United Can't Find A Power Outlet On A Plane For Your Life Saving Medical Device

Reader Glenn was traveling to Thailand with a group of friends. Glenn and another member of the group have issues with Sleep Apnea, a potentially life threatening disorder where sufferers stop breathing in their sleep. Fortunately, a simple medical device called a C-Pap machine can be used during sleep to correct the problem. So Glenn, being the informed responsible consumer he is, contacted the airline the group was booked on, United, to make sure that he’d be able to use his C-Pap machine during the god-awfully long trip from Boston to Thailand. United said, sure, no problem, they’d be able to get him an outlet for his machine. Then, they canceled his booking. Without telling him. But wait! It gets worse!

A friend of mine told me I should log a complaint on this website against United Airlines. I was part of a group of 9 people traveling from Boston to Thailand on Dec 20th 2007. There were 2 of us who required an electrical outlet to supply power for C-Pap machines due to Sleep Apnea disabilities. We checked with United Airlines almost 2 months prior to the trip, to make sure they could accommodate us. They assured us it would be no problem. That’s where the trouble began.

On the day I called (October 23, 2007) United “medical dept”. They said they would contact me to confirm but that is should be fine. After not hearing from them….I called back on November 20th and found out my reservation had been cancelled and the flights were “full”. United told me my travel agent had cancelled the reservation but that was not the case. After 2-3 hours on the phone they discovered it had been cancelled by the original reservationist I spoke to on 10/23/2007. Finally they “made room” for me on the flights and supposedly we were back on track. We received calls from United a week prior to the flight saying that our electrical outlets would be available for us.

Boston to DC flight was uneventful. We boarded the plane in DC that was going to Tokyo (14 hour flight) on 12/20 around noon I think. After I was seated I couldn’t find an outlet so I called the flight attendant to show me where it was. She had no idea what I was talking about. She called a supervisor who couldn’t help me either. They moved my seat up to business class I believe and still there was no plug there. I was asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes but I would not be able to sleep. Then United did what I thought was unimaginable. Because they had failed comply with our request they removed my bags and my friend Mike’s bags from the plane and forced us off the flight. They separated us from our traveling group and would not even look into putting us on another flight the same day. The plane the next day had only one working outlet. They talked about having one of us stay behind again. We convinced them to let us fly and we would share the outlet.

They violated not only their own policy to accommodate medical issues with a 48 hour notice but also the Air Travel Access Act in not meeting our medical needs appropriately. An 8 page letter was responded to with a $125 coupon for each of us. We lost the cost of our hotel in Bangkok, our first day of the tour, and had to pay additional transportation costs to get to the hotel not covered by the tour because we arrived late. Sorry for all the info in such a small space. Please let me know if your website can help us. We feel at the very least we should be offered a roundtrip ticket within the U.S. We paid over $1,300 for each ticket originally. Thanks


Last I checked, $125 won’t get you coast to coast one way in this country. How insulting. I think it’s time to write to someone higher up, like Graham Atkinson, United Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer. Also, since they screwed up your trip because of their inability to make simple accommodations for your medical condition, despite ample warning and your compliance with their own policies, how ’bout writing to the Department of Transportation? Oh look, they have a section called”Complaints Alleging Discriminatory Treatment Against Disabled Travelers!” Refusing to accommodate for life saving medical equipment, that’s discriminatory, right?

(photo: myrespiratorysupply.com)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dorkins says:

    Sleep apnea is life-threatening???

    I mean, I need a plug everywhere I go for my ingrown toenail regulator, but …

  2. Not to be an asshole, but how I read it is they informed the airline of what they would REQUIRE to safely fly. When the airline couldn’t provide that, they canceled the reservation. Also, were there other kinds of “outlets” on the plane? What I mean is maybe an outlet that didn’t have the standardized plug? As for taking them off the flight, they said they could not fall asleep w/o danger of serious medical problems. I see no problem with taking two people w/potentially life threatening problems off a flight that could not handle their needs. Let’s face it, if they had gotten in trouble, there would be a story about how the airline let two people who were “sick” fly, and now their dead.

    That being said, YES, there was bad communication from the airline, and YES, they handled it badly.

  3. LiC says:

    An IPAC machine saves the life of the person using it because those around him/her will kill him if he doesn’t quit snoring.

    I’m glib because my dad has one, and he’s the king of snorers. Scared off the bears during camping trips, yes he did. Oh, and he does have a problem with not breathing when he’s asleep, the IPAC machine resolves that issue nicely.

  4. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Yes. People with certain types of sleep apnea, the sort that would require the above device, can choke on their own tongues. They can also sufficate in their sleep.

  5. RAREBREED says:

    United’s customer service is so hit and miss. Depending on who you speak with, you’ll get different results.

  6. He did everything right, the airline was totally wrong, but this is still all his own fault, I’m sure of it…

  7. Parting says:

    @dorkins: Depends on the gravity.

    Same thing as with allergies. Some are mildly allergic to peanuts, skin will turn red, some rash,etc. And some will die.

  8. seth1066 says:

    “They moved my seat up to business class I believe…”

    Not quite sure you were upgraded to Biz Class? Well, if you’re going to write the airline please be more definitive which will help make your story more believable.

  9. Mariallena says:

    So you can fly but you would not have been able TO SLEEP? Is that a DISABILITY?

    People like you are making airliens and other organizations defensive and ruining it for the REALLY disabled people.

  10. ClayS says:

    I think we learned yesterday that it is inadvisable to sleep on a plane.

  11. bananaballs says:

    @dorkins: it is life-threatening, dickhead.

  12. statnut says:

    @dorkins: When generally speaking, when you stop breathing in your sleep, it can be life threatening. Generally though. If you’re good at holding your breath in your sleep, you’re good to go.

  13. Mina_da_mad_child says:

    It’s life threatening because the person actually stops breathing and the body is deprived of oxygen. The machine of which he speaks, I believe, forces air down their throat and keeps the airway clear while they sleep. He has a valid complaint.

  14. statnut says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: He said he could fly without it, but he couldnt sleep. I wonder why they booted him then.

  15. Ashcan says:

    “…An 8 page letter…”

    That’s your first problem. You have to keep complaint letters short and simple. No one at the company is going to take the time to read a novel.

    I say take them to small claims court.

  16. MaliBoo Radley says:


    I would think that if I couldn’t sleep after a 14-20 hour flight, I’d be rather worse for wear, disoriented and rather pissy.

    But, no, that isn’t his disability. Sleep apnea is his disability. It’s the sleep apnea would have caused him to not be able to sleep.

  17. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit?

  18. Parting says:

    @Mariallena: If airline is unable to follow it’s own policies, than it should compensate the customer.

    And try flying US to Thailand without falling asleep. It’s long, tiresome, boring. Those who cannot fall asleep on those flights will be VERY miserable in the end. (Speaking from personal experience)

    And when you cannot fall asleep without dropping DEAD from SUFFOCATION. Yes, that is a disability.

  19. smirky says:

    funny funny

  20. statnut says:

    I wish the title of the story had been “United cant find a power outlet to save your life.”

  21. catskyfire says:

    The airline did act poorly. That is not in dispute.

    However, since when is a C-Pap machine a high-level requirement for a plane flight? Yes, sleep apnea can be life-threatening, but who is able to sleep deep enough for it to kick in on a flight? (Seriously, leaning over and slumping isn’t exactly ‘restful sleep’.)

    Truly life threatening ailments usually have some sort of a battery backup…

  22. Parting says:

    @seth1066: Some ”business class” seat are only different from economy by food served by the airline. Same seats, same space, more expensive lunch.

  23. AaronZ says:

    @dorkins: “Sleep apnea is life-threatening???”

    Dorkins, reading isn’t just fun, it’s Fundamental. You must not have gotten as far as the second sentence in the article where they point out:
    “Sleep Apnea, a potentially life threatening disorder where sufferers STOP BREATHING in their sleep.”

  24. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @dorkins, Mariallena: I would call not breathing life threatening, yes.

    Again, it’s called Google people. In fact, any search engine will do.

  25. llcooljabe says:

    To Glenn: Try elliott’s blog: [www.elliott.org]

    Actually, I think he reads the consumerist. but it wouldn’t hurt to write to him too.

  26. sleze69 says:

    Not sure how I feel about this. Did he bring an adapter that allows him to use airplane outlets?

    United found that he was in danger if he flew on that flight so they did the responsible thing of booking him on a different flight. The fact that he was initially upgraded to business class is in the favor of United as well.

    United has a plane that doesn’t have a single working outlet? Most internation planes have an outlet in EVERY seat.

  27. axiomatic says:

    Man, some of you people are just jerks. Just because you can’t empathize does not make the airline correct. You fail, go to sensitivity training.

    I think this guy did everything needed to be upfront about his desired “COMFORT” while flying a long distance.

    If they can not accommodate his needs, all they had to do was say so and this guy would have chosen a different carrier.

  28. StevieD says:


    After Hurricane Katrina my dad and his c-pap went without electricity for 6 weeks.

    He is still alive.

  29. KenSPT says:

    I blame the consumer, it’s their fault for having sleep apnea …

  30. Mariallena says:


    Did you get to the third paragraph?

    If it’s really life threatening, how come the guy agreed to travel without using his machine?

    Is he stupid?


    Or a crybaby who wants a big check from United?

  31. ClayS says:

    That pretty much sums it up. They assured him of the electrical facility he needed, they reneged, and then they did not fairly compensate him.

  32. MaliBoo Radley says:


    That isn’t the point here.

    He was told that he would be able to use his device on the plane.v They lied to him, put him on another flight and royally screwed up his travel plans (plus they cost him money).

    Besides, who says your dad and this fella have the same level of apnea?

  33. Lea9017 says:

    yea, my friend’s dad just died from it a couple months ago. try not to be so sarcastic about things you don’t know much about

  34. Michael Belisle says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Read the letter again; the original cancellation ostensibly had nothing to do with accommodations.

    @seth1066: What does it matter if it was Business or First? They’re indistinguishable a typical coach passenger like me. And he was kicked off the airplane before it took off.

    @anyone-saying-it’s-not-life-threatening: Read the letter. A) In some cases it is and B) Theresa added life-threatening in this case:

    I was asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes but I would not be able to sleep.

  35. gamehendge2000 says:

    I found myself on a BOS->LHR redeye in a seat without a power outlet. According to seatguru.com, my seat was supposed to have one. Of course, I could have selected the wrong aircraft type, but it’s still AA’s fault nonetheless.

    So I was faced with a life threatening risk – my movie player running out of juice 2 hours into a 6 hour flight.

    I was considering getting off the plane and leaving. But since I didn’t have my receipt with me, which I thought the stewardess would ask for before letting me leave, I was faced with only one alternative.

    Asking to move to a seat with a power outlet.

    And they actually let me do it.

  36. ClayS says:

    Sleep apnea is a matter of degree. Some cases are severe and life-threatening. Thankfully, your dad’s is not as serious.

  37. Mariallena says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    If it so dangerous, how come he agreed to travel without using his machine?

    The guy wanted to travel anyway, because there is really no risk to his life and he had got upgraded to business class.

    United kicked him out (probably not the wisest decision) and know he wants a big check.

  38. MaliBoo Radley says:


    The man was obviously being sarcastic. He said he could go without it, but wouldn’t be able to sleep. He obviously didn’t want to go on a long flight like that without being able to sleep.

  39. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    If it’s really life threatening, how come the guy agreed to travel without using his machine?

    @Mariallena: Um, because he was going to stay awake?

    Or a crybaby who wants a big check from United?

    No, he’s a customer that lost both time and his original lodgings for his trip because United can’t be honest about the fact that they don’t have outlets for their passengers to use. United was the one who messed up here.

  40. KIRZEN2007 says:

    Life saving medical equipment?

    Surely you’re joking?

    I’ll be first in line to agree that the airlines handled this in a despicable manner and should be held fully accountable for their inability to get things together and have the necessary ammenities available for a customer with a handicap.

    But by no means is a C-Pap a piece of life saving technology, most people with apnea find it difficult (or impossible) to get a restful night’s sleep without their C-Pap, but beyond that there is no further medical function of the device and its not emergency or life-saving equipment.

    Frankly, I expect much better of you guys Consumerist.

  41. statnut says:

    @Mariallena: Ummm cause he said he wouldnt sleep? Therefore, his condition wouldnt kick in. Reading and logic, not that difficult.

  42. cybercjh says:

    Glenn was well within his rights to call the airline to ask for accommodation. However, the airline could have initially refused because a CPAP machine really isn’t a medically necessary device while flying. But, the airline agreed to accommodate Glenn and then eff’ed it up royally. The problem here is not that Glenn asked United for accommodation when it was only desired, not necessary. But, it’s that United said yes, then no, then yes again, then no, then pretended not to know him, then yes again, then no, etc. Since United said YES originally, that is what they should have honored.

  43. Xay says:

    @Mariallena: Maybe you need to reread the third paragraph. He shared the outlet with a friend in his party who had the same machine.

  44. IrisMR says:

    @Mariallena: The guy said he could travel but he’d have to stay awake. It’s a SLEEP disorder. So if you stay awake you’re ok. But… well, s’not very fun.

  45. Mariallena says:


    So now we have gone from a life-treatening disability (dying in your sleep) to a slight inconvenience (not being able to sleep during a flight).

    Lots of people out there don’t sleep on flights and don’t expect any special treatment for that.

  46. cybercjh says:

    … but what do you expect from an industry that’s willing to lie about arrival and departure times? (George Carlin)

  47. Mariallena says:


    No. You are wrong.

    That was the next day. (“The plane the next day had only one working outlet”)

    The first day he had agreed to travel without his machine but United kicked him out. (“I said yes but I would not be able to sleep. “)

  48. Bladefist says:

    the obvious solution here is a backpack gas powered generator

  49. dorkins says:

    @AaronZ: Yes, but my understanding is that most sleep apneas are only a few seconds. Otherwise most of us would be dead already.

  50. gamehendge2000 says:

    No one has yet asked why two gentlemen were bringing said machines to Bangkok?

  51. Mariallena says:


    Yeah, well, there are a lot of things that are “not very fun” when you fly, from the tiny seats to the awful food, but that’s no reason to cry “disability!”.

  52. trujunglist says:

    Sleep apnea must really suck a lot. Then again, being 6’4″ and trying to fly that same route would mean that regardless of if I had the condition and was given an outlet, I would still be unable to sleep. So, while it sucks that the guy had to be inconvenienced in this manner, imagine how fucked the airlines would be if not being able to sleep on a plane became something to be sued over. I’d be a goddamn millionaire.
    So as far as I’m concerned, United does not make accommodations for my height, which could be considered a disability, since I can’t comfortably fly or ride roller coasters.

  53. thirdbase says:

    Better to die in business class than coach. You don’t want your friends calling you cheap at the funeral.

  54. Rectilinear Propagation says:


    Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. About half of people with sleep apnea develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which raises the risk of heart failure and stroke. If there’s underlying heart disease, these repeated multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from a cardiac event.

    from: [www.mayoclinic.com]

  55. statnut says:

    Yes, god forbid someone want to sleep on a 14 hour flight. And after he agreed not to sleep, they kicked him off(though I dont understand why. Guess they were afraid he might accidentally fall asleep?). But considering he did what you are supposed to do, and made arrangements in advance, I dont see why you’re blaming him.

  56. ironchef says:

    On one hand I empathize with his medical condition. He should have booked it first class or business class if he thought it was a life or death scenario for his leisure trip.

    On the other hand, I hope he concentrates on losing some weight rather than rely on being tethered to a machine and complaining up a storm in order for an airline to bend over backwards to accommodate him.

    it reminds me of people who sue the airlines because the seats are too narrow for their bodies. My sympathies to their discomfort but you have to take some responsibility.

    Besides, this kind of complaint seems to happen only to American carriers. If this guy flew on a foreign airline, I wager this wouldn’t even get a blip on the consumer radar. Passengers on foreign carriers seem to be more independent and self reliant.

  57. MaliBoo Radley says:

    @KIRZEN2007: @cybercjh:


    Sleep Apnea can kill you.

  58. statnut says:

    How dare this man have a life-threatening sickness? How dare he even think to leave his home? He should know better, and just be a shut in for the rest of his life.

    At least, thats what some of you are saying right?

  59. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Your understanding is wrong.


  60. dorkins says:

    @Lea9017: It’s dangerous to ask questions around here.

  61. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Because they planned on sleeping once they got there?

  62. statnut says:

    @ironchef: What does losing wieght have to do with his disorder? I dont understand how being tall or overweight are being compared to his disorder, which is not something he can just “go out and get rid of.”

  63. gamehendge2000 says:


    false, no one sleeps in bangkok. More likely they brought them along in the event the 12 year old boys they picked up happened to snore.

  64. MaliBoo Radley says:

    Admittedly, a high number of people who have sleep apnea have it because they are overweight.

  65. CharlieSeattle says:

    @dorkins: As a matter of fact it is. What do you think stopping breathing while you sleep does. AS someone that uses a CPAP, I take a battery and inverter when I go camping even. So stop being an asshat.

  66. statnut says:

    @radleyas: Fair enough, thanks for the info.

  67. CharlieSeattle says:

    @Mariallena: Seriously use your brain and google, and you’ll notice you just made yourself look really stupid.

  68. ironchef says:


    excerpt from the American Sleep Apnea Association:

    “Losing weight can be an effective treatment. Or weight loss may reduce the severity of the sleep apnea. However, it may be hard to lose weight when you have untreated sleep apnea: you may be too tired to exercise and you may eat to stay awake. Also, it may take some time before the weight loss is achieved, so in light of the potential consequences of untreated OSA, using another treatment option while working towards the weight loss goal may be an option. Losing weight may also improve your health in other ways, but it is always advisable to talk to your doctor before beginning a weight-loss program.”

    Risk factors: excess weight, large neck, smoking, alcohol use, family history.

  69. Jaysyn was banned for: https://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:


    Can you sit in one spot for 14+ hours & not go to sleep? I didn’t think so.

  70. hills says:

    You’re kidding right? Sleep apnea can kill, and so of course the medical device that treats it would be considered life saving technology. To say otherwise is ignorant. You try having your pulmonary function drop to single digits when you sleep and let’s see how long you last – fun game!

    Your dad is lucky – there are varying degrees of apnea. Just because your dad was fine for 6 weeks doesn’t mean another person would be as well.

    As a fellow sleep apnea person, a night without bipap (or cpap) makes me feel tired and miserable the next day – it’s different for everyone.

    And to catskyfire -” Truly life threatening ailments usually have some sort of a battery backup” – would be nice, but my $3000 bipap doesn’t have a battery back up. Patients who are in a life/death state of needing the equipment however would have a generator or portable battery.

  71. dorkins says:

    @radleyas: Thanks, but this seems to support my possibly flawed understanding (linked from the article):

    “Obstructive sleep apnea affects 4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women, say researchers.”

    If the protagonist could have traveled without it, it would seem to indicate it wasn’t this variety. Could be wrong (it’s happened before).

  72. AlphaUltima says:

    i can see united taking sleeping disorders very seriously after this hits the fan. maybe some hot tips to cnn, local news, and msnbc can spread it even faster.

  73. CharlieSeattle says:

    @StevieD: Yes because everyone who has sleep apnea is exactly the same. /sarcasm.

  74. @Michael Belisle: It never said WHY the original reservation was canceled. I am saying that b/c he couldn’t be accommodated, they canceled it.

  75. MaliBoo Radley says:


    He said he could travel on the plane without using the device, but only if he stayed awake.

  76. dorkins says:

    @CharlieSeattle: “So stop being an asshat.”

    It’s not as easy as you think :)

  77. CharlieSeattle says:

    @dorkins: So far 2 people on this list have sleep apnea, including myself. I think I much more of an expert on the issue than you. Now shut up and go away.

  78. dorkins says:

    @radleyas: True.

  79. iotashan says:

    @dorkins: Have a friend shove a pillow in your face for a half-hour next time you go to sleep. See if that’s life-threatening.

  80. dorkins says:

    @CharlieSeattle: I have it too, but it’s not life-threatening. Thus my surprise. Sorry to have offended you.

  81. Buran says:

    Amazing, we now blame posters even when it’s hardly their fault that they have life-threatening illnesses or disorders. It’s obviously your fault for having cancer! (or whatever).

  82. statnut says:

    @ironchef: Yup found it. Of course, it doesnt mean that he is overweight, just that its a possibility.

  83. CharlieSeattle says:

    Here’s what happens when I don’t use my cpap, my blood pressure sky rockets, I feel like I just came off a weekend alcohol bender the next day, and I’ve been up for days. When I was diagnosed, I was diagnosed with sever apnea, over 200 events in one night, that’s not breathing events. When I go camping I take a deep cycle RV battery and inverter, works very well, and this was multiple days without recharging. This guy did everything he was supposed to. If they don’t have any working outlets, then what you should be asking is what else isn’t working on the planes.

  84. bsalamon says:

    that could be an ADA claim…which if successful, would be extremely expensive for united to settle

  85. Pink Puppet says:

    @ironchef: Not everyone with sleep apnea is overweight, though. My mom, for example, is a woman at a healthy weight and yet she still suffers from the condition. Thank G-d it isn’t as severe as some, but it’s still pretty bad.

  86. MaliBoo Radley says:


    So, you’re saying you have sleep apnea and you’ve never actually learned anything about the illness? I don’t even have it and I knew it could kill people.


  87. @ironchef: My husband has sleep apnea and is 5’9″ and weighs 140 lbs, with maybe 8% body fat. It’s not a weight issue. His father and sister have it too. My 7 uncles are all above 6’5″, and even the ones that are not overweight have sleep apnea.

    I’ve done 24-hour travel periods without sleep because I can’t sleep sitting up, and I can do it, but I usually miss a day or two afterwards while recovering.

    If he said he could fly without sleeping, they shouldn’t have hustled him off the plane.

  88. CharlieSeattle says:


    Sleep apnea causes 1400 fatalities in America each year


    Millions of American suffer sleep apnea leading to feelings of sleepiness during the day. Researchers claim that 1400 traffic fatalities each year is due to drivers suffering from sleep apnea. It is believed 3% of Americans suffer from it and there are 40 million undiagnosed Americans suffering from it. Sleep apnea treatment has a 70% success rate.

    Source: summary of medical news story as reported by ABC News

  89. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    Yes, the airline acted like crap. No debate there. They screwed up his reservation royally and promised things they couldn’t deliver.

    BUT, it sounds to me like the OP painted himself into a bit of a corner by stating his disability (his word) so strongly. Once he made the decision to classify his devise as “life-saving,” the airline had no choice but to keep him off the flight if they couldn’t provide power.

    His story seems to have changed once he was forced to choose between “flying w/o the CPAP” or “sitting at home w/ a CPAP.” Flame away, it sounds to me like this guy (like most of us have done) slightly overstated his position to make sure he got what he wanted (a coach seat with an electrical outlet, or possibly an upgrade to a seat that had one). The airline actually took his statements at face value – which he then found to be “unimaginable.” Sometimes our bluffs get called.

    As for his request for a free r/t ticket – that actually sounds pretty reasonable.

  90. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    @CharlieSeattle: So far 2 people on this list have sleep apnea, including myself. I think I much more of an expert on the issue than you. Now shut up and go away.

    Oh please.

  91. youbastid says:

    @pinkpuppet: Not everyone, but mostly everyone.

  92. dorkins says:

    @radleyas: “So, you’re saying you have sleep apnea and you’ve never actually learned anything about the illness? I don’t even have it and I knew it could kill people.”

    What a show-off!

  93. emjsea says:

    No evidence that this person’s sleep apnea is the life threatening kind. Just nebulous statements of “it can be for some people” and “potentially life threatening.” That kind is pretty rare and the OP never states he has it.

    Sorry, dude, but if you are that delicate, you don’t belong on 14 hour plane trips. I don’t sleep well without a fan for background noise and my special blankey. I guess I should demand accomodation for those too.

  94. emjsea says:

    “I’ve done 24-hour travel periods without sleep because I can’t sleep sitting up, and I can do it, but I usually miss a day or two afterwards while recovering.”

    Just call that a “disability” and demand a horizontal bed under ADA. Seems to be the trend.

  95. CharlieSeattle says:

    @emjsea: Seriously kiss my ass.

  96. MaliBoo Radley says:


    What a jackass.

  97. Mariallena says:


    Still you haven’t explained why someone with a life-threatening condition that MUST be treated by using a CPAP machine (or whatever is called) would agree to travel 14 hours without it.

    Is this guy suicidal? Stupid? Or his sleep apnea is not as bad as you think it is?

  98. Michael Belisle says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: So you’re inserting a reason where there was none given? That’s what it sounds like you just said.

    They rebooked him and told him outlets would be available a week before departure. I don’t see how you justify your assertion.

  99. Anonymous says:

    It’s sad that so many people complained about the article without reading up on the condition. If you’re going to disagree, cite your sources. The complaints about this not being life threatening, not being a “real” disability, and otherwise blaming the victim are out of line. Especially the one that implies this is a weight issue. This is something that may be weight related that causes the condition, but the switch once flipped cannot be unflipped, those with sleep apnea will likely always have it.

  100. ironchef says:

    I had sleep apnea too. But I choose to lose weight to treat it. There’s surgery too. The CPAP machine is only a remedy not a cure.

    As you know there are different severities of sleep apnea. Well guess what…he survived the trip. It’s a miracle!

    I don’t see where he gets off feeling entitled to a free trip.

  101. This situation kinda sucks, I mean off the top I don’t expect an airline to provide outlets for people’s gear. However, the fact the passenger went out of their way to confirm availability and then have the ball dropped is unacceptable.

  102. CharlieSeattle says:

    @Mariallena: Do you have no reading comprehension? See above:

    “I was
    asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes but I would not be able to sleep. “

    He wouldn’t be able to sleep. Which is a hard thing to do on a long ass boring flight. You try sitting in one place for a long period of time without falling asleep.

  103. D-Bo says:

    @dorkins: Well I suppose that depends on whether or not you think liviing necessitates breathing.

  104. CharlieSeattle says:

    @ironchef: Surgery only works %50 percent of the time. I’ve lost weight too, guess what I still have it. So just because you’re reading comprehension is that of a 2 year old doesn’t mean all of us don’t understand. He asked ahead of time for accommodations, they told him they could. Which part of that didn’t you understand? OH and the so called miracle had you actually read it, was the one working outlet that him and his friend shared. So he still used his CPAP. I suggest reading before commenting.

  105. geoelectric says:

    An ex- had bad sleep apnea, and she was by no means fat. Physical obstructions can be the cause, and fat can exacerbate them, but it doesn’t correlate 100% with obesity.

    And as has been pointed out, severity differs, sometimes depending on other conditions. The stop/start breathing causes blood pressure to spike, among other things. If you’re already hypertensive, that can cause a cardiac event or stroke.

    Most people on c-paps and similar probably wouldn’t consider them life-saving devices, and I’m sure the bulk of the anecdotal data is with them. Some aren’t safe to sleep without a forced-air device whatsoever, and this person could be one of them.

  106. timsgm1418 says:

    yes, sleep apnea IS life threatening. Normal people start breathing again, with sleep apnea there is a real chance that you won’t@dorkins:

  107. gmark2000 says:

    I have sleep apnea as well and I have never heard CPAPs being able to be used on aircraft. I don’t think they’d work because the machine would use more than the 75W limit on airline power plugs.

  108. theblackdog says:

    @Mariallena: Well they could become disabled if they end up brain damaged from lack of oxygen.

    No joke, when my boyfriend went through a sleep study to test for apnea, he stopped breathing long enough that he came within 17 seconds of brain damage due to lack of oxygen.

  109. timsgm1418 says:

    his sleep apnea may not be that severe then. I can go without mine, but man am I cranky because I’m not getting restful sleep, however some people actually can die while sleeping without it@StevieD:

  110. littlemoose says:

    FYI, sleep apnea is probably a disability under the ADA. A disability is an impairment that substantially limits a major life function; sleeping is such a function. This guy could conceivably have an ADA claim against the airline.

    Oh, and for the guy who said he’s 6’4″ and can’t sleep on planes either, being very tall (or short) is generally NOT grounds for an ADA claim.

    **not legal advice, people!

  111. theblackdog says:

    @ironchef: Maybe I missed something, but where did it say he has the apnea due to being overweight?

  112. AtomicPlayboy says:

    I yield to no one in my antipathy towards the airlines, but I see this as the sort of histrionic story that diminishes our credibility as activist consumers. Yes, United handled this poorly, but, no, it shouldn’t be their responsibility to ensure that you can _sleep_ on a flight. And unfortunately, due to our hyper-litigious society, they had to boot you from the plane to avoid some frivolous but no doubt expensive potential lawsuit.

  113. PirateSmurf says:

    so what happens to the CPAP machine if the power goes out at home? Is it hooked up to a battery pack in case the power goes out?

  114. CharlieSeattle says:

    @gmark2000: Mine maybe uses 15 watts, I’ve ran it on a 300 watt inverter for 4 days on a 75 Amp Hour deep cycle rv battery.

  115. Me - now with more humidity says:

    blackdog: it didn’t. some people are just asshats.

  116. timsgm1418 says:

    I don’t recall the article stating he was overweight. Not all people with sleep apnea are overweight. And if you research it, you’ll see that often it is a viscious cycle. You aren’t getting restful sleep, so you have absolutely no energy to exercise. The first step is to take care of the apnea. I’ve had several friends who’s infants were on cpap machines (as are many preemies) I don’t think they are overweight@ironchef:

  117. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I don’t see where he gets off feeling entitled to a free trip.

    @ironchef: You missed the part where he lost a day and his hotel room because the airline lied to him?

  118. CharlieSeattle says:

    @Veritech_Ace: To what? They just opened themselves up to multiple suits because of this.

  119. ironchef says:


    It’s an assumption I made. Nothing more. All I said was I hoped he would put effort in losing weight because it is one of the recognized treatments for sleep apnea.

  120. timsgm1418 says:

    2 of the people in my first sleep study had already had the surgery and it didn’t work..definitely not 100% effective in treating the disorder@CharlieSeattle:

  121. ironchef says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    He got bumped into business class on one leg.
    He got a $125 voucher.

    Besides, airlines normally don’t give a crap about insuring everyone gets a good nap on the plane. Glenn could have stayed awake and made his trip.

    Come on. United isn’t an airborne ambulance.

  122. rjflyn says:

    I think the gentleman’s main problem is he was probably talking with people who has no clue about the outlets on the plane beyond reading from a script or manual. To be certain in this special instance he might have wanted to speak with someone in say the maintenance sector who could tell him if that capability he specifically needed existed.

  123. dorkins says:

    @D-Bo: “Well I suppose that depends on whether or not you think liviing necessitates breathing.”

    I think you’ve hit on the crux of the issue, which nobody has bothered to consider. You humans are quick to assume that everyone is the same.

  124. rjflyn says:

    Oh by the way sleep apnea in and by its self is not a disability. Now with other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other issue it potentially could be. Good luck on suing on that one.

  125. EllenRose says:

    Airplanes are pressurized to about a 10,000 foot altitude. That makes life easier on the skin of the plane – but it also means that a passenger is already risking hypoxia just sitting there. Put apnea on top of that, and it could be even more dangerous in a plane than on the ground.

    (As a bonus, electrical power in Thailand is wrong for American devices. You need a step-down transformer to get to 110V, and even then, you’re dealing with 50 Hz power.)

  126. cinlouwho says:

    For those of you who do not think Sleep Apnea is not life threatening…you are definitely mistaken. And don’t blame the person who has sleep apnea! You can have sleep apnea and not be fat. My brother is thin, physically fit, and has it. There are different causes for sleep apnea, not just obesity. For some, surgery to remove tonsils and part of your throat muscles works to cure it. For others nothing helps. Some people have short necks, enlarged tongues, etc. I challenge all of you to do your research on this topic. I have sleep apnea as well. Damn short necks run in our family. And no I am not a Leprechaun (no matter what my hubby tells you!).

  127. Michael Belisle says:

    @ironchef: I’m sure he appreciates the advice.

    Glenn: “United threw me off the airplane after specifically promising otherwise.”
    Ironchef: “Hey, I have a solution: You should lose some weight. I am so smart. I am so smart. S-M-R-T.”

    Saying nothing is one of the recognized treatments for people who make unqualified assumptions and offer unrequested medical advice.

  128. csdiego says:

    @D.B. Cooper-Nichol: Most sensible statement here.

  129. Michael Belisle says:

    @ironchef: And he got “bumped into business class” just before he got bumped off the airplane, despite saying he would be able to fly without the device. Read the letter again.

  130. ironchef says:

    @Michael Belisle:

    Aren’t you the drama queen?

  131. Dashrashi says:

    @Mariallena: Dude. He can travel without it SO LONG AS HE DOESN’T SLEEP. If he sleeps, he needs it.

    @ironchef: Are you joking? They assured him they could accommodate him–in accordance with their own policies, mind you–and then they screwed him over. The least they could do is comp him a ticket.

  132. Dashrashi says:

    @ironchef: You know what they say! When you assume, you make yourself look like a dillweed.


  133. Dashrashi says:

    @ironchef: Didn’t look to me like he spent more than 15 minutes in Business class at any point. Care to rebut?

  134. ironchef says:

    @Michael Belisle:

    The device ONLY LETS HIM SLEEP on the plane. Jesus. It is possible for him to fly.
    He even said so.

  135. ironchef says:


    Hey Dash, there’s no reason for name calling. I can tell you are emotionally invested in this as much poor Glenn. But way to go on civility, my foul mouth friend.

  136. CharlieSeattle says:

    @ironchef: Do this sit in front of the TV for 14 hours, and then tell me you didn’t nod off.

  137. Dashrashi says:

    @ironchef: I don’t have sleep apnea, as far as I know. I can’t think of another reason I would be invested.

    What I am invested in, however, is people not giving people they don’t know advice about their health when they don’t know in the first instance whether the person is in fact overweight, and could even use the advice (leaving aside the sheer-rudeness factor of making personal comments about strangers for a moment).

    It makes the person doing it look stupid, and it lowers the level of discourse, imo–much more so than calling judgmental jerk-offs “dillweeds,” to anticipate your next argument.

  138. ironchef says:


    Glenn even admitted:
    “I was asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes but I would not be able to sleep.”

    So he wants a free ticket because he can’t nap on the plane? Granted somebody at United didn’t count the number of outlets available on a plane. Ok. Fine.

    But does that goof = a free roundtrip ticket?

  139. Michael Belisle says:

    @ironchef: You almost got it. The goof you doesn’t equal a free roundtrip ticket, but that’s just the beginning.

    Check the next few sentences:

    Because they had failed comply with our request they removed my bags and my friend Mike’s bags from the plane and forced us off the flight…. We lost the cost of our hotel in Bangkok, our first day of the tour, and had to pay additional transportation costs to get to the hotel not covered by the tour because we arrived late.

    Assuming the story is accurate, which I see no reason to doubt, a domestic round-trip ticket sounds like fair compensation.

    They hand them out like candy in overbooked situations.

  140. Dashrashi says:

    @ironchef: I seriously want to ask you whether you sleep or not on 8-hour+ flights. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I know people who take Ambien just to make sure they’ll sleep.

    This guy did everything right so that he could travel like people without this disorder, and United screwed him after they told him he’d be fine. They made him uncomfortable, and they lost him money he spent on his vacation. A free ticket really is minor in comparison.

  141. Orv says:

    What did people like this do before planes had outlets? It seems like United is finding out that something they originally started providing as a convenience is now seen as an obligation by some travelers.

  142. trujunglist says:

    It all comes down to the right to get a good sleep in on the airplane.
    Sorry, but you don’t have that right. You have the right to sit there like cattle and be taken to your destination. Can’t sleep for WHATEVER reason, i.e. kid next to you screaming, unable to sleep sitting up, too tall/fat for the seat, or sleep apnea? Well, honestly, that’s too fucking bad. The airline isn’t providing a SEAT to sleep in, that’s not what seats are for. Seats are for sitting. Beds are for sleeping. If they provided beds and you weren’t allowed to sleep like everyone else because of the sleep apnea, maybe you’d have an argument. But since you were able to sit there and shut the fuck up and be miserable like the other 30% of people on the plane who can’t sleep for various reasons, the airline did their part.

  143. ironchef says:

    The first question…
    “I was asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes…”

    Meaning he could have made the flight, he had admitted.

    It sounded he was given a choice to fly or not under the circumstances. He opted not to fly. I think the phrase “forced us” was a characterization that Glenn decided was the situation.

    Otherwise United never would have asked that first question. Something transgressed between that first question and the “forced us off the flight” that is missing in this story. That’s why it is fishy.

    Glenn had a choice by the fact of being asked that question. He wasn’t kicked off the flight…which Glenn tried to IMPLY.

  144. CharlieSeattle says:

    @trujunglist: Oh look another clueless dumb ass weighs in. Hello McFly the CPAP is there to maker sure you breath when you sleep or nod off in the process.

  145. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @ironchef: He shouldn’t have needed the bump or the voucher. They should have just told the truth.

    United doesn’t have to be an ambulance. It just has to keep the promises it makes to it’s customers. If it isn’t interested in helping people with CPAP machines their reps should just say that they can’t help them.

  146. bohemian says:

    So has the concept that there are drastically differing levels of sleep apnea and not all of them are due to easy to solve factors like losing a few pounds?

    ADA follows a set list of diagnosable medical conditions and physical deficits for what they see as a disability. In this situation it is. If he was flying from Chicago to Cleveland they probably would tell him he didn’t have a case. Since it was such a long flight it becomes a different situation.

    He tried to do the right things, United dropped the ball. They owe him better compensation than what they tossed his way. I do think the ADA needs to get involved so this doesn’t happen to someone else.

  147. CharlieSeattle says:

    @ironchef: Learn to read, see above comments.

  148. ironchef says:


    I read just fine.
    I already saw you had nothing informative to add. Thanks.

  149. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    It all comes down to the right to get a good sleep in on the airplane.

    @trujunglist: Did you read a different article than the rest of us?

  150. DoctorMD says:

    So what happens if the CPAP breaks while you are in Thailand? If the Apnea is that severe maybe trips around the world to third world countries should be off your list of smart things to do.

  151. dorkins says:

    This thread is a blast!

  152. dorkins says:

    @DoctorMD: Unless it’s not life-threatening.

  153. IssaGoodDay says:

    The problem here is not whether Sleep Apnea is life threatening, or a CPAP is necessary. The problem here is Untied made a PROMISE to a passenger, broke that promise, and threw him off a plane, causing him to miss a day that he had planned for and spent (presumably) a large chunk of money on. He gave them ample time to say “I’m sorry, but we can’t accommodate your desires” and they held on to his money rather than saying “Sorry. Find someone else.”

    As for people claiming that they run their CPAP’s for weeks without an electrical outlet: You have a big battery, don’t you? Please, try sneaking a giant battery past airport security. I’m sure he could have made other plans to get his CPAP to work without an outlet if he had known – in advance – that Untied couldn’t accommodate him, but as he didn’t find out until he was seated on the airplane, that’s rather short notice to go out, find a suitable battery-based alternative, confirm it’s acceptance with the TSA, and get it set up in time for take-off, I don’t think it’s fair to blame the consumer at all on this one.

    I agree: he doesn’t deserve a big payout, and if the ADA gets involved, I’d be pissed. However, the least Untied can do for him is offer a free roundtrip ticket within the United States. A small drop in their bucket to cover up a screwup on their part. What part of that seems unreasonable? From the article, that sounds like all he was asking for.

  154. jeff303 says:

    Everyone claiming they are equally disabled because they, too, cannot sleep on such a flight are missing one teeny-weeny detail. That is, you (probably) won’t die if you accidentally manage to.

  155. The Cynical Librarian says:

    Man up and don’t sleep. They may have screwed up, but you’re not entitled to anything because you weren’t allowed to sleep for 14 hours. The same thing happened to me on a flight into China; and by same thing happened I mean I couldn’t sleep. I was cranky when I got there; but by all accounts I’m still alive.

  156. CharlieSeattle says:

    @ironchef: What exactly have you added, other than looking like a complete moron?

  157. AimeeGee says:


    The original letter said, “I was asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes but I would not be able to sleep.”

    Also, another person with a CPAP here. While I wouldn’t consider my Sleep Apnea life-threatening (I only have about 50-75 events per night), I would imagine that most of my fellow passengers would probably murder me after spending 14 hours with me snoring as I do.

  158. Dashrashi says:

    @ironchef: Yes, he agreed he could do fly without it, he just couldn’t sleep without it. And then, which is precisely what he calls unimaginable, United kicked him off the flight anyway.
    Seriously–you’re going to say he’s lying because you don’t happen to believe that United would kick him off after he told them he could fly but not sleep without it? That sounds, unfortunately, rather plausible (perhaps they were worried he would fall asleep by accident, and wanted to avoid possible liability). Do you work for them? Otherwise, it seems like you’re playing the straight blame-the-consumer game on as many fronts as you can find (He’s lying! He’s greedy! He’s fat!) for fun, and frankly, it’s not interesting or valuable.

  159. CharlieSeattle says:

    @DoctorMD: That’s why you have a spare, though I have never had one break, ever.

  160. Dashrashi says:

    @gyroball: See above. If he accidentally falls asleep, despite his best efforts to stay awake, he could die. So I’m pretty sure that’s what differentiates him from you.

  161. cynicalliberal says:

    From United’s site:

    Medical devices onboard
    … Customers who need to use medical devices while on board must obtain prior approval from United at least 48 hours before departure… Where specific medical device needs cannot be accommodated, physicians from United’s Medical Department will attempt to discuss alternatives with your physician to help ensure that your trip will be safe and comfortable.

    The person they talked to said they could be accommodated, thus leading the travelers assuming it had been ‘approved’. If they could not be, by United’s own policy the travelers should’ve been contacted and options discussed instead of bouncing them without their knowledge. They gave notice well in advance to discuss this situation and come up with a solution.

    The ‘whether or not life-saving’ discussion is irrelevant, United does not specifically distinguish other than a medical device that needs accommodation.

    United’s inability to properly conduct the situation per their policy resulted in additional expenses for the travelers.

  162. Eilonwynn says:

    Okay. Add me to the list of people who have Sleep Apnea – mine’s considered to be severe – 173 events an HOUR last overnight test. I’m really on the fence about this article, and I think both parties could stand a little consideration. I suggest that the OP submit invoices for expenses he incurred while dealing with the delay, and talk to his travel insurance company (he did purchase travel insurance, right?) and get a note from his specialist in order to establish severity *in his case.* As well, the pressure changes and humidity changes on the plane may severely affect his ability to sleep.

    Whether the lack of CPAP use is “life threatening” or not is something only the OP and his physician knows – we don’t. The bare facts are that the airplane gave him every indication that he would be able to use a device, and that the flight was conditional on that availability. Had he known in advance that he would not have been able to use it, he would have had the opportunity to re-arrange his flight plans without incurring further cost.

  163. satoru says:

    On United flights, there are almost no seats that have the Empower ports especially in coach. You have to upgrade to business class to get any kind of power. So they’d probably make you upgrade to business class in order to get that.

    Though it seems odd there would be 2 people amongst a group that would have life-threatening sleep apnea. Sleep apnea sucks, but for most people not having your cpap machine makes you very drowsy in the morning. It’s fairly rare for it to be actually life threatening.

  164. ironchef says:


    btw. I DON’T work for united. I’m a chef by trade.

    And I believe this is a overblown case. People tried to accommodate him. I’m sure the people looked desperately all over that business class section for an outlet.
    I think consumers need to man up in this case on a simple goof. He didn’t arrive at the airport wearing a ventilator. He only wears it for SLEEP. I believe he was offered a choice because he admitted the question was asked.

    United isn’t operating a ambulance service. This was a leisure trip and a rare case of TWO users needing that CPAP gear at the same time looking for 2 rare AC outlets on a plane.

    He finally made it on his trip. And I gather he didn’t complain about the trip back because he seemed to put a lot of work explaining every detail of his story.

    After googling the Air Travel Access Act…it looks like it mainly covers and addresses WHEELCHAIRS and Handicap seating. It is curious that Glenn claims he’s covered by that act.

    He was technically able to fly without the CPAP, under his own admission, like he did on the connecting flight before.

  165. geoelectric says:

    I’m sure the group is somewhat self-selecting, given the article content.

    I have no problems believing two regular readers of the The Consumerist fall into the severe side of the bell curve, and no problems believing they’d specifically reply to this article.

  166. What the fuck is the matter with people, why can you not understand that the guy WANTED TO STAY ON THE PLANE and HE WAS WILLING TO MAN UP AND NOT SLEEP. The airline decided, for whatever reason, to send the OP on a different plane. Perhaps they didn’t want the liability of the OP accidentally dozing off. But the point is that HE WAS ASSURED THAT HE WOULD HAVE ACCESS TO THE OUTLET. He is not seeking a windfall or a big fat check, Patsy, he only wants to be reimbursed for the expense of losing his hotel room, and to be given a reasonable voucher to compensate for the inconvenience and interruption of his travel plans.

    He friggin paid to go to Thailand, the airline still has that money, and the money of his EIGHT friends, and WTF they can’t spare the cost of a continental US round trip ticket to make a customer who travels with a GROUP happy? Damn, the airline had the business of the OP and the 8 other travellers in his group, it’s not worth a few hundred dollars given to 1 customer to ensure the future business of 9 customers?

    Must be that new math….

  167. Michael Belisle says:

    @DoctorMD: Woah, Thailand is a third world country? I never knew.

  168. 22rifle says:

    @ironchef: Except for the last line (which I happen to agree with), your comment is very condescending. Shame on you.

  169. 22rifle says:

    @dorkins: Yes, sleep apnea is often life threatening. What about it?

  170. 22rifle says:

    @satoru: It is far from rare for sleep apnea to be life threatening.

    I am going to quit reading the comments as I will get tired of all the bad advice and opinions.

  171. dorkins says:

    @22rifle: That’s why this thread is such a blast. Right now, the only “source” that claims this guy’s apnea is “life-threatening” is, in fact, The Consumerist – with no basis whatsoever.

  172. dorkins says:

    I’m not saying the airline is without blame. However, look at this:

    “I was asked if I could fly without using the machine. I said yes but I would not be able to sleep. [***] Then United did what I thought was unimaginable. Because they had failed comply with our request they removed my bags and my friend Mike’s bags from the plane and forced us off the flight.”

    I suspect that there’s some “inconvenient” details missing at the ***. I could be wrong :) but look at the tone of the next couple of sentences and you’ll see what I mean.

  173. dorkins says:

    @alphafemale: and whose fault was the New Math? … :)

  174. Dashrashi says:

    @ironchef: Dude. His whole point is they asked him, he told them he could travel without it conditionally, and THEN they booted him off anyway, against his will. THEY would NOT let him travel on the first flight (as the story reads). And this is after they told him it wouldn’t be a problem. And the first flight had no outlets whatsoever. It was the second flight that had only one.

    Really and seriously, a round-trip ticket for his trouble is not out of line here, since he did everything right and they screwed up his vacation anyway.

  175. dorkins says:

    @Michael Belisle: “Third World is a term originally used to distinguish those nations that neither aligned with the West nor with the East during the Cold War.”

  176. Dashrashi says:

    @dorkins: Completely disagree. He says re the second flight that they didn’t want to let both of them share, but he and his buddy ultimately convinced United to let them alternate. He was willing to make accommodations, even though he had notified them and they had told him everything was good to go, and UNITED was the one who told him he couldn’t fly and pushed him off the flight. Again, perhaps understandable for liability purposes, but he was willing, it seemed like, to try to stay awake on the flight, and they were the ones who said no.

  177. dorkins says:

    @22rifle: Not to belittle the sufferings of those here who have that dangerous conditions, but I think we have different definitions of “often.”

  178. Dashrashi says:

    @dorkins: Consumerist says that sleep apnea, in general, is a potentially life-threatening disorder. Which it is. We have no way of knowing how severe this guy’s is. Why assume he’s being a baby and that his case isn’t that bad? Most people know that special requests are a pain in the ass–I’d imagine he wouldn’t go through the rigmarole unless he knew he needed to.

  179. CyberSkull says:

    I and my parents all have sleep apnea. While not at the life threatening level, the snoring is quite loud.

    That aside the main issue here is this: They told him everything was fine then cancelled his ticket. Then they didn’t tell him. Then they lied about it when he asked. All of this caused him to miss some vacation time to sort out the mess. He should be entitled to compensation for United’s unethical behavior.

    If they just told him upfront that they could not make an accommodation Glenn could have made other arrangements in advance and still have gotten there on time.

  180. cynicalliberal says:

    @dorkins: Again, I must assert that in reality… No where in the language of United’s posted policy does it say that it has to be a ‘life-saving’ medical device. Had United actually followed their policy, but then decided to outright not approve this accommodation and contact the guy(as their Medical Device policy states)… This would actually be the topic of discussion.

  181. dorkins says:

    @Dashrashi: I’m not saying he’s being a baby. I’m pointing out that nowhere in the story are we told that his case is indeed life-threatening.

    I’m sure, if it were me, I’d be ticked off at the airline in any case, since they implied it wouldn’t be a problem, then changed their mind.

  182. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    The problem is, he notified the airline beforehand regarding his condition and the airline promised to make accommodations for him based on that. They failed their promise to him. Whether his sleep apnea is life threatening is neither here nor there. He was REMOVED from the flight, even though he said he could have remained as long as he stayed awake. Their actions caused him to miss part of his tour. Their actions caused him to incur additional expenses.

    – begin sarcasm-

    Its sad that The Consumerist is turning into one huge “Blame the Consumer” forum. Heaven forbid something bad happens to you or you have a negative experience with a company and you *dare* complain about it.. Shame on you, you should know that you deserved the treatment you received!

    – end sarcasm-

  183. ClankBoomSteam says:

    @dorkins: If the condition is severe enough, yes — sleep apnea CAN kill you. And if these two needed c-pap machines, they are likely candidates.

  184. @dorkins: Hippies. No matter what you’ve been told it’s always the fault of Hippies. Hippies in yurts.

  185. ironchef says:


    It is not clear they were booted off at the get go. They had TWO chances to stay on board.

    1) They were SEATED ON THE PLANE. The passenger complained about no electrical access.
    2) Then they got upgraded to Business Class hoping for a plug. But no luck.

    My theory is they insisted it was a medical necessity (like it was a life or death issue). Rather than hold the plane at the gate, United had to make the call to continue the flight without them and figure it out because an electrical plug isn’t going to magically appear in time for that flight. United’s goof was not knowing how many plugs were available on that particular plane on the tarmac. (frankly, power plugs aren’t high on the list of must haves on an average flight).

    Realistically flight attendants only have very limited recourses when the flight is about to take off. Their only option is to look for a plane with an AC plug.

    The passenger had 2 opportunities to fly. First on coach. Then in Business Class.
    They could have flown without sleep as an option.
    The machine is a just a sleep aid.
    They offered flights to get them on the trip the next day.
    The airline offered $125 to help out. (it’s probably their slim profit margin they make on each passenger considering the high fuel costs, labor and expenses to run an airline)
    They returned on the long flight home with no incident.

    It seems the whole case is based a person who rather miss their tour than go on a flight without sleep. They after all turned down the seating TWICE before they got “forced off”

    Is United that wrong? It sounded to me they did the best they could under the extraordinary circumstances.

  186. Dashrashi says:

    @dorkins: Key words: “in any case.” It’s not really important whether it’s life-threatening in his particular case or not, is it?

  187. Dashrashi says:

    @ironchef: He didn’t refuse to fly twice, he asked them twice to abide by the policy they already agreed to abide by and assured him they would, and then they booted him off even though he said he could try not to sleep–a concession on his part! Their inability to hold to the agreement they made with him, in accordance with their stated policy, caused him to miss part of his vacation. The least they can do is a plane ticket.

    Seriously, he didn’t turn them down twice. He went to his seat and said, Hey, you said there’d be a plug and there’s no plug. They said: oh, let’s try business class. He goes. He sits. He says: hey, there’s still no plug. They say: huh. Can you fly without a plug? He says: yeah, I just can’t sleep. They say: All right, you can’t fly on this plane.

    That’s not him turning down his seating. That’s him investigating the situation, trying to make concessions, and United giving him the boot for their own reasons, after THEY failed to live up to what they said they’d do.

    As I understand it, the machine could be described as a sleep aid. It could also be described as something that keeps you from potential death if you happen to fall asleep. So I suppose I also object to your framing all-around.

  188. timsgm1418 says:

    I have to agree whether his apnea was life threatening or not, United said they could accomodate him and didn’t do it. CPAP machines are not a SLEEP AID, they keep the person breathing while they are sleeping. I suppose if you want to consider that a sleep aid because without it they could die, instead of sleep, then yeah it’s a sleep aid. None of us know what the severity of his apnea is. When I had out-patient surgery on my kidney, I had to bring the CPAP, still really not sure why, but the hospital considered it life saving. Not everybody that snores has apnea, however for people with apnea the snoring really is very loud, so much so that most of the people on the plane would have probably heard it. Nobody would want a cpap if they didn’t need it, it’s very uncomfortable to sleep with, the noise can also bother anyone sleeping with you, and it limits where you can sleep because of how you have to position the machine and it limits your movements while you sleep because the hose is only so long. Seriously it sucks using one, however if you have a severe enough problem, they are indeed life saving devices.

  189. Major-General says:

    @Jaysyn: Shoot, this guy could be like me: I can’t stay awake on a flight. I even fell asleep once on the flight from OXR-LAX. Its 17 minutes long; you fly so low that the stewardess said that in the event of cabin pressure loss you could just breathe normally, as our altitude would be 5000 feet.

  190. ClankBoomSteam says:

    @ironchef: He “survived the trip” because he and his traveling companion shared the outlet that allowed them to use their c-pap machines. Discounting the guy’s medical condition sight-unseen doesn’t add up to much of a compelling argument that he would have been fine regardless.

    And it’s pretty clear that this guy deserves more compensation than what’s being offered him, since he was promised by United that he would be accommodated, and since their failure to do so is arguably a serious legal violation.

    In addition, he lost substantially more than the $125 bone United threw him: he was separated from the rest of his party, he missed a substantial part of the package trip he’d paid for, and his LIFE was put at risk by the company that promised his health concerns would be capably addressed while in its care.

  191. sibertater says:

    Fat. Yes I said it. I’ve NEVER seen a skinny person use a CPAP machine.

    Not to sound like a dick, but sleep apnea is not this glorified horrible disease that someone should be knighted for discovering a cure for. It’s because you’re fat. I’m fat and I have bad knees, but you don’t see me begging United for a free flight because I can’t tie my shoes without doing a SCUBA diver impression.

    This is really bunk…I don’t think the issue is that he was mistreated because he has some debilitating illness so much as the airline lied to him. BFD…get on with your life, perhaps walking to Thailand in the future will be helpful, because you could use a few pounds.

    I’m a heartless bitch.

  192. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Too funny. Claim your medical condition is a life threatening disability in order to hopefully get an outlet without paying for the privilege, and have it backfire when the airline boots you from the plane because they can’t get you the “life support” outlet. Why not just spring the money for a seat with an outlet? Snoring is not life threatening and should not allow you to get a free outlet. Plus if your condition was really life threatening, why don’t you have a portable battery powered machine?

  193. dorkins says:

    @alphafemale: They need to RESPECT my AUTHORETAY!

  194. ironchef says:


    I’m saying he could have chosen to fly with his friends if he toughed it out.

    But he probably framed it to the ticket agent as a medical necessity (as if he might actually die on the plane with out this ventilator). After hearing that, the agent only had one recourse to go…put the man on a plane with the plug and let this flight go.

    At that moment, he should have decided how important that nap was and the consequences of missing that flight. It’s a simple choice. Fly and stay awake. Or wait for the next available plane that has the plug.

    It’s a no win situation. They did what they can do. Accommodations are just that. Airlines aren’t going to heroic lengths to find a jet with a plug just because a customer service operator couldn’t cross reference the electrical schematics of the plane the man was about to take.

    He’s not a man on a ventilator or a life support machine 24/7. He only needs it when he needs a nap. Sure the man is pissed he didn’t get the special treatment he tried to arrange. But hell, the airline is not a genie that can magically make a plane without AC plugs appear at his beckoning.

    As for charges of “lying about it” it’s probably sloppy customer relations goof than a break in the sacred promise between an airline and a passenger on more important issues like safety or the flight worthiness of the plane.

    Air Travel Access Act covers mundane issues like wheelchairs, handicap seats, and bathrooms. The man citing the the act must sound really impressive at the gate with his legal knowhow. So no wonder the airlines didn’t want to take a risk.

    And you have to admit an electrical plug as a “medically necessary request” for TWO people is way out of the ordinary.

  195. dorkins says:

    @Dashrashi: I think we need more information.

    It seems clear that Glenn did what he thought was needed to ensure a comfortable flight. United failed to follow through, and bears some blame.

    However, Consumerist advertised the device as “life-saving”, which is not yet confirmed; we don’t know why United bumped them off; and it seems to me there is suspicious gap in the narrative (see previous post with ***).

    It also seems clear that, after their mistake of not making sure the plug was available, they did try to accomodate him, although not successfully.

    But in the end, it was United’s medical dept.’s failure to do a decent job that caused the whole mess, and as such they should reimburse Glenn.

  196. dakotad555 says:

    “But by no means is a C-Pap a piece of life saving technology, most people with apnea find it difficult (or impossible) to get a restful night’s sleep without their C-Pap, but beyond that there is no further medical function of the device and its not emergency or life-saving equipment.”

    Do you have a source for this claim?

    When did Consumerist fill up with people talking about things they don’t understand, making unsupported claims, and those that either have no reading comprehension skills, or can’t be bothered to read the article they are commenting on.

    Bottom Line:
    This gentleman felt that he needed the device to ensure his safety. He called the air line, talked to the correct people, and they indicated he would have the ability to use the device. The air carrier is at fault here. This is NOT a personal responsibility issue, as the gentleman took the time to check with the air carrier BEFORE booking, at which point the carrier could have told him they couldn’t accommodate his request. They did not do so, and so he was PERFECTLY JUSTIFIED to expect that they would provide an outlet.

    To everyone making fun of his condition, or stating that the device doesn’t save lives, PLEASE try giving us a source other than your opinion. Otherwise, do us all a favor and comment on a page where unsupported, baseless or illogical claims are welcome.

  197. dorkins says:

    @dakotad555: “This gentleman felt that he needed the device to ensure his safety. He called the air line, talked to the correct people, and they indicated he would have the ability to use the device. The air carrier is at fault here.”

    I agree, except for the first sentence, which is unsourced. Nowhere are we told (except implied by Consumerist) that the device was required for his safety.

  198. Fly Girl says:

    There has to be more to this story… I am a travel agent and I used to work for the airlines. (But not UA, thank GOD.) Someone, somewhere is not explaining this situation correctly, either to us or to the passengers…

    A reservation, if not ticketed, will be deleted 24-72 hours (for the most part) after it is made. If the clients had a ticketed reservation and called UA to inquire about outlets for a sleep apnea machine, there’s no reason (or way, really) that the tickets and space could have/would have been canceled.

    If the tickets had not yet been issued then the space very well could have been canceled. But that’s not really clear here. When an airline states that the flight is full, but that they can “make room” for you, what they’re really stating (probably) is that T-class (or whatever class of service you were ticketed in) is now sold out, but that they’re going to force the fare to put you back on those flights.

    I know of very few (if any) airlines that operate trans-pacific flights that offer power outlets for coach class passengers. If a passenger requires an outlet, they generally have to sit in (and pay for) business or first class.

    Airlines are required to, reasonably, accommodate passengers with disabilities. That includes things like having some handicap accessible seats, offering aisle chair service, checking wheelchairs and walkers, allowing early boarding for those with disabilities, and arranging for oxygen for passengers that need it (the oxygen being at the passenger’s expense). Plus, a medical condition is not necessarily a disability and the ADA is pretty clear about things like that. For instance, being obese is an medical condition, for sure, and some might claim that it’s is a disability, but the airlines are under no obligation to give you two seats for the price of one just because you can’t fit into a regularly sized seat.

    For things like an outlet, well, the airline is not obligated to make an outlet available in coach class. If a passenger has a special need like that, they need to buy a ticket in the cabin that will be able to accommodate them. (Just as someone stated earlier, the airlines are not obligated to put someone with a bad back in first class lay-flat seat for the price of a coach seat just because they can’t/don’t want to sit in a regular seat for 12 hours.)

    Medical flights cost a TON of money–seriously, like tens of thousands. Just because you have a medical need doesn’t mean that the airline has to eat the cost for you.

    It sounds like there was some miscommunication between the airline and the passengers regarding what, exactly, would be needed to accommodate this passenger. Do they have some sort of documentation proving that the airline said that there would be an outlet available to them in their ticketed seats? Things like outlet availability are easy enough to check right one the website…

    I have to imagine that the reservations agent thought that what they actually needed was oxygen, and not an actual electrical machine, for the flight and that that is where the miscommunication lay.

    When the passengers brought the mixup to the attention of the FA’s, UA did more than they *technically* needed to by offering to put them in business class. But when the clients stated that they could not sleep for the entire flight without their machine, well, the airline was right for denying them boarding.

    It was to protect the passengers in question, the other passengers, and the airline. What were the flight attendants supposed to do? Come through every 30 minutes to make sure the guys weren’t asleep?

  199. dorkins says:

    @ironchef: “But he probably framed it to the ticket agent as a medical necessity (as if he might actually die on the plane with out this ventilator). After hearing that, the agent only had one recourse to go…put the man on a plane with the plug and let this flight go.”

    I suspect that’s what happened. Yes, United screwed up intially, but there’s not much else they could have done at that time.

    Although the $125 thing was obviously deviously calculated to piss anyone off :P

  200. dorkins says:

    @dakotad555: “Otherwise, do us all a favor and comment on a page where unsupported, baseless or illogical claims are welcome.”

    Sorry, the NYT tipline is down.

  201. cynicalliberal says:

    @ironchef: You seem to be missing the point that:
    A. He called them almost 2 months in advance (their policy asks for at least 48 hours in advance) for accommodation for a MEDICAL DEVICE. They have a policy that specifically deals with medical device and a process for it. They didn’t follow it and instead dropped his initial reservation – if for some reason they can’t accommodate him, they’re medical dept is supposed contact him and discuss alternate options.

    B. After resolving that issue, United called a week before hand and said they’d have outlets. The plane didn’t, he said he could probably tough it out – they booted him off. He got a flight they next day and so on.

    United’s process is supposed to evaluate the need, instead their reservations were canceled. They made a promise which wasn’t upheld and kicked off a guy who said he could deal with it and caused him to incurs expenses for being late.

  202. Fly Girl says:

    If they had taken the flight, not had an outlet, fallen asleep and, God forbid, died, the airline would have had their asses sued off.

    Can you blame then for not allowing them to fly?!

    And it sounds like they were accommodated during their unanticipated stopover… They’re not asking for reimbursement for the hotel, or their meals, in DC, so that makes me think that UA paid for all of that.

    And, I imagine (from reading their email), they were put in business class seats for the flight from DC to Tokyo. Do you have any idea how much business class costs? And for a routing like that? Again, try tens of thousands of dollars. UA did not have to do that– they would have been perfectly within their right to cancel their tickets, refund their money, and tell them that they were not equipped to transport them.

    But they didn’t. They accommodated them on the next available flight that had an outlet, in a higher (MUCH higher!) class of service than what they paid for.

    That doesn’t excuse the misunderstanding and confusion, however. I do believe the passengers are entitled to some reimbursement for missing the first day of their trip, etc…

    But didn’t they purchase travel insurance? I can’t imagine traveling to third world countries with a life threatening condition and NOT purchasing travel insurance– if only to cover the cost of replacing the all-important life saving device should it get lost, stolen, or broken on the trip. And travel insurance would have covered any and all additional incurred expenses.

    UA should, as a gesture of good faith, make good by these passengers by reimbursing them (in cash, not UA vouchers) for the additional expenses incurred. But are they deserving of a free ticket? Heck no.

    Shoot, I’d take a one day unexpected layover and missing the first day of my tour for a business class upgrade on a 14 hour flight ANY day.

  203. CharlieSeattle says:

    @sibertater: @satoru: He contacted them before hand, which part of that don’t you understand?

  204. CharlieSeattle says:

    @ironchef: Wow you really can’t read can you.

  205. CharlieSeattle says:

    @sibertater: I’m a heartless bitch.

    Yes you are.

  206. cynicalliberal says:

    It wasn’t just a miscommunication, it was a total failure to begin to adhere to their medical device policy. Had it been followed and lets say that they could not accommodate the passenger’s medical needs in Coach. United’s Medical Dept. is supposed to contact the travelers and discuss their options, this would have been almost 2 months before hand – arguably ample time to resolve it somehow, either on another flight or class that could fulfill that need.

    The rest of what happened followed because of it. Moreover United tried to rectify it and made a promise they couldn’t keep, that the outlet would be there. I understand your point of liability, but my point is that the passenger did what was required of him to try and get information on how to make this work and United dropped the ball over and over.

  207. 22rifle says:

    @dorkins: BEAUTIFUL

  208. 22rifle says:

    @dorkins: Mine is. My dad’s is. My little brother’s was until he had surgery.

  209. Michael Belisle says:

    @ironchef: So here’s what you must be thinking…

    Problem: Glenn’s telling of the story doesn’t fit my conviction.
    Solution: Make shit up! Tell him he’s too fat; put the words “life-threatening” into his mouth; reframe the story and accuse of him “turning down” the seating; proclaim that it’s just “sloppy customer relations” on United’s part. Fill in the other holes with totally fabricated info as needed. Eureka!

    @dorkins: Key word: “originally”. The cold war ended 17 years ago. It’s time to update the list of third-world countries.

  210. dreamcatcher2 says:

    @Mariallena: A direct flight from BOS to BKK lasts from 24-31 hours according to flights listed on kayak.com. So if you were confined to a seat in a boring environment that will probably be switched over to “night” mode at point, for over 14 hours, after already have been flying and prior to some more flying, and were told “if you fall asleep, you might die”, would you consider that a potentially dangerous situation? Or at least one that you would refuse to enter?

    I love beating up on submitters as much as the next guy, but this guy had a genuine medical condition, made arrangements with United 2 months in advance, and then got insufficiently compensated when they messed it all up and destroyed his travel plans. Pretty cut and dried, they owe him a little more than brush-off compensation.

  211. Michael Belisle says:

    @I Ain’t Tryin’ a Hear Dat!: Oooh, your two posts make beautiful sense, which is a rare feat 200 posts into the Consumerist game. It seems well-informed. A spot check at United’s airplanes on Seat Guru supports that none of them have power in coach (except the domestic premium service 757-200). You made a cogent case about what Glenn probably received (convincing arguing why it was more than he was entitled to), and what he should receive on account of the miscommunication.

    Keep up the good work.

  212. Michael Belisle says:

    @Michael Belisle: Sorry about the grammatical mistakes. It is 211 posts into the game, after all…

  213. scoosdad says:

    I just find it interesting that out of a party of nine people travelling together, two of them suffered from sleep apnea and needed the machines. A statistical anomaly or is that representative of the population in general?

    I’ve done a lot of redeye flights and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone using one of those machines on a plane.

  214. dorkins says:

    @22rifle: I’m sorry to hear that. You and your dad, I mean.

    I’m glad to hear that. You brother, I mean.

  215. dorkins says:

    @Michael Belisle: Yes. But I’m living in the past.

  216. timsgm1418 says:

    tell that to all the preemies and infants that use cpap, never seen a single one that was fat@sibertater:

  217. timsgm1418 says:

    We actually have at least 12 people at my work alone that use them (those are the ones I know of)and our office has about 100 people, so statistically it could be possible. It’s also possible that one of them heard about the benefits of cpap from the other and that’s why he had it. I don’t think that’s really what the article is about though. The guy did everything within his power to ensure they could provide what he needed, and they screwed up. Honestly I never knew it was an option to actually use my cpap on an airplane, I just stay awake. However I’ve never flown more than 5 hours because that’s about how long I can take being confined in a plane, and I really don’t like traveling.@scoosdad:

  218. Fly Girl says:

    @Michael Belisle: Thank you! I knew that somewhere my years of traveling and travel-related jobs would come in handy. I could write one of the Consumerist’s “TALES OF A (insert occupation here)” pieces about the airline industry– I’m a total airline junkie. Plus I’m a travel agent. Plus I used to work for an airline. (A major, but not legacy, carrier.)

  219. Michael Belisle says:

    @dorkins: Ah ha, but even Wikipedia has updated since your source pulled its definition out of it. But the map is still living in the Cold War era. Oh well. Can’t win them all.

    @scoosdad: Some people have friends. And sometimes-I don’t know how widespread this is-friends even have things in common.

  220. CharlieSeattle says:



    “Estimates are that between twelve and twenty million Americans suffer from sleep apnea to some degree.”

    “Sleep apnea is not age specific – it can affect anyone from childhood through to old age. Men and women can both develop sleep apnea, but it more common to men – particularly middle-age men who are also overweight.”

    “Looking closer at the breakdown by gender, 24% of men suffer from sleep apnea of some form while only 9% of women do.”

    “Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common of all sleep disorders, not just sleep apnea. Estimates are that 50% of those who suffer from sleep apnea also have a snoring problem. According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, roughly 38,000 cardiovascular deaths annually are in some way related to sleep apnea. The links include high blood pressure, hypertension and stroke.”

    “Approximately 6 million Americans suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea – sometimes requiring a late-night emergency room visit.”

  221. LionelEHutz says:

    It wouldn’t be the Consumerist if some f*(kwit didn’t blame the consumer within the first 5 posts.

  222. apneanet says:

    Persons with obstructive sleep apnea do quit breathing when they sleep, anywhere from 6-100 plus times per hour, for at least ten seconds (or it doesn’t count). When these apneas occur the patient does not get deep restful sleep (yes, you can argue there is no restful sleep on an airplane at any time!).

    A CPAP machine blows air under pressure through tubing to a mask over the nose. This airflow acts as an air “splint” that keeps floppy tissue in the airway from collapsing, allowing the patient to breathe more normally. There are two or three machines that come with battery packs, but very few. Whether the airline would allow the batteries to be used is also an issue. Most airlines don’t want to accommodate a CPAP machine for anyone, because they feel they make too much noise and disturb other passengers, plus they do not have many seats with electrical outlets to handle a CPAP machine and don’t always want electrical gadgets being used. The airlines would prefer not to bother.

    The airline screwed up here and messed up the travel plans royally and some compensation is probably deserved, just as if the reservation was messed up for some other reason.

    Sleep apnea can be life threatening. I have severe apnea and stop breathing 82 times per hour. When I sleep without the machine I snore like crazy. Personally, whenever I fly all night, I just plan to be upright and cat nap because sitting up does make the apnea less of an issue, but I will try to stay awake because there is a risk of a cardiac issue. Reggie White, the ex-NFL player died in his sleep and his wife admits he was not using a CPAP that night. I’ve heard from the mom of a 19 year old whose son died when he slept without his machine after having a few drinks (which made his apnea worse); she was upset because they had not been told that the apnea could be made worse by drinking (it relaxes the tissue in the upper airway).

    Please stop complaining about the guy’s apnea. It is a serious medical condition that can be life threatening when it is not treated. It is not like turning a pacemaker off that might cause sudden death, but there can be a substantial risk if a patient sleeps without treatment. That’s why he said he would not be able to sleep if he couldn’t use the machine. That’s very logical.

    By the way the TSA does consider CPAP machines as assistive medical devices and they can be carried on as luggage without counting against the carry-on limits.

    Dave Hargett
    Chairman, American Sleep Apnea Association

  223. dorkins says:

    I think we all learned something important today. You see, we all –

    Scwew you guys, I’m going home!

  224. reishka says:

    Wow. You know, somehow I’m not surprised at the assholeish nature of some of the replies here. I think this guy is completely justified.

    Sleep Apnea can be a potentially fatal disease, depending on the severity. His *flight* alone was at least 14 hours (the one from DC to Tokyo), not counting layovers, and the trips from Boston to DC and from DC to Thailand. So the flight is ~20 hours, add in layover time, travel time from the house to the first airport, the hour and a half you spend checking and rechecking that you have everything you need packed, travel time from the last airport to the hotel you’re staying at… You’re looking at a trip that is over 26 hours long. So for all of you that are saying he just shouldn’t sleep… what on earth are you talking about? What else are you going to do a) when your entire trip is costing you more than 20 hours, and b) when one leg of that trip is a 14 hour flight in and of itself?

    The amount of ignorance and the lack of common sense in the responses here is amazing.

  225. ClankBoomSteam says:

    @sibertater: Uh, wrong? Being fat CAN cause sleep apnea, but it’s by no means the ONLY cause. My uncle, who weighs 150 lbs soaking wet with a brick in his shorts, had a severe case until he had surgery a few years ago. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see a reference to the guy’s weight anywhere in the story. Are you just assuming?

  226. coold8 says:

    I have sleep apnea, refuse to wear the mask because it annoys me. I have been doing that for about 3 years now, turns out I am still alive.

  227. libarsh says:

    Sleep apnea is a life threatening condition where breathing is obstructed many times throughout the night leading to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and even ED.

    While CPAP and surgery are options to treat Sleep Apnea, dentistry has an almost equally effective option that few know about. An oral appliance that positions the lower jaw in a forward position can alleviate the problems associated with sleep apnea and requires no electrical connection. As a matter of fact, the military is now requiring oral appliances for troops with sleep apnea being deployed to Iraq. Research has proven the efficacy of these appliances.

    Only about 1000 dentists in the United States are qualified to provide oral appliance therapy and it is imperative to find a dentist who has received special training.

    For more information, visit Quietsleep.com or drop me an email at libarsh@quietsleep.com. We are also in process of building a network of qualified dentists at snoringisntsexy.com.

    Dr. Barsh

  228. IrisMR says:

    @coold8: Good for you. But there are more critical cases, like one of my aunts. She needs the machine when she sleeps or else she dies.

  229. bluxed says:

    I’m witht he consumer and think you should get more. But the complaint of

    ‘and had to pay additional transportation costs to get to the hotel not covered by the tour because we arrived late.”

    = complaining about $10. Bangkok = amazingly cheap taxis

  230. CharlieSeattle says:

    @coold8: We aren’t all as dumb as you.

  231. aldentwc says:

    I suffer from sleep apnea and use a C-pap machine to sleep at night. Without it I “die” for short periods of time ever night where i stop breathing and my heart stops till i wake up and everything restarts. any of these times could be fatal. And while yes i could stay awake for a 14 hour flight i would be pretty pissed too that they had said they would have acomidated me only to kick me from my flight. $125 is inexcusable for this kind of treatment.

  232. BuzzKiller says:

    Wow. I am so amazed at how stupid some of you are, really amazed. The beauty of the internet is being able to say what you want, the drawback is that you don’t feel like a complete asshole when you say something that is blatantly wrong. Sleep apnea comes in several forms, some mild, some severe. Yes it can be life threatening, Yes you can stop breathing, Yes it brings your blood oxygen down to a dangerous level, and Yes you people who spout off about things you know nothing about are complete idiots. I run into people like you everyday, stupidity is a disease, and just like sleep apnea, many people have it and don’t know they do. If you’re going to run your mouth, do some research.

    The airlines suck, consistently, the times they have screwed me over far out number the times I felt like I got a great deal and excellent service. The fares are over priced, the terms are ridiculous, and the employees are condescending and rude.

  233. CaptZ says:

    Please…..I had to quit using my CPAP because it was too uncomfortable, too cumbersome and too noisy. I had better luck sleeping without it and do so. Oh, by the way, sleep apnea effects anyone, not just overweight people. I am 5’9″ and weigh 145. So….in short, if anyone needs a slightly used, 8 year old Respironics CPAP, let me know. It also includes a inline humidifier.

  234. timsgm1418 says:

    I couldn’t use the mask at all, I got the nose pillow kind which is better, when I can afford it I’m getting the canulas because I think they would be more comfortable. I woudln’t give up just because the mask sucks. yes, you obviously are still alive, however maybe your’s isn’t that severe.@coold8:

  235. noorct says:

    Wow some of the people posting here are true jackasses. To the guy who “cured” his sleep apnea – Good for you! You do realize it’s not always curable, even by surgery, right? Some people will always require a CPAP, regardless of what other steps they take.

    And yes, this qualifies as a disability. If the guy can’t sleep for 14 hours, then has an additional several hours of traveling after he gets to Tokyo on a regional jet which is guaranteed to have no outlets, that means it becomes he needs to stay awake because HIS LIFE MIGHT DEPEND ON IT. United is the screw up here, given that he notified them well in advance, and they failed to accommodate his needs.

    I agree with the decision to pull them off the plane without the outlet, but not with the compensation offered. At the least, United should compensate them for the portion of the trip they missed (whatever the hotel, travel etc they missed is worth) plus a free roundtrip US continental ticket. Alternately, they should go ahead and give them each a free first class ticket to anywhere in the world.

  236. BostonBear says:

    I am, Glenn, the author of this complaint to consumerist.com. My letter was addressed to Glenn Tilton, CEO of United, though I’m assuming he never saw it since I received a letter back from Leetika Kalra in Customer Relations. It appears to be a form letter going on about how their “maintenance division had recently completed an audit of each fleet and taken inventory of problems.” “We will be identifying and repairing seats, carpets, galley equipment, lights and audio and video equipment.” This was not a “MAINTENANCE” issue. This was United’s failure to comply with their own policy and the Air Travel Access Act as they relate to accommodating passengers with a medical condition/disability. I wonder if she even read my letter fully or understood what my complaint was about.

    I appreciate all the comments posted, good and bad, because it demonstrates that many people are simply not informed of the dangers of untreated Sleep Apnea nor the fact that it affects both average sized and overweight people. I have used a C-Pap machine for many years now and NEVER sleep without using it, not even for a nap. My sister-in-law died Feb 18, 2001 from sleep apnea at the age of 51 years old because she fell asleep without her machine. Sleep Apnea affects people of all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, or gender to insinuate otherwise is childish and ignorant. In addition, I’d like to say that on the return flight from Bangkok to Tokyo there WAS and outlet provided in in COACH and it was a simple matter of plugging in an adapter under my seat. I’m not sure why these outlets are not more readily available. Nothing will replace what my friend and I missed on that first day of our vacation that had been in planning for over 2 years…but what United offered is insufficient and insulting considering what we went through. Thanks for all your comments! Glenn.

  237. cpraser says:

    I know some of you don’t understand his conditions and assumed that he is out to get a big check. Imagine this, you go to a restaurant, the food you ordered arrived late and was over cooked. Would you not sent it back and expect them to cook you another meal and/or at least comp your meal? Pretty much the same principle. Plus, if you are not there to see it actually happen, you wouldn’t understand.

    I happened to be on that same flight. Not only the security guys were rude to him, but the flight attendant were walking around saying to people “The Fat Guy can’t Breathe that’s why the flight was delayed”. Was there a need to say that to anyone? No. He doesn’t even mentioned that. No one deserved to be treated like that.

    The trip was planned way in advance and UA should have been able to accommodate him as promised. $125 voucher is an INSULT. When UA overbooked the flight, they give people hotel and cash all the time… at least they can give him a round trip ticket.

  238. dorkins says:

    @coold8: “turns out I am still alive”

    Oh? Don’t be too sure! You may not be!

  239. csdiego says:

    @cpraser: They said “The fat guy can’t breathe”? Oh, come on now.

    Actually in your restaurant scenario I wouldn’t have a huge fit about the food (unless it were actually burned and/or contaminated and/or moldy). I’d just figure it was a bad restaurant and wouldn’t go there any more, and would tell everybody I knew how bad it was. But I’m not the type of diner who sends food back unless it’s likely to make me sick. Maybe that’s the difference between us.

  240. Hedonista says:

    Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. Most people who have sleep apnea die from having accidents from falling asleep at the wheel or from cardiovascular disease (obesity is a common comorbidity in sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease.)

    With sleep apnea you don’t get enough rest because when you stop breathing, your brain kicks in and wakes you up. It’s a big problem because people with the disorder can have their sleep interrupted scores of times in a single night.

    A CPAP machine keeps the airway open, but think gravity here: It’s not a problem if you are sleeping upright as you would be on a plane, because sleeping in an upright position would keep the airway from being obstructed. It is extremely unlikely that someone with sleep apnea would be at risk from snoozing on a flight.

  241. cpraser says:


    I know I said the same thing… come on now. But unless you were right there to hear it yourself… you wouldn’t believe me.

    Let me give you another example then, You bought a device, it said on the box it could do so and so. It does half it was promised, would you not take it back to the store and try to get your money back?

    But in all seriousness, I think UA should at least NOT insult anyone with words or $125 check.

  242. csdiego says:

    @cpraser: I guess I wouldn’t just trust the box to tell me about what the machine can do. If I were going to spend $1000 (about the cost of a flight to Thailand, right?) on a gadget that I relied on to keep me alive, I would do some research, and if the claims on the box seemed too good to be true, I’d think twice before making such an important investment.

    I’m not trying to hate on someone who has an inconvenient medical condition. I just think this passenger was overconfident to think he’d be guaranteed to be able to use the CPAP all throughout his trip to Thailand and back. The fact is, life is a life-threatening condition. By planning the trip, he undertook some risk. I sympathize with his trouble and I might think less of United after this, but I don’t think a lawsuit is justified.

  243. thinkbliss says:

    If Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic has outlets under every seat on their planes…

  244. timsgm1418 says:

    I had no idea OP had so many doctors that just happen to read consumerist.. I’m assuming they are all doctors since they seem to know his condition and everything about sleep apnea. Yes a lot of overweight people have sleep apnea,also a lot of people get overweight from having sleep apnea. That isn’t the only cause of it. My grandson at age 3 was finally diagnosed with sleep apnea when we constantly kept telling the doctor how he would quit breathing when he slept. We were finally able to get him a referral to an ENT and turns out his adnoids and tonsils are HUGE. Got them both removed, no more apnea. He was born with that, no outside factors were involved and for the record he was considered underweight. Short necks are genetic in my family so most of us have sleep apnea. I wonder if that’s why ancient societies appreciated long necks? was it so they wouldn’t have to listen to the person snoring?

  245. sibertater says:


    No. I’m a healthcare representative for a huge insurance company and over 90% of the cases we approve CPAP for are overweight. OVER 90%.


  246. sibertater says:


    Yes, everyone has an “Aunt Edna” story, common psychological phenomenon. When was your 3 year old last in Thailand? How long was he on a CPAP machine?

    That is all.

    I’m so sick of people thinking they’re special because they’re fat. I’m almost 100 lbs over my BMI and I don’t ask for, nor do I expect special treatment. Jeebus.

  247. CyberSkull says:

    @PirateSmurf: When that happens I just wake up. And frelling stay up.

  248. bairdwallace says:

    @seth1066: I think they proposed upgrading him to biz, but as he wasn’t allowed on to fly, he probably never set foot on the plane. So he believes he was upgraded, but can’t confirm it, since in fact he never got on a plane.

  249. roostershooster says:

    Count me as a slim male with good abs, good diet, lots of exercise and severe obstructive sleep apnea. Someone posted that they had never met a slim person with sleep apnea. This is probably because doctors have bought the lie that only overweight people have sleep apnea.

    I had seven doctors who missed my diagnosis because they thought only fat people had sleep apnea. Thanks to the internet I finally diagnosed myself and had a sleep study.

    Without cpap I die soon – it might be the first night or it might be the 365th night, but it will kill me. Actually my doctors fear something worse – a crippling stroke.

    I gave up a long career in international business because of a fear of the long flights. Twenty-two hours to India and trying to ensure that my cpap would work for the whole trip was too dangerous to continue.

    As for comments about surgery, they are very out of date. The number of surgeries is going way down because they have such a poor track record.

    BTW, I am not commenting on this guy’s case, just some of the postings by poorly informed people.

    Did you know that untreated sleep apnea is the number one cause of heart disease? The number one cause of stroke? The number one cause of type II diabetes? Don’t feel so bad, most doctors don’t know this either.

  250. Dashrashi says:

    @sibertater: So, you ARE just assuming that this guy is overweight. Over 90% doesn’t necessarily equal 100%, last time I checked.