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Distinguished Scientists Kicked off United Flight

Distinguished Scientists Kicked off United Flight
Joe Cortez

United Airlines is facing another accusation of forcibly removing an Asian passenger and her companion from a flight. Ph.D. holders Jessie Au and M.G. Wientjes both claim the Chicago-based carrier of removing them from a cross-country flight, after the two held meetings in Washington, D.C. seeking research grants.

Two retired professors from Ohio State University accused the United Airlines team from removing them from a flight for no valid reason. A contributor for Forbes tells the story of 68-year-old Jessie Au and her husband, 66-year-old M.G. Wientjes, who both say the carrier unfairly removed them from the flight.

The incident happened aboard a United flight on June 24, 2019, from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. According to Dr. Wientjes, he and another passenger were assigned to the same seat. A gate agent then came on board to settle the seating issue.

Dr. Wientjes claims he handed his boarding pass to the attendant, who allegedly dropped it later and accused the professor of not giving it to her. When the boarding pass was recovered, Dr. Au says she lightly tapped the flight attendant on the elbow to get her attention. The elbow tap was enough for the flight attendant to shout at the two and remove them from the plane.

“The flight attendant and gate agent both yelled at us,” Dr. Au told Forbes. “We were traumatized. You could hear them screaming throughout the plane. ‘Don’t touch me! You are coming out! I’m going to kick you off the plane.’”

According to their account, gate agents boarded the aircraft to intervene. During this time, they accused United of labeling them as “intimidating” and “threatening” and that the pilot threatened to completely deplane the aircraft due to a situation onboard.

At this point, the couple say they willingly left the aircraft and were offered overnight accommodations and rebooking. However, a gate agent allegedly told them they would be put on an “internal watch list” and to make matters worse, Dr. Au claims the United Passenger Incident Review Committee demanded a statement from her within four days of the incident or face a lifetime ban on the airline.

Instead of compensation, the couple say they want United to “live up to their words and revise their policies and procedures,” as outlined in a document issued after the incident involving Dr. David Dao in 2017.

United has not issued a statement about the accusations.

If you were on this flight, let us know in the FlyerTalk Forums


[Featured Image: United]

View Comments (14)


  1. spc354

    September 13, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    So much for instituting customer friendly practices, United! Subsequent follow-ups and threats appear to be harassment! The fact that United did not respond to queries about the incident appear not help their case.

  2. northernlights1

    September 13, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    He said/she said. Who knows what really happened. Maybe we should put body camera’s on gate agents and FA… Regardless we live in this sad world of the inconvenienced, offended and disrespected.

  3. hfb606

    September 13, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Entitled people had a problem, got it fixed and still had to say something to the FA to prove that they were right. Then they claim harassment and intimidation. BS story. And this reporter parrots their story, Oh, the angst!

  4. bpmsmith

    September 13, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    In an age of computers, how can 2 passengers be assign ed the same seat?

  5. aristotled


    September 14, 2019 at 10:20 am

    what northernlights1 said ^ … to me the passenger’s story sounds a little too one sided and not completely believable.

  6. jrpallante

    September 14, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Surprise! More United bashing from FT. Nice job trying to skew the story by describing the passengers as “distinguished scientists.” No evidence was presented that they were distinguished, and even if they were, what does that have to do with the story? And why was it necessary to mention the race of the one passenger who interjected herself into the dispute and then felt compelled to touch the FA? Nobody else’s race was mentioned, including her Dutch husband. The complete lack of journalistic integrity on this site is really getting wearisome. New stories can be interesting even without the clickbait titles and personal biased interpretations.

  7. gene2632

    September 15, 2019 at 12:10 am

    Without knowing both sides of the story it is hard to side with UA because of their history. I can only guess when the people running the show were asked by god if they wanted some brains they replied,”we don’t need any trains, we have a lot of planes”….

  8. Global321

    September 15, 2019 at 9:06 am

    1. Agree with others – maybe he grabbed the FA forcibly… maybe he did nothing wrong. We will never know.
    2. Put camera’s in the cockpit and the cabin. Aircrews hate this idea… a great reason to do it! It would settle a lot of these issues quickly.
    3. Hey Flyertalk… UA retired 747’s a long time ago… maybe it’s time to remove that stock photo?

  9. sleeper.agent

    September 15, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    I guess United never really learns.

  10. Gigantor

    September 16, 2019 at 1:13 am

    Lufthansa and Swiss should immediate suspend all cooperation with United.
    I will not allow myself to be placed on any United aircraft, even when booking travel on one of its partners.

  11. rubystone

    September 16, 2019 at 6:33 am

    This is the United I know and proud of. The thugs they are.

    Some recent articles about United accommodating and being friendly with an autistic kid made me nervous that the United charm is wearing away.

  12. White Eagle

    September 20, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    United knows no other way than to bully the passengers. United is a disgrace to the travel industry. I prefer to take the Greyhound than to take United.

  13. skidooman

    September 21, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Good idea. Put video recording there.

    If a FA goes crazy, he or she can be sanctioned. And if it is the passenger that is at fault then he/she can be sanctioned.

  14. Cotumely

    September 22, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Surely there are other passengers that can verify what happened?

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