United Removes Passenger From Flight After He Asks Whether A Meal Will Be Served

Over at JoeSugarman.com, Joe writes that on his way home from a seminar in Austin, he settled into his first class seat–he’s what United Airlines calls a 1K traveler because he flies over 100,000 miles with them every year–and asked the flight attendant, “Are you serving any meals during our flight?” A few minutes later, he writes, “two armed Austin police officers boarded the plane, looked at me and said, ‘Sugarman, follow us.'”

Okay, in the flight attendant’s defense, she says she thought Joe asked her if there were police on the flight. But not in her defense: WTF, seriously flight attendant? You couldn’t even say, “I beg your pardon” or “Would you repeat the question” to confirm that you had an evil ‘sploding terrorist on board?

A United customer service agent explained to Sugarman that after hearing from the flight attendant, the pilot “was not going to take any chances” and asked that Sugarman be removed.

Oddly, United was willing to take any chances on the next available flight, which left the airport two hours later with Sugarman on board.

“What is America coming to????” [JoeSugarman.com] (Thanks to LadySiren!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. CarnivorousPETA says:

    He was making the plane too heavy.

  2. runswithscissors says:

    Wait, did he say “Are you serving any meals during our flight?” or “Can I have some orange juice?”?

  3. savvy9999 says:

    mmmm airplane manicotti and a heinie. with dinner roll. and topped off with brownie. nomnomnom.

    what was the question again?

  4. suez says:

    Not much to go on here, but I wonder HOW he asked. Attitude can make all the difference and this seems so extreme that I have to wonder what was left out of his story.

    • witeowl says:

      Beckons to flight attendant with a slight motion of the head.
      As she approaches, looks over shoulder and around plane.
      Eyes continue shifting and scanning the area as he asks,
      “Are you… serving any “meals” during our flight?”
      “Wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean, know what I mean?”

    • Traveshamockery says:

      Read the post…the flight attendant thought he asked if there were any police on board, and the pilot didn’t want to “take any chances”.

    • kataisa says:

      I agree. I’m calling b.s. on this story.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      We’re in the land of the TSA stealing a war hero’s Medal of Honor because it has a penknife attached to it, and you think *this* is extreme?

      We’re in a land where airline *incompetence* means that the Israeli PM’s bodyguards’ weapons are lost, no one can find them, but you’ll be *arrested as a terrorist* if you try to board with a legally licensed firearm, and you think *THIS* is extreme?

  5. Green Mountain Boy says:

    Obviously United Airlines has too many passengers and customers….so he should take his business elsewhere. I would.

  6. outlulz says:

    Yeah this sounds like a BS story. I don’t believe any of it.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I’ll certainly believe your opinion on the story, with no first hand knowledge, over the person who actually experienced this, runs a blog and website which requires a sense of integrity to maintain readerbase, and is being publicized across the internet while painting United in a bad light, that if found false could be held liable for a lawsuit against him for libel.

      Yes, indeed you must be correct.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:


        I think we know by now that blogs can get a large readership without having the finest of integrity. While I doubt that there’s no truth to this story at all, I’m inclined to at least be skeptical of his side. It’s possible that this was a royal eff-up on the part of Continited, but it’s also possible that he had a provoking influence as well.

        I can’t help but wonder what the other side of the story is, even if that’s not a “pro-consumer” attitude on my part.

      • bhr says:

        HAHAHA. It required integrity to run a blog? Really?

        I’m not saying that I don’t believe his story, but really? That hes a blogger is your defense?

        • Traveshamockery says:

          His/her point is that to run a blog successfully, especially one under your own name, you need to maintain an air of credibility at least among your core audience. Making up a story like this wouldn’t be good for that credibility.

          Basically, what’s in it for him to make this up, versus what is risked?

      • TexasP says:

        Take a stress pill and relax Loias. If someone makes an accusation, the burden of proof is on them. If he has a witness to back up his story, I’ll believe him, as his story is possible.

        if not, then Occam’s Razor says the most likely explanation is that he was being obnoxious.

        As for ‘popular blog’ = ‘integrity”… well, that made me laugh out loud.

        • Chongo says:

          regardless of him being obnoxious… lets say he was a total douche bag “Get me this, get me that” kinda guy… removing him for the reason of asking whether or not there are police on board is ridiculous!

    • runswithscissors says:

      Yeah this sounds like a BS comment. I don’t believe any of it.

    • SkokieMick says:

      Unfortunately I’m going with “true.” I’ve seen a ton of shenanigans like this on AA (including seeing people taken off flights three times so far this year….although all out of ORD).

      F/A are, as a general rule, very nice and courteous. However, there are some power-hungry ones out there that love to enforce various “rules and company regulations” at a whim.

      The one thing I do wonder is HOW he asked the question. I’ve seen my fair share of super-duper-quadruple executive-platinum-for-life elites act like complete and utter tools towards the F/C F/A. I find saying “please,” and “thank you” while acting like a human being and not like some lord of the manor gets me my drinks refilled faster and generally anything within reason I ask for. It’s like when people hit elite status they turn into monstrous jerk-wads. CK members are the worst.

      AAEXP for the last 3 years, AAPLT from 99-on…so I fly them, you know, a lot.

      • gamehendge2000 says:

        If you are EXP, then surely you know there is no such thing as super-duper-quadruple executive-platinum-for-life’s. There are jagoffs known as DYKWIA’s (Don’t You Know Who I Am?)

  7. brianisthegreatest says:

    He must have gotten a deal on his ticket.

  8. Link_Shinigami says:

    Ionno, when I’m in confined places, what I do is think of really awesome things that can go wrong and how I can spring up and save the day. Obviously, this stewardess is not like me (Or the vast amount of other imaginative people that do this) and instead opt’d for the “panic mode”

  9. TerpBE says:

    So she thought he asked if there were any police on board, and minutes later two police got on the plane? Now THAT’s service!

  10. PanCake BuTT says:

    I think I’d rather have snakes on a plane, rather than, idiot flight attendants on plane, suffering from cabin pressure fever. Absurd!

  11. chaesar says:

    just read through this guy’s website, his is really full of himself, I would take this story with many a grain of salt

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      If it’s false he’d be liable for commiting libel against United and sued for a lot of money for lost revenue.

      • chaesar says:

        and then we can read another Consumerist story about the guy who got taken to court over a blog post

      • halfcuban says:

        This isn’t the UK, and I doubt they he would be sued for libel. You know how many people, everyday, bash companies with made up stuff and never get sued for it? Its called the whole Internet.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      OK, but do arrogant people often ask for police on flights?

      • chaesar says:

        Read “The Amazing Journey of Joseph Sugarman” from his website, which commentor ncmedcompute was kind enough to post further down the page. Tell me the guy that wrote this wouldn’t skew his side of the story.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      He seems fine to me. He reminds me of my Grandpa that died a few years ago.

  12. Alvis says:

    I fail to see why asking if there are police on board, even if that’s what he had done, is cause for concern.

  13. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    WTF, seriously flight attendant? You couldn’t even say, “I beg your pardon” or “Would you repeat the question” to confirm that you had an evil ‘sploding terrorist on board?

    You’d think sheer curiosity and bafflement would have her asking, “Why do you want to know if there’s a cop on board?”

    And yeah, if he’s so freaking dangerous then why’d they immediately put him on another flight. The OP is completely justified in taking his business to American.

    • dulcinea47 says:

      You would also think that he would have inquired further after she told him she couldn’t say if a meal was going to be served for security purposes. I sure would have.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        OK, yeah, that makes no sense either. Again, I’d think saying “Huh?” or “What?” would just come out automatically after such a bizarre response.

        Why is no one saying anything in this story?

    • OnePumpChump says:

      “The OP is completely justified in taking his business to American.”

      That’s a lateral move.

  14. dolemite says:

    Ok, so what was his compensation for having to take another flight and wait another few hours in the hell that is the airport? Apparently nothing. No apology?

    Something is wrong when America has supposedly become a service nation instead of industrial, and the service blows.

  15. Clyde Barrow says:

    United Airlines needs to fire this attendant for being a complete moron. How in the hell can you misshear, “are there police on the flight” for “are there any meals on this flight”. Police? Meals? How did she mixed this up? His face was probably no more than 12 inches from hers. I can hear what my co-worker says to me and he is 30 feet from me in the next cubicle. Maybe there should be a hearing aptitude test to pass before working in this field. And the article is right in saying merely “excuse me could you repeat what you just said”. That doesn’t take much effort.

    • citrusfa says:

      In her defense, just five years of working around jet engines can alter your hearing. He probably asked in the middle of boarding, possibly from a few rows away, in the middle of everyone else finding their seats, orchestrating family seating charts, and stowing bags – it’s incredibly difficult to hear anything in that situation, and if he was covering his mouth in any way, I can see how the flight attendant would mishear.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        Just thought of something. Maybe the flight attendant thought he said, “are you serving “males” on this flight”. Mmmmmmm. For whatever reason maybe that could have scared her.

  16. EverCynicalTHX says:

    The Amazing Journey of Joseph Sugarman:

    He’s by no means “Your Average Joe.” In fact, there’s nothing average about him. No “Average Joe” could be such a creative, diverse, and successful entrepreneur. It’s far from average to sell millions of people on products they didn’t even know they needed, right?

    No “Average Joe” could wear the many hats he has with style, grace, and excellence. Joe Sugarman, marketing legend, author and businessman, friend and father, husband and humanitarian…continues passionately helping others on his amazing journey.


    Joe Sugarman’s writing path was inked in 5th grade when a funny essay got A+ reviews from classmates. Meanwhile, his teacher felt more like adding a pair of the letter S to the end of that A. Oh well.

    Later, at Oak Park River Forest High School in the Chicago area, Joe followed in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, writing a column for the school newspaper and then not writing that column because it was too conservative. In early Sugarman style, Joe published his own magazine about what interested students.

    As a standout Electrical Engineering Major at the University of Miami, he plugged into the absolute lowest Animal House fraternity, just so he could engineer the turnaround from worst to first on campus. He succeeded.


    College students voluntarily join the ROTC to enter the military as an officer. Joe Sugarman did, but again his results weren’t average. One semester before graduation, the U.S. Army drafted him. He pled his case about the dumb decision, but ran into something like the very reason he was drafted –the Berlin Wall.

    At basic training, Joe was picked as a potential candidate for the Army’s intelligence school. He then attended the military intelligence school and got to the attention of the commanding general who recognized Sugarman’s unique ability to turn problems into opportunities. The general then gave Sugarman a special assignment in Germany where he learned not only the tricks of the intelligence trade but the German language as well.

    C.I.A. – Central Intelligence Agency to Counter-Intuitive Advertising

    After three and a half years in Europe, Joe Sugarman came home to America to work on selling direct mail advertising for a ski lift manufacturer, not exactly a hot business. But his clever ads lifted the hopes of several ski resorts, who pressured Joe into opening an advertising agency. This snowballed into the extraordinary career that included these highlights.

    * Taking the nation by storm in promoting snowmobile usage through playfully banning female drivers during the peak of the “Women’s Lib” era.

    * Offering his client the first pocket calculator to sell in 1970. The client asked, “Who would buy such a thing?” Then told Joe to sell it himself. He did, millions worth.

    * Introducing the 800 toll-free number to direct marketing.

    * Author of the “Bibles” on copywriting and triggers that convert into sales.

    * Using a product from a bankrupt company that made shades for NASA to protect astronauts from the sun’s UV and blue rays, and transforming it into the popular, multi-million dollar brand of BluBlocker Sunglasses.

    How do you keep the music playing?

    It’s a question this visionary is now driven to answer. Joe Sugarman says, “You can’t delegate entrepreneurship. You’ve got to be in there, hands on.” Now he’s working to keep the music playing for all of us as President of Stem120. The company boasts a unique line of breakthrough products designed to help people live long healthy lives without disease until the age of 120.

    There’s the skincare sensation, Signals, with an anti-aging peptide that signals your cells to regenerate. There’s Protect120, the only product that actually supplements Glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant. There’s ModeraXL, the All-Natural Addiction Solution that fills the void of the biochemical aspect of treatment and recovery. Yet, there’s more, much more coming soon.

    Halfway Home

    Joe Sugarman has enjoyed 71 years of living fully. He could easily be relaxing in retirement in either of his homes in Maui or Las Vegas. But he’s both young and young at heart. He does 25 chin-ups every day, when most people can’t do one. He fasts regularly. And he uses all of the Stem120 products every day.

    So don’t waste time doing your math on Joe Sugarman’s age and expected longevity. Try his math, and then try it for yourself. You’ll enjoy life much more and much longer.

    In the mind of Joe Sugarman, he’s just past halfway home on his amazing life’s journey from ski lifts to stem cells. That’s not only great news for him. You’ll be seeing, hearing, and reading how it’s great news soon for you, too.

    • thnkwhatyouthnk says:

      Hello Shill

      • craptastico says:

        how is he a shill? i figured he quoted the whole thing here so we could read it without having to give the guy any more page hits. this Sugarman character seems like a grade A douche regardless. i’m glad i could read it without earning him a nickel in ad revenue

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      yeah. I read that in the link that was provided.

    • drizzt380 says:

      I spent that whole thing going back a forth between “This man thinks like this in real life” and “This must be a joke biography.”

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Oh, I see, it’s all clear now. Both you and he are dicks, and he probably made up the story to drive up pageviews. Got it.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        Then posting this wall of text is counter-productive, wouldn’t you say? I mean, why should we go to the OP’s web site if we’re getting entire pages of it here? (That better be the whole page, I’d hate to think that’s the abridged version)

        • pantheonoutcast says:

          As Craptastico said below, “i figured he quoted the whole thing here so we could read it without having to give the guy any more page hits.”

          That’s true, and I wasn’t thinking. I take back what I said about ncmedcompute being a dick, with apologies. But Sugarman still = self-possessed publicity hound.

      • uber_mensch says:

        Joe is as real as he makes himself out to be.
        Google blublocker or read about it here:

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      “As a standout Electrical Engineering Major at the University of Miami,”

      Ah, well, here’s your problem.

    • BigBoat2 says:

      Hilarious disemvowel.

  17. PixDawg says:

    I agree with the other poster. Something smells odd about this story, we are likely not hearing the complete truth from one side or maybe both. That is the problem with many stories here and on the net in general – lack of valid, independent verification….

  18. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Kind of ridiculous that she didn’t ask him to repeat himself. Joe is a 71 year old Jewish man- how terrifying!! no wonder she couldn’t just ask him to repeat himself!

  19. joetan says:


    If the flight attendant can’t hear it might be time for a nice desk job.

  20. Thresher says:

    On the other hand, they actually could have served dinner, which would have been even more dangerous.

  21. PixDawg says:

    I would suggest one look at Mr. Sugarman’s page and the sort of things he sells.

    Then decide for yourself what the truth of this story may or may not be.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Yeah, someone already posted a wall of text instead of a link.

      Is that supposed to make the think the entire thing is made up or is it supposed to make me think he really did ask for some cops?

  22. AngryK9 says:

    Obviously he was overweight and didn’t buy two seats.

  23. UnicornMaster says:

    Yeah, the proper response would be, “Is there a problem? Do you need the police?” because I would assume asking for police is like asking for a doctor.

    Besides the point, however, if he flies over 100,000 miles shouldn’t he know there are no meals on flights anymore?

    • ConsumerA says:

      Really? I’ve gotten meals on most of my recent flights. Perhaps you’ve been taking the wrong airline or only been flying within the continental US?

    • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

      There are meals in First Class, and he did state he was in First Class.

      There are not ALWAYS meals in FC, if it is a short flight, not during a regular “meal time” they may only serve snacks, so I think this was quite a legit question.

    • Emily says:

      Amen to this. A passenger asking this could be doing so because he’s seen something suspicious on the plane and wants to report it, or because his wallet has been stolen.

      Even if he had said what she misheard, she’d be a nitwit for responding the way she did.

  24. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    Was he asking for donuts, and they thought he was asking because he wanted to know if there were any police on board? ‘Cause you know, that’s what police eat…


  25. frak says:

    After 9/11, United/US Air/American flight attendants lost a lot of their pensions and pay, but they did get to become asshole tyrants of the sky.

  26. goldilockz says:

    How does that even remotely sound like he’s asking if there are police aboard?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      My only guesses are:

      1) The OP wasn’t speaking clearly: a cold, wasn’t facing the attendant while speaking, or maybe just his age

      2) The OP has an accent. (I can’t think of an accent that makes those two words sound similar)

      3) The flight attendant was only half listening to the OP.

  27. UnicornMaster says:

    I also wonder if getting thrown off a plane and submitting to the consumerist is the best “Internet Marketing”

  28. balthisar says:

    And… so what if he did ask if there were police on the flight. I’d be reassured by an affirmative answer. It’s not like asking her to point out the known Sky Marshalls.

  29. vastrightwing says:

    Lesson: 1) Don’t check your guitar on United. 2) do not speak unless spoken to on United. 3) Make sure you don’t pay the least amount for your ticket, 3) Measure your bag and make sure it’s at least 1″ shorter than the published dimensions. 4) Bring many eBooks w/batteries with you for the times you’re waiting on the tarmac 5) make sure your luggage is rated to withstand United luggage handlers. I could go on and on…

  30. Chip Skylark of Space says:

    were any meals served on the second flight?

  31. rpm773 says:

    Yuri, the Russian super-spy, will be on this flight today. He will fly first class. He’s been instructed to identify himself to his contact, who [until he was arrested a few moments ago] was impersonating a flight attendant on the flight.

    His identification passphrase to his contact is “Are you serving any meals during our flight?”

    When he says that, call the police.

  32. quirkyrachel says:

    Weird. “Are you serving any meals during our flight?” sounds nothing like “Are there police on the flight”

  33. CherieBerry says:

    You are no longer allowed to ask flight attendants for anything or even look them in the eye.

  34. nkash001 says:

    Um, WTF. I do not believe a word of this. Must be more to it.


  35. duncanblackthorne says:

    I’ve only ever flown anywhere a handful of times over my entire life, but with things like this I’ve been reading the past few years, I’m thinking I won’t ever make a habit out of it.,

  36. Darwin says:

    It’s obvious we’re not getting the whole story here.
    From what I’ve read on that guy’s web page, he sounds like he probably had it coming.

  37. Ben says:

    There’s a little detail left out — he asked it in Arabic.

  38. d0x360 says:

    This cant be true. Wouldnt a simple explanation have sufficed? Also how do you mistake the word meal for police? They sound nothing alike.

  39. sopmodm14 says:

    so who’s paying for the mistake ? is just “he/she said” good enough ?

    wasn’t that mcarthyism at its finest ?

  40. Elcheecho says:

    isn’t anyone going to mention the weirdness even if he did ask about police? Since when is it wrong to ask if there are police on board the plane? maybe i feel safer knowing they’re there. maybe i’m just curious. why would an actual terrorist care? or fly first class?

  41. dbeahn says:

    Yup, the American way of life is forever changed. The terrorists won.

  42. nosense22 says:

    My initial thought is that Sugarman is leaving something out. This seems absurd.

  43. Cicadymn says:

    Ahh America and its retarded reactive policies.

  44. Michael S. says:

    Should be fired! EOS

  45. common_sense84 says:

    The flight attendant should be in jail. Making false claims needs to be punished.

  46. NotLeftist says:

    Fascist is as fascist does. The easiest way to impose slavery is to instill fear.

  47. Justintime233 says:

    That sucks he got pulled off the plane without even doing anything. He should get a free pass now to do something that would get him kicked off. Like at the first sign of turbulance scream “OMFG WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!”.

  48. p. observer says:

    thank goodness he didn’t ask if they had honey buns http://con.st/10007742

  49. clickable says:

    Wait, the two armed Austin officers who hauled him off to pokey arrested him by saying “Sugarman, follow us”? Really? Just like that, “Sugarman,” like they were long-lost buddies?

    I’ve never in my life heard of a police officer addressing a person about to be arrested by their surname, with no honorific. Ne. Ver. And I’m not buying that the officers in Austin started some new trend, either. This did not happen, or at least not the way Sugarman, just “Sugarman,” is reporting it.

  50. e065702 says:

    I NEVER fly UA. Avoid ’em at all costs. Will pay extra, take extra stops, whatever it takes to circumvent them.
    Their employees have THE worst attitude. It used to be Northwest but since the merger I am withholding judgment of Delta, so far so good.
    UA management should mandate all their employees fly one leg a year on Southwest Airlines to know EXACTLY who they are competing with (Iknow, I know, there are also some bad Southwest Airlines employees, but I assure you thereare far fewer.)
    As near as I can tell they think they have a monopoly in the airline business.

  51. StarVapor says:

    This sounds like is a he said – she said situation that got out of hand.
    But then again…flight crews have pretty much been given carte blanch liberty to say anything they want under Homeland Security rules.