Delta Passenger Kicked Off Flight For Asking If Pilot Had Been Drinking

Here’s a lesson from Delta Airlines: If you think you smell alcohol on a pilot’s breath, don’t dare ask the flight crew if he’d been drinking; you’ll just end up being kicked off the flight. That’s what happened to a woman from California, who recently found herself booted from a Delta flight.

The 51-year-old woman was waiting to fly home to Southern California from Atlanta when she and three other passengers had a brief conversation with one of the pilots of their delayed flight. When the pilot walked away from the group, one of her fellow passengers asked the others if they had also smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath.

“A gentleman standing behind me asked, ‘Did anyone smell that? It smelled a little like vodka,'” recalled the woman. “We all agreed that he did smell alcohol, but we didn’t know if he had been drinking or what we should do about it.”

The woman then spoke to the head flight attendant on board the plane: “I told her that I didn’t know what protocol is, but I believe I smelled alcohol on one of the pilots’ breath.”

The flight attendant then talked to another pilot, who then requested to speak to the woman:

He asked me to come inside the cockpit, where he shut the door and asked me about my conversation with the pilot in the jetway. I told him what I had told the flight attendant; that other passengers and I thought we had smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath…. He said he had been with the captain for several hours before the flight. I was satisfied with the pilot’s explanation, thanked him and returned to my seat.

Twenty minutes later, she was approached by a Delta Airlines manager who asked her to follow him off the plane. “He then told me the captain took a test that proved he did not have anything to drink,” she says.

The passenger then returned to her seat and thought the matter was over and done with. She was wrong.

“About 20 minutes later, the Delta manager returned with a female colleague and they asked me to gather my belongings and follow them off the flight,” said the passenger. “I was so embarrassed.”

Back in the airport, it reiterated to her that the pilot had tested negative for alcohol. She was also told that “they take these accusations very seriously and that the captain and his crew did not want me on his flight.”

She was given meal and hotel vouchers and told she could take a flight to L.A. the next morning.

“All I did was voice my concerns,” she said. “I wasn’t a threat to anyone and for them to remove me was wrong.”

NBC spoke to a retired United Airlines captain who gave a very mixed message on the situation:

If you think someone is drunk, you owe it to yourself, your loved ones and other passengers to report it… However, in this case, because the captain had not been drinking, Delta made the right decision by asking her to leave the plane.

So if you have reason to believe that a pilot has been drinking, you “owe it to yourself, your loved ones and other passengers to report it,” but if you’re mistaken you deserve to be humiliated and kicked off a plane?

What would you have done in this woman’s situation?

Woman kicked off flight after accusing pilot of drinking []

Thanks to Pete for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. El_Fez says:

    I would have raised a holy stink right then and there, before being ejected from the plane. Throwing someone off because they’re concerned for their safety? That isn’t right.

    Then again, of all the flying I’ve done, Delta is hands down the worst – so I’m not too shocked.

    • Tongsy says:

      Then you would have been arrested, cavity searched, and thrown in jail for a little while for being “unruly” and “disobeying a flight attendant”

      • wrongfrequently says:

        and/or tazed.

      • Crim Law Geek says:

        And that’s when you get a lawyer and sue the crap out of the airline, the airport authority, and the police.


        • nucwin83 says:

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

          /Not a lawyer
          //All depends on the ‘holy stink’ raised though

        • RvLeshrac says:

          On an aircraft or watercraft, the captain of the vessel is judge and jury with regard to both the crew and the passengers. You can do whatever you want, *AFTER* you get the hell off his ship.

    • Jfielder says:

      Delta is the worst?? Someone here hasn’t flown Spirit….

    • DariusC says:

      In other news, a flight leaving Atlanta crashed into the side of a mountain.

      • knoxblox says:

        I’d think I was rather lucky to be removed if the pilot had truly been drinking.

        Reminds me of a story my uncle used to tell me about declining a ride with a drunk driver who later died in a car crash.

  2. yusefyk says:

    While it may have been within the captain’s legal rights, it was highly unprofessional of him to remove her from his flight.

    • savvy9999 says:

      Agreed. A professional pilot would have simply peed in her ginger ale.

    • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

      “…it may have been within the captain’s legal rights…”???

      Under what law or ruling? Like in the old days when a captain of the boat used to be the final authority over life an death on his ship?

      This is ridiculous, a petty revenge.

      • DarksSideMoon says:

        The Pilot in Command has final say on just about everything that happens on the plane. Why is everyone assuming it’s some sort of personal vendetta? Maybe he was honestly concerned this lady could spread a rumor that he was drunk amongst the passengers, which could cause a serious ruckus on board the plane.

        • trentblase says:

          More likely to happen as she’s being escorted off the plane, then when she’s sitting there quietly.

        • proscriptus says:

          Is it? I’d like to see the statute that gives a pilot the right to eject a passenger because he doesn’t like the cut of her jib. Does his magical Pilot Power trump her First Amendment rights? Or are we all just giving up on those?

          • ben says:

            There’s nothing in the First Amendment about the right to fly Delta Airlines. She had the right to express her concern about the pilot’s potential drunkenness. The pilot has the right to kick her off the plane. She has the right to complain being kicked off. Yay for rights!

    • chimpski says:


    • Pax says:

      Absolutely correct.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      This just in: I apparently touched a nerve with a snarky tweet about this incident today. Delta has a different take on what happened; it says the passenger was rebooked because she “continued to express concern”. Yes, I dislike the airlines and their new we-hate-consumer policies, hence the snark-dripping tweets.

      Here’s the tweet thread. Waiting to see what happens next, whee!

      @LadySiren: More consumer-hate, this time from @Delta, who booted passenger for asking if pilot was drunk. #airlineshateyou

      @DeltaAssist: @LadySiren Pilot responded to concerns & was OK’d to fly by trained evaluator. Pax rebooked only after she continued to express concern.

      @LadySiren: @DeltaAssist So this news story – – is incorrect? Says passenger told pilot wanted her off the plane. #airlineshateyou

      @LadySiren: @DeltaAssist Same story quotes passenger as saying it was wrong for #Delta to view her as a threat. And she’s calling in her atty. Response?

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I’d like a good explanation as to why a passenger should be asked to leave after performing due diligence.

    Or should we all be sheeps and do and buy whatever corporate America tells us to do?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Having read the article in full, their explanation is:

      “It’s an either you or me situation,” said Aimer. “She had to go because the captain has his crew and hundreds of other passengers to think about.”

      Yes, because now that this woman was proved wrong, she’s going to pull out that bomb and AK-47 she had been keeping in her purse just in case someone embarrasses her in public?

      What risk was she at that point? This is a piss poor reason.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        “Yes, because now that this woman was proved wrong, she’s going to pull out that bomb and AK-47 she had been keeping in her purse just in case someone embarrasses her in public?”

        ha! yeah really. that still doesn’t make sense to me. I imagine the pilot was just pissed and wanted to get back at her. You know. Like a professional.

      • mmmsoap says:

        Sounds like the woman reported her concerns, and the airline actually looked into it. If she’s all “No way! I’m sure he was drinking!” when they reported back to her, they’d be correct to remove her from the plane.

        On the other hand, if she’s all “Thanks so much for looking into it, I feel so much better.” when they tell her the pilot hasn’t been drinking (and yes, this sounds like what actually happened, but who really knows) then there’s no reason to kick her off.

        • bwcbwc says:

          And apologizing for her mistake might keep the captain from having her pulled from the flight out of spite for the whole issue.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      My only guess is they were concerned that she would get the rest of the passengers riled up/panicked if they overheard her talking about the pilot being drunk. A passenger uprising is what the terrorists and the airlines fear most.

      • smo0 says:

        Uh… she thought it was “over with” when they told her everything tested negative and it was square – coming to her about it later and throwing her off would definitely get the rest of the plane in an “awkward” state, however.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          Well, that is apparently what she said. Until we get the whole story, it may very well be that she continued to talk on about it with the three other passengers. Kay from Men In Black said it best:

          A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

          • smo0 says:

            I think kicking her off the plane would attract more attention… these days, I’m sad to admit – I’m pretty oblivious to my surroundings… I’ve been on a plane where “shit went down” … if I’m in the back and they are in the front – usually I have no idea about it until I see someone actually being escorted off the plane, then I start to ask questions….

          • justagigilo85 says:

            Although that line is from MIB, it also sounds like something George Carlin would say.

        • coren says:

          SHE thought it was over – how does Delta know what she thinks? (they’re in the wrong, but at least if that’s what their reasoning was I can see why they might do it)

    • peebozi says:

      and never blame a bad stand up comedy routine on your pilot being in the audience….that’ll really get you thrown off a flight if you’re in a sitcom!

  4. IphtashuFitz says:

    Chalk up another reason not to fly with Delta. If they want to make passengers feel uncomfortable enough to not risk reporting possibly drunk pilots then I simply don’t want to fly with them.

    • magus_melchior says:

      Who wants to bet that Delta’s method of alcohol testing was a sobriety test administered by Chief Wiggum?

  5. dreamfish says:

    You know the rules about questioning authority these days – and the consequences too.

    “Conformity is the only freedom”

  6. backinpgh says:

    Do we need whistleblower legislation for airline passengers now? It’s not as if the woman made the story up because she’s insane. She had a legitimate concern, her concerns were addressed, and everyone was ready to move on except the bitter pilot who wanted to teach her a lesson.

  7. brinks says:

    The pilot was probably embarrassed and decided to seek revenge on the passenger.

    This really discourages people from doing the right thing.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      If she had thought of that at the time, she could have easily made a ruckus before she was escorted off.

      “Why are you removing me because I smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath?! What are you trying to cover up!?!”

      That would probably get the passengers unnerved and the pilots would be removed from the flight along with her.

    • DarksSideMoon says:

      Anyone stop to think maybe he didn’t want her spreading rumors amongst the passengers, which could cause some sort of commotion while in air?

  8. Kat@Work says:

    Not many businesses/industries can treat their customers like this and still have them coming back… ah, the joys of airlines with too little competition and pilots with power trips.

    Why do people have to behave like robots in an airport/on a plane in order to pay them to use their service? If a real live human has a valid concern, they shouldn’t be reprimanded for politely voicing it.

    I guess if you have to fly, don’t talk to the flight attendants about meals or liquor if you want to stay on the plane. Though I wouldn’t want to be on a plane with a self-righteous asshole like this pilot either.

  9. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    This just smells of retaliation and a good way to make sure passengers never speak up again, and if next time the pilot is drinking who knows how badly it could end

  10. dolemite says:

    Each day, I hear a new story that reaffirms my aversion to flying.

    I’d love to hear the captain’s reasoning for kicking her off. “She…umm…might…freak out or something? I dunno, I’m pissed and have nothing.”

  11. c!tizen says:

    “If you think someone is drunk, you owe it to yourself, your loved ones and other passengers to report it… However, in this case, because the captain had not been drinking, Delta made the right decision by asking her to leave the plane.”

    Drunk or not, if this is your idea of reasonable logic then I don’t want you in control of my aircraft, period.

    • will_o_wisp says:


    • DarksSideMoon says:

      Perhaps they were afraid said passenger would discuss this with other passengers on the plane and cause a panic.

      • RvLeshrac says:


        Do *YOU* want to do business with someone after they’ve accused you of a felony and caused you to have to submit to an embarrassing test in front of your co-workers?

        • c!tizen says:

          She didn’t accuse him of being drunk, she inquired about the smell of alcohol oh his breath, also confirmed by 2 other people. I could understand if she was standing at the front of the plane screaming “drunk captain, drunk captain” but she simply asked about it.

          I’m sure you would be singing her praises if he would have been drunk.

  12. Supes says:

    Very unprofessional, but I’d place the blame on the pilot more than Delta. I highly doubt Delta has any policy saying “If a passenger falsely accuses the pilot of being drunk, they can’t fly on that flight.”

    This is pure petty vindictiveness from the pilot, who was within his legal rights to kick anyone off the plane. It reflects very poorly on him, and through him the whole airline. But I don’t think Delta is at fault at all.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Yes, but the official Delta response was pure 100% bullshit.

      • yusefyk says:

        Maybe bullshit, but most people who buy tickets just use “sort by price” and click the lowest number. So the PR cost to Delta is pretty low, especially if they assume this wouldn’t make the news. Whereas it might be better for them to support the pilot (in his asinine decision).

    • Emerald4me says:

      I agree. The pilot was probably refusing to fly until that woman was removed.

  13. Bob Lu says:

    Not saying it is “good enough” but at least they offered her meal and hotel.

  14. BigHeadEd says:

    In1996, I questioned a pilot after we’d been sitting on the ground waiting to take off in an ATR, in freezing rain for more than half an hour after deicing. Shortly after the flight attendant called the captain with my concerns, the copilot came back in the cabin and inspected the wings through a passenger’s window, after which we turned around and went back to the gate (flight cancelled due to weather). It was probably pure coincidence that the pilot chose to not proceed with a takeoff, but if I raised the same issue today I’d probably be hauled away in chains.

  15. peebozi says:

    I am a big fan of Delta, seriously. I fly them whenever I can, seriously.

    I believe this issue will work itself out in the free market, sarcastically.

  16. Mustafa Bier says:

    Delta did the right thing. Last time I checked, vodka had no odor whatever.

    Let’s says she had been allowed to remain on the flight, the plane runs into normal turbulence, this lady starts loudly telling everyone around her “I smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath” = meltdown.

    • k1b8sn1 says:

      Those that say vodka has no odor is either a smoker (smokers have a deminished ability with their sense of smell and taste) or are just going off of rumors from highschool.

      All alcohol has a scent in the bottle and on the breath. I speak from experience and as a 7 year bartender.

    • Chumas says:

      As a former alchy, vodka most definitly has an odor.
      Faint, but it’s there. Why? Because when your body metabolizes alcohol, it is also coming out of your pores, mucus membranes and being excreted from your kidneys/bowel. So literally, you’re leaking your drinking.

    • ahleeeshah says:

      Seriously? No smell? Really? It has a very distinct smell.

    • Moosenogger says:

      LOL WHUT. I can smell vodka 5 feet away if it’s concentrated. Hell, I knew a boy who took vodka to school with him in a water bottle and you could smell it the moment he opened the bottle.

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

    I would have said, loud enough for the other passengers to hear, “You’re seriously asking me to leave the flight because I thought I smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath, and I mentioned it because I was concerned for my safety and the other passengers?”

    Let’s see how the rest of the airplane feels then.

    Mind you, I wouldn’t YELL, but just state the truthful facts, loud enough for the passengers in the next row or two to hear.

    Then, upon return home, plan a lawsuit for my losses, “pain and suffering” (ie, the humiliation)

    Sorry, this is just not right. She did the right thing and got punished for it. Its not like she made a false accusation – she was genuinely concerned.

    • dolemite says:

      What’s funny, is even if you raised your voice slightly, they’d probably have you arrested for making a disturbance on the flight or something.

    • ellemdee says:

      Everyone else would probably sit quiety and say nothing to avoid the same fate & get kicked off the plane. Way to harass people into not saying anything if they suspect the pilot’s been drinking.

      Dealing with a security risk is one thing, but enough already with pilots and attendants being able to use their powers to take revenge on passengers for the grave sins of voicing legit safety concerns or asking for orange juice.

    • Michaela says:

      Yes…because causing panic on an airplane is definitely the best way to handle the situation like a mature adult… /s/

  18. morehalcyondays says:

    Vodka has almost no smell.

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

      Wrong. Vodka has a very distinct smell.

      You may want to check with a doctor to see if you have a deviated septum.

      • halfcuban says:

        Wrong, Vodka is essentially rubbing alcohol. It has no unique smell like say, beer, or bourbon, etc. And you sure as hell aren’t smelling it in a casual conversation with someone unless they are so soused that they are stumbling everywhere. I seriously cry shenanigans on the ability of someone to “smell” alcohol on someones breath from a regular conversational distance.

        • DarthCoven says:

          Pour yourself 2 glasses of OJ. add vodka to one of them, take a big whiff of both and come back and tell me you didn’t smell the alcohol.

          Also “vodka is essentially rubbing alcohol”…why don’t you go take a nice big swig of the rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet. We’ll wait for you to get out of the ER to read your findings.

          • DorsalRootGanglion says:

            Did you know that docs cure methanol or proponal poisoning with ethanol? It’s a cheap way to get drunk! Step 1: OD on the wrong type of alcohol. Step 2: Hospital. Step 3: Free booze! (or die.)

        • NarcolepticGirl says:

          That’s just false. Completely false.

          • DarthCoven says:

            Seriously. When my wife comes home from a night on the town I go around extinguishing any open flames in the house because I can smell the fumes coming off her.

        • k1b8sn1 says:

          Halfcuban… that comment is so full of fail, it hurts.

        • joshua70448 says:

          Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol != ethyl (grain) alcohol. Try drinking some rubbing alcohol and see what happens.

          (Actually, don’t do that, it’ll make you incredibly sick or kill you)

    • amgriffin says:

      Other than the smell of alcohol, that is.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      I don’t know why people think that. i’ve heard that before.
      The only alcohol I drink is vodka and people have asked if I’ve been drinking.
      Okay. That sounds bad – but for example, when I was living with my pal last year, I had a drink – brushed my teeth and was ready to head out the door for a date. And my pal asked, “have you been drinking?”

      • RStormgull says:

        Are… are you sure your vodka habit has nothing to do with your Narcolepsy?

        On a side note, why does my spell check recognize narcoleptic and nympholepsy but not narcolepsy? Really, spell check? Really?

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I’m going to run home and smell my vodka now.

  19. Bob Lu says:

    If I may guess, maybe Delta is trying to avoid the “I KNEW the pilot was totally drunk but the pilot denied it and I was FORCED to stay in that flight” story.

    The way Delta deal with such situation is pretty bad. I think the better way will be asking the woman whether she was satisfied with the answer or wanted to take another flight.

  20. kc2idf says:

    In other news, train ridership is up. It seems to me as though people are getting sick of flying and all of the bullshit that goes along with it.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      And people were normally taking planes to travel across states like Vermont? Perhaps less people are driving?

      • kc2idf says:

        Rutland to New York or Rutland to Albany seems perfectly reasonable to me to take a puddle jumper. Likewise Seattle to Vancouver (there were three links in there, BTW — not just the one pertaining to VT)

        • WagTheDog says:

          To go from Seattle to Vancouver, I would rather take the ferry. Other than that, out here in the West, it’s too far and our rail service is too poor to realistically take the train anywhere than within the same metropolitan area (like around the Bay).

          • joycecarolgoats says:

            There’s a ferry from Seattle to Vancouver? That’s the first I’ve heard of it and I’ve lived in Vancouver for 47 years.

  21. herooftimeloz says:

    I’m sure the FAA would be very interested to hear her story.

  22. Hobz says:

    Adding Delta to my no fly list.

  23. cmenter says:

    Honestly if someone walked into my workplace and accused me of severe misconduct, and I could choose not to do business with them, I’d probably do the same as this pilot did.

    • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

      Except, the captain of an airplane does not have the right to choose with whom his airline “does business”. While his duties include guaranteeing the safety of the passengers, this does not seem to apply here.
      You don’t want the doorman at the hotel telling you you’re not allowed to stay there… especially after you paid for the room.

      • Clumber says:

        Wait… really? Doorman of a hotel = pilot of a commercial aircraft? I’m no PhD in analogies but that one sucks.

        Upward a tad are explanations of the PIC concept. The pilot was well within his right to request she be removed from the flight, but is also a petty dunderhead for doing so. A smarter move would have been to come back, in full view of everyone else, and thank her for her concern himself.

        • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

          Maybe the parallel was a little stretched.
          However, they both are employees of a business entity, who were hired to do a specific task, not to make business decisions.
          Although it’s probably Delta’s management who should point this out to him.

          • Clumber says:

            Sorry but even that is a weak stretch. Pilots ARE hired and paid for to make business decisions. They have the final say in many business decisions : Call a missed approach; go to reserve aircraft; fly at a speed/alt that is less economic in certain WX conditions; return to the origin airport if a fuse is not acting right… all of those are $$$$ decisions.

            Tell you what, instead of doorman can we switch to some sort of executive in the analogous hotel?

      • cmenter says:

        A doorman’s not a very good analogy because its hard to imagine any accusation one could make against a doorman that would be so severe.

        Obviously, this pilot’s action was a bit spiteful. But many people would be tempted to act spitefully in this situation. If you walk into a store and mention to the manager that you suspect the cashier of stealing from the register, you can’t reasonably expect a nice reception when you walk up to pay your bill. The accusation in this case was many times more severe.

  24. Suaveydavey says:

    Coffee, tea or what the captain is having?

  25. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Wow. our comments are much more supportive of this woman than the linked article.

  26. Caveat says:

    Time for Congress to reevaluate the power of pilots. I understand that in the air they need to be in charge, but on the ground a group of more competent people have to be in charge. By that I mean people that know about law, finance, and consumer relations as opposed to someone who just knows how to fly a plane.

    • evnmorlo says:

      You’re saying he should have ejected her in the air?

    • DarksSideMoon says:

      “Just knows how to fly a plane”
      Do you have any idea what knowledge it takes to get an air transport license? Quite frankly anyone smart enough to get that far is probably smart enough to make those decisions.

  27. P_Smith says:

    So if a Fatherland Security clown or stewardess gets touchy and overreacts, there’s no punishment for an overreaction to a non-issue.

    Yet a passenger, the woman, voiced a valid concern about a safety issue and it turned out to be nothing, and she was punished.

    The level of hypocrisy is astounding. I hope she sudes the bastards.

  28. Hoss says:

    Her lawyer in the palm tree shirt should realize that a pilot is in charge and if he feels this passenger has potential to make others uncomfortable by relaying the story, that’s the pilot’s call. Demanding an investigation is saying he wants the pilot fired

  29. NickelMD says:

    This is totally unprofessional and I hope she takes this up with the FAA. If she presented no threat to the flight (and in fact was doing her due diligence to ensure the flight was safe) the ONLY reason she was ejected was retaliation.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      No. She could have been inciting/inflaming the rest of the passengers. Ever hear of yelling fire in a crowded theater?

      • herooftimeloz says:

        This is different though. It wasn’t just this lady who smelled alcohol…there were others who had the same suspicion.

        • herooftimeloz says:

          Sorry, got a little trigger happy there…what I meant to say was that there was a strong reason for suspicion in this case, as opposed to your example of yelling fire in a theater (when there isn’t actually a fire).

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

            Well, I didn’t mean it was exactly like that. But getting people freaked out in a aluminum tube high in the sky is a bad thing.

      • psm321 says:

        I think it’s more like smelling smoke in a theater, talking to the manager and being reassured that it’s just a grill in the food court, and then returning quietly to your seat. And later being asked to leave the theater.

  30. evnmorlo says:

    Sounds like an unnamed guy mischievously invented the smell, convinced the other passengers that they smelled something, and got them to complain. He should be arrested.

    • sufreak says:

      That definitely works towards his evil plot of….having a seat freed up on the plane for this mistress who is on the standby list. Good call mate.

  31. marlathetourist says:

    Wait I dont understand, Emily Gilmore was kicked off a flight?

  32. TimothyT says:

    It could have been that he just wiped his hands with some of that hand sanitizer. That stuff smells like cheap vodka.

  33. wrongfrequently says:

    After 9/11 I watched an airport security guard leave his keys on a bench (next to my seat)while going to check out a game on the Chili’s bar TV, he left them there unattended for 10-15 minutes, I was worried about security and had the “we are in this together mindset” so I told his buddy he’d left the keys on the bench , but if I saw the same thing today I don’t know what I’d do. I know the RIGHT thing to do is tell the security ppl, but with people being thrown off planes for asking about meals, taking videos of other passengers being harassed and such I’m scared to mess up my travel (and my husband and daughter’s travel) , I HOPE I would still step up, but the airports seem to be a land of no rights.

  34. jimmyhl says:

    To state the obvious, this an outrage and a great example of corporate misuse of authority.

    But, as a lawyer I don’t think filing suit will do her a great deal of good (no financial loss, physical injury). She was, as she said subjectively ’embarrassed’, but but not objectively humiliated which is where the real money would be. As for ‘infliction of emotional distress’ most jurisdictions require proof of substantial physical manifestations of emotional distress (ongoing loss of appetite, digestive problems, headache, insomnia) so just feeling bummed won’t really cut it. That’s my opinion and I would happily to defer to others who have more experience in this particular legal area.

    That doesn’t mean she should let it ride however. Delta’s response was utter nonsense and was plainly aimed at mitigating actions that could not be sensibly explained after-the-fact. The passenger might start with a strongly worded complaint to FAA and Delta’s upper echelon. Delta and the offending pilot owe her a sincere apology and some meaningful compensation. If I were in shoes I’d hold out for a flight voucher good on a competing airline.

  35. halfcuban says:

    Everyone acts as if this whole thing was just no big, but for a pilot, who cannot have any such blemish on their record a false accusation of drinking is career ending. And despite what everyone seems to be claiming here about their super sniffer powers, if things were so airtight on the pilot drinking, and other passengers thought so, where were the other passengers who “smelled” alcohol on his breath while she was being led off the plane? This whole thing smells suspect. I’d honestly like to see the human dog sniffers on here prove they can tell alcohol on someones breath at a conversational distance from someone whose still able to stand up. She probably smelt his cologne.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      “false accusation of drinking is career ending.”
      Why would it be, if they confirmed he wasn’t drinking?

      ” where were the other passengers who “smelled” alcohol on his breath while she was being led off the plane?”
      probably afriad they were going to get arrested?

      ” I’d honestly like to see the human dog sniffers on here prove they can tell alcohol on someones breath at a conversational distance from someone whose still able to stand up.”

      Are you serious? Really? Apparently you have nose issues that you are unaware of.

      • halfcuban says:

        “Are you serious? Really? Apparently you have nose issues that you are unaware of.”

        Shenanigans. In a blind test, with no other context clues, no one could “smell” the alcohol either at a conversational distance unless you were soused. Hell I just pulled most of my liquor bottles out of my freezer to check, and the only one that gave a vague smell was gin, which is pungent due to the juniper berries in it. My brown rum has a sweet smell, but nothing distinctive enough to label its as the smell of alcohol, and my bottle of vodka didn’t have any smell. You’re insistence in the face of the very properties of vodka as a grain alcohol that it “smells” is ridiculous; theres nothing IN it for it to smell.

        • NarcolepticGirl says:

          Tonight, have a glass or two of alcohol and then ask someone if they can smell the alcohol on your breath.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      Also, what would you do if your pilot/cab driver/bus driver smelled of alcohol?

  36. Jason says:

    I’d want to know who administered the test, was the machine calibrated and when, was the person licensed to administer such a test, etc. Seems like airlines have begun a campaign of kicking off any passenger who voices any concern, legitimate or not lately in the name of security.

  37. dougp26364 says:

    Since when can you smell Vodka on someone’s breath?

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      It’s not anything new.
      open a bottle of vodka and smell it.

      Like I mentioned before, the only alcohol I drink is vodka and people have noticed my breath even after a single drink.
      Even so, the point was she thought she smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath.

  38. Dallas_shopper says:

    I would have done the same thing and it’s outrageous that they threw her off the flight.

  39. random123 says:

    So wait – someone comes into your workplace and “expresses concern” that you may be drunk – which would result in you being fired and not being able to support your family etc etc. You are not drunk, and prove that you are not drunk. It is not entirely unreasonable for you to decline to provide service to the individual who accused you. If you are an atty and a client incorrectly accuses you of being drunk in court (which would be a big deal) you would be within your rights to decline to provide services to that client as long as you go about it the right way. If you are a waiter and a customer accuses you, then it is better for the waiter and the customer if another waiter finishes up with the customer. I wouldn’t help anyone who made any serious accusation against me – If I didn’t have the power to just send the customer packing I would have someone else in my company provide the service, which is what the pilot did. It is not about punishing the customer for complaining it is about protecting yourself from the suggestion that following the allegation you did not give the customer/client the best service you can. Also it insulates you from an individual who may be “one of those people” who likes to throw around serious allegations. In the pilots case, the concern may have been that the woman would talk to other people on the plane about what had happened and convince then that the pilot was drunk – then the pilot would have a slew of complaints/allegations that would each have to be addressed and responded to, and there would surely be a record of each complaint in his file.

  40. dilbert69 says:

    I would have done exactly the same thing as this woman, except I would have consulted a lawyer once I was thrown off the flight.

  41. raybury says:

    If you see something, shut the hell up?

    How does “I think I may have smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath” change from an honest sharing of concern to a “potentially career-ending false accusation”? The airline had the apparatus in place to immediately check the pilot, and did so even after the passenger was satisfied, but then they allow the pilot to be a vindictive jerk?

    Authority without accountability is criminal. The pilot need not lose his job for this excess, but a modest discipline seems in order. (If all is as reported.)

    Perhaps we need to take universal precautions: Every pilot for a commercial flight should blow into a hand-held breathalyzer that produces some record, at minimum an electronic log with time, before each takeoff.

  42. msbask says:

    Maybe when she went back to her seat the first time, she was discussing it with the other passengers. You know, something like, “Well, I thought I smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath, but they say he passed a breathalizer test. I’m not sure, though, because I’m really certain he smelled like alcohol and now I’m feeling uneasy about flying. I think they’re just trying to shut me up. What if he really is drunk?”.

    If just a few passengers heard her say something like that, then maybe Delta had to pull her off the flight. I’m not saying she did say anything like that, but if she had, she might not be so willing to ‘fess up to it.

  43. TheDudeOC says:

    Delta is wrong again…

    What arrogance on the part of the pilots. Delta should have kicked them off the plane, not a paying customer who raised a legitimate concern. I want to like Delta, but they make it so damn hard. Reality is I think I am better off making a stop somewhere then flying Delta direct to Atlanta.

  44. odarkshineo says:

    I think this is above the normal air line crazy… Why did the pilot need to know who the woman was? What if he was boozed up lost his jobs and hunts her down? This is insane.

  45. jblather says:

    This action by the Delta pilots only encourages passengers to call the FAA instead of speaking to the stewardesses. This basically takes the situation out of the control of the pilots and into the hands of FAA bureaucrats. The FAA isn’t going to let that flight go anywhere until it’s resolved. Result? Irritated customers, severely delayed or canceled flight and bad customer relations (on top of already epic bad reputation to begin with). Poor, Delta, very poor.

  46. hotcocoa says:

    Ridiculous. She wasn’t trying to incite other passengers or disrupt the flight, she was making sure she would get to her destination safely. Vodka is not odorless and it’s not hard to smell on someone’s breath…Delta is wrong in their official statement/handling of the situation.

  47. dr_drift says:

    So if you’re at the airport and you see something suspicious, please investigate it yourself to the fullest extent, removing all reasonable doubt that a crime or violation has occurred, then let the authorities know that you cracked the case and to go ahead and take the guilty party away?

  48. vastrightwing says:

    Again, I will keep my mouth shut if I have any doubt. I simply would get off the flight if I thought there was a real danger. After all there is a co-pilot on board who can help if the pilot is not fit to fly. Now, Aeroflot, on the other hand… ehhh.. who knows.

  49. kylere1 says:

    She was hardly “humiliated and kicked off a plane” and we are only hearing one side of a two sided story. I would bet money she was being obnoxious.

  50. annexw says:

    The smell could have been hand sanitizer. We have the Purell pumps all over my university and if you walk by someone who has just used it, it smells quite a bit like vodka or a similar spirit.

    But vodka most definitely has a smell and be detected on the breath just as easy as beer or wine.

  51. AI says:

    I don’t know why that is even legal. She did nothing wrong, and they have a contract to provide her service. Show me where she violated that contract that gives the right for Delta to kick her off.

  52. semanticantics says:

    Isn’t this from “Seinfeld”?

  53. irishpilot84 says:

    If every dumb passenger decided to that they needed to do their ‘due diligence…” non-sense then every flight would be delayed while the pilots were off blowing in a breathalyzer. Lets use a little common sense. We already live in a society where everyone wants to be the center of attention. This women was wrong, she potentially delayed the flight because she either wasnt smart enough to tell if he had been drinking, wanted the attention, or was trying to be funny. This isnt hard! If you really think the pilot had been drinking then get off the plane and say something. If she really felt he had been drinking why was she on that plane?

  54. Blious says:

    The explanation by Delta is why customers absolutely hate dealing with these corporations

    They make absolutely ZERO SENSE in ANYTHING they ever tell us….I mean, none. How many times do we see things cost more and yet are told in a statement that the customer is winning due to the price increase….huh? What the HELL does that even mean?

    We owe it to everyone to report alcohol yet they made the right decision by kicking her off? Huh?

  55. cortana says:

    You know, shouldn’t she be entitled to all the payments and benefits of someone classed as “Involuntarily Denied Boarding” just like when someone is forced to take a bump? I figure the airlines start having to pay out a couple grand in cash every time they do this, there might be some customer-facing policies put in place to see that it stops.

  56. Hodo says:

    This is just f-ing pathetic . . . I used to work in the aviation biz and have a cousin who’s a pilot (who I really like) but pilots, by the time they’re flying commercial and earning a far, far above average wage to do so, are egomaniacs. They are, IMHO, basically more sophisticated bus drivers who work 15 days a month. In some cases, they do even less work (hello, automated take-off AND landing).

    This guy had her kicked off because she questioned his sobriety? In what other environment would that be acceptable? Name one. I’m having a hard time thinking of one. Pretty good example of “empowerment gone wrong” . . .

  57. Southern says:

    Honestly? I would wonder why it’s not ALREADY a requirement for all flight crew to take a breathalizer test before being allowed to board their aircraft.

  58. madtube says:

    I would have asked for legal grounds of removal. With written proof. That is total BS.

  59. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Let’s say she stays on the plane. That thing hits a patch of turbulence, next thing you know it’s “I TOLD YOU I smelled alcohol on his breath! That pilot is DRUNK! I am SUING as soon as I get on the ground….you know, provided we don’t CRASH INTO A MOUNTAIN OR ANYTHING.”

    I can see if she was “still voicing concerns”, they translate that into “liable to incite a panic/riot” and want her off the plane.

    I don’t agree with it, but that’s how it seems.

  60. SnotSucker says:

    Hmmm, wasn’t aware that vodka smelled.

  61. Carlee says:

    This is why people don’t speak up. If the pilot wasn’t drinking and it was something as simple as hand sanitizer, then why not just explain it and forget about it?

    It’s like this one story I heard before where someone was pulled over by the police because they thought he was under the influence. He was a professional fire-breather or something and it affected his breathalyzer test (I don’t remember the specifics). But anyway, the fact still stands that the guy was driving erratically enough that the police thought he was under the influence.

    Anyway, back to the article – if it smells like someone had been drinking, prove that it’s not the pilot and just move on. I doubt the lady would have raised a stink about it and if people on public buses are any indication, nobody would have paid attention to her. They would have just thought she was just crazy (well, not like certifiably crazy, just a bit nutty).

  62. BoredOOMM says:

    At least they gave her a room, instead of making her wait in the airport.

  63. bwcbwc says:

    Well that’s one way for Delta to prevent frivolous claims from idiots. Unfortunately it backfires on passengers like this one who have legitimate concerns, even if they are mistaken. I wonder if they wouldn’t have taken her off if she had apologized for her mistake (and asked them to convey her apology to the pilot) the first time they said the pilot had been tested negative.

  64. operator207 says:

    So this lady and others smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath. She apparently was the only one to complain, or complain enough to get kicked off the plane.

    BTW, I am pretty sure if ANYONE says to any flight crew member or gate member, “Hey I think the pilot’s been drinking.” The FAA is immediately called, and a test is given. End if story.

    I hate Delta, probably more than most here. However, I give the pilots a second chance. Something this lady said triggered this response. If he wanted her off the plane, she would not have had the 20 minute wait. There are security agents close to any gate. The gate attendants could have come and gotten her off.

    It would not surprise me that after she went to the cockpit, and then sat back down, someone asked her what she was doing, and she kept repeating, “I only asked if the pilot was drunk!” She probably does not realize she was saying something so wrong. He took her off because of her inability to shut up and drop it. He took the test, it clears him.

    Also, things like this get pilots fired pretty easily. They then cannot get a job with another airline, so all that work to be a pilot is out the door. Because one person could not STFU, and let it go.

    I agree with the United Pilot, he did the right thing, and she (initially) did the right thing.

  65. JustSayn says:

    Could some, including a pilot, be suggesting that this lady should have said nothing, got off the plane, rebooked her flight (for some unknown future date???) and left the rest of those people to possible death? Whew! What a mind. That is the epitome of self-centeredness, isn’t it?

  66. Skeptic says:

    DH is an airline pilot. If he ever tried to pull something like this and I heard about it, he’d be my ex-DH. There is no way asking a question — assuming that’s all this lady did — in any way endangers the crew or other passengers, and that is the only valid reason for kicking a paying passenger off a flight. I hope the pilot’s union and management get to the bottom of this, and that the passenger sues. I think she has a strong claim against the airline for harrassment, humiliation, loss of her day’s productivity, etc. (I’m the spouse who went to law school). Neither the FAA nor the ailines give pilots the unbridled power to behave like total assholes.

  67. rihan says:

    To me this seems like one of those stories where there is most likely a lot more going on then is being reported.

  68. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    “(hic) You go tell that hag, (hic) that I passsed a tesht. (hic) (brrrrp) and that (hic) she’s kicked off (hic) my … my plane.(hic)”

    On another note, do people use aftershave any more?

  69. FloydCyber says:

    I fly Delta regularly (two to three times a month) and like the service.

    A pilot is responsible for the safety of the aircraft and the souls on board.
    In cases of emergency he/she can even override the instructions given by

    But…with that said…I think this was blatant abuse of power by a pilot
    who was embarrassed by having to take an alcohol test. The pilot has
    control in cases of safety…this had nothing to do with safety. This
    was a personal vendetta.

    What do I think the outcome should Be?

    I think Delta should make a public apology to the lady and give her a
    financial reward for her diligence. They should also publicly issue a
    reprimand to the pilot and require this pilot to take anger management

    In my opinion, this pilot is a safety hazard. I do not trust my safety
    to anyone who makes knee-jerk decisions like this. If it was my airline
    I would fire the pilot.

    Unless I see a public apology I will start flying other airlines even
    though I have racked up a lot of miles with Delta.

    Delta, the ball is in your court and the public is watching.

  70. jakeremonday says:

    Well the best thing do next time is have the whole flight crew transported to the Hospital
    for a breath test and blood test. Let all the people wait on board untill they get back or wait for another crew. Safety first! One would want the very best as a passenger yes?
    It is the Captain’s right to demand a blood test, after he has been accused and if the statemen is not true he also has the right to sue the passengers involved for defamation of character .