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“Cracker Rage” That Left 269 United Flyers Stranded Could Cost Airline $550K

“Cracker Rage” That Left 269 United Flyers Stranded Could Cost Airline $550K
Jeff Edwards

Massive delay caused by skimpy snack service and one irate passenger might end up costing United Airlines big money.

When United Airlines Flight 971 turned around over the Atlantic and landed at Belfast International Airport (BFS) to remove a disruptive flyer Saturday, the passengers onboard the flight from Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) to O’Hare International Airport (ORD) were in for a long night. The 269 passengers spent the night sleeping on the airport floor after the airline announced that hotel rooms could not be found and regulations prohibited the crew from flying until after a mandated rest period.

It turns out the entire incident was over an extra packet of crackers. Authorities say the out-of control passenger, now identified as California resident Jeremiah Mathis Thede, 42, became agitated and stood up demanding a snack before the pilot had turned off the “fasten seatbelt” sign. In an attempt to calm the hungry flyer, flight attendants obliged his request, but when Thede allegedly demanded a second packet of crackers, the crew decided that he would have to wait for seconds until the other passengers were served.

Belfast Airport Police say Thede became incensed by the delay in his second helping. According to police, the outraged passenger announced, “I can have as much nuts and crackers as I f****** want.” Eyewitnesses say Thede became visibly distraught at this point and began walking around the cabin.

According to reports, the pilot at first asked other passengers to keep an eye on the unbalanced flyer, but when Thede refused to remain in his seat, the captain eventually made the decision to divert to BFS.

That extra snack will cost the airline several hundred thousand dollars. Belfast authorities told a Coleraine Magistrate Court that the cost of the diversion to remove Thede from the flight could top $550,000. The figure includes the cost of reimbursing passengers, potential fines assessed because of the delay and hundreds of gallons of jet fuel that had to be dumped to allow the plane to make the unscheduled stop.

For his part, Thede denied any wrongdoing and told police that “people were picking on him.” Thede’s lawyer echoed his client’s sentiment, telling reporters: “His position is he’s done nothing wrong and effectively this is an overreaction by staff in the plane, those in charge.”

[Photos: iStock; United Airlines]

View Comments (7)


  1. PaulMCO


    June 25, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Flier friendly United….

  2. DrunkCargo

    June 25, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Wow. I guess United will have to call on witnesses, and possibly cell videos…

  3. LowLevelElite

    June 25, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    F U, “Thede!” Go thede yourself out of ALL flights you narcissistic a**hole! NO FLY LIST! REASON: DOUCHEBAGGERY

  4. JW76

    June 25, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Why not just give the guy 100 packets of crackers and save everyone the trouble.

  5. CitizenWorld

    June 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    This guy should have just been tossed off the side. Do the human species a huge favour.

  6. starflyer

    June 25, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Another change you’ll like – free stopovers in Belfast! – Jeff Smisek

  7. weero


    June 26, 2015 at 8:21 am

    I hope this airline and this captain finally learn that ex Europe you cannot simply always pull the “arrest the infidel!” card but even if you wear a uniform and fly a plane, you are held responsible for your decisions and actions.

    I also hope that the passengers insist on being compensated for the gross EC 261 violation of not providing any accommodation.

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