it, not me.

    Before the flight took off some maintenance guy came on the plane to switch the covers, and the first flight attendant stopped him and said “We’re already late as it is, I covered it with a blanket, we need to go” and said maintenance guy left without changing it.

    Then minutes before take off, a third flight attendant came up and said “Is there something gross on that seat? Let me take that”, ripped the cushion off, and I enjoyed my rather spacious 5 hour flight without worry that something was growing in the seat next to me.

    Honestly I don’t think I would have taken the time to complain because at least I didn’t have to sit on it, but I thought the resulting circus was horrifying. How can I hear three different things from three different flight attendants, and how come only one has the balls to just do the right thing?

  88. KenZ says:

    At least they didn’t charge for the blankets.

  89. rpt1700 says:

    Anyone remember the American Airlines jingle from back in the 80’s?

    “We’re American Airlines/something special in the air”

  90. Hawkins says:

    I believe that our editor may have it wrong: it can either be “jury-rigged” or “jerry-built.” “Jerry-rigged” is incorrect.

    According to [www.reference.com]

    Jury rigging refers to makeshift repairs or temporary contrivances, made with only the tools and materials that happen to be on hand. Originally a nautical term, on sailing ships a jury rig is a replacement mast and yards improvised in case of damage or loss of the original mast.

    The phrase “jerry-built” has a separate origin and implies shoddy workmanship not necessarily of a temporary nature.

    Man, I love etymological pedantry.

  91. @Hawkins: You dear sir, must not spend much time in the South. It is definitely ‘jerry-rig’ and when people say ‘jury-rig’ it is because they are pronouncing ‘jerry’ in a thick accent, like ‘jurrrry rig’.

    Now, the ACTUAL for-reals phrase might be ‘jury’ but people here (Virginia) say ‘jerry-rig’.

  92. formatc says:

    @wiretapstudios: Your regional dialect and accent may sound like “jerry,” but the interweb still says that the spelling “jury-rig” is correct.

    As a cited source from Wikipedia:

    “Jerry-rig” is a blend of “jerry-built” and “jury-rig,” but only recently have these two terms begun to mingle. The earliest date for “jerry-rig” given in any major dictionary is 1959, and some dictionaries don’t include it at all, for they still consider it a mistaken form – a garble.

  93. BrianU says:

    jury rig – TRANSITIVE VERB: To rig or assemble for temporary emergency use. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

    I thought it was related to how a jury ( group of people ) would come to a quick consensus just to get out of the room and back to their normal lives :) But, the etymology is from improvised rigging on a ship. And I have heard the German/Jerry theory while being taught the correct way of saying it.

  94. Paladin_11 says:

    I had always heard it as “jerry-rig” with a negative/positive ethnic contribution. Sort of a backhanded compliment to German ingenuity during WWII.

  95. hypoxia says:

    This happened to the passengers behind me on a Northwest Flight three years ago. It was handled much better, though; a flight attendant stood guard over the seat and when the passenger arrived she apologized, explained that the previous passenger had an accident, and arranged a new seat for the passenger. I overheard the conversation and she was truly apologetic and frankly explained that because the janitorial stuff had been cut so drastically the flight attendants were expected to clean the entire plane in unreasonably short time spans between flights, and her frustration with the situation was quite clear yet expressed very tactfully and kindly.

    I did think the airplane was extremely unkempt, and I felt quite badly for the flight attendants.

    I vote for jerryrig, without the hypen.

  96. shor0814 says:

    Urine might be considered sterile, except maybe Hep-B or some other virus. Other viruses are present in urine, but at such low concentrations that they are generally ignored, but I am not so sure about sitting in a puddle of it…..does that count as a low concentration?

  97. TechnoDestructo says:

    @remedies: Not based on dialect. Based on ignorance of the etymology, and assuming what one heard was a different word.

  98. Jabberkaty says:

    Urk… Sorry, I think I would’ve asked to switch seats with the stewardess and see how she liked it… Not that she peed in it, but I think the point would’ve been made.

  99. JerseyJarhead says:

    I am surprised they didn’t get charged extra for a free beverage!!!!!!!

  100. jackspat2 says:

    REFUND.

    And I would sue American Airlines. You’d probably win.