Spat Between Passenger And Stewardess Results In Police Dragging Traveler Out Of United Airlines Plane

June 28, 2013

A spat between a traveler and a flight attendant over where the traveler could sit on a United Airlines flight ended up with the passenger being dragged out of the airplane by police and spending three days in jail.

Jean Mamakos of Huntington, N.Y. was traveling with the Danbury Ski Club to Alaska for a ski trip on March 1 when the incident took place.

Jean Mamakos

Jean Mamakos

The flights from LaGuardia to Houston and from Houston to Seattle – the first two legs of the trip – were uneventful.

However, the third leg of the trip from Seattle to Anchorage was anything but.

That flight appeared to be partially empty so Mamakos says she moved from her assigned seat where there were two others sitting in the same row.

“I was extremely tired.  The flight crew appeared irritable and angry. There was no “Welcome Aboard” by any member of the crew.”

“I saw many empty rows of seats and I went to sit in one of them.  A stewardess…near me, stated, “Oh, no you don’t!!!”  “I know what you’re thinking of doing!!!”.

Mamakos said the flight attendant told her there were still many more people expected on the flight and she could not move to another seat.

So Mamakos waited until the plane was fully loaded and then moved to an exit row seat that only had one other passenger in the row.

But because it was an exit row seat United charges extra to sit there.

“Another stewardess came up to me and stated, “You need to pay extra if you sit here. Give me your credit card.”

“I explained to her, ‘I am a registered nurse and people who sit in this row accept the responsibility of helping people off the plane.  If there should be an “Emergency Evacuation” of the plane, I am willing to take the responsibility to do so.”

When told that it didn’t matter and that she had to pay $109 extra, Mamakos said she turned down the offer and went back to her assigned seat.

United disputes her account.

Spokesman Charley Hobart said Mamakos refused instructions from the flight crew to return to her assigned seat and by doing so prevented the crew from doing their job of making sure all the passengers were safe.

The flight attendant who initially told her not to move from her assigned seat then went into the cockpit, Mamakos said, apparently to talk to the captain.

Soon after the captain announced on the loudspeaker there was a person on the flight who does not wish to travel to Alaska, Mamakos says.

Two people then approached her – neither in uniform – and instructed her to get off the plane and another flight would be found for her.

Mamakos said she refused and told the two that she did not want to be separated from the rest of the Danbury Ski Club.

She was then warned that if she refused police would be called to forcibly remove her.

She continued her refusal saying she paid for her seat. By that time she was back in her assigned seat.

“I am not a passive individual,” she said in a recent telephone interview explaining she served as an Army nurse during the early 1970s and had reached the rank of captain.

A fellow passenger videotaped the encounter with police.

According to the video Mamakos provided CtWatchdog, two police officers asked her to get off the plane. She refused. She was warned twice that she would be arrested if she did not voluntarily get off the airplane.

She refused to stand. After her third refusal the police officers grabbed her hands and dragged her out of her seat and through the aisle, as she fought her removal by attempting to grab seats.

She was charged with trespassing and with resisting arrest. She spent three days in jail before she could post a bond for her release.

United cancelled the rest of her ticket to Anchorage as well as her return flight to New York.

The United spokesman said that Mamakos will not be reimbursed for the unused portion of her flight from Seattle to Anchorage, but that she can contact her travel agent to get a refund for the return flight from Anchorage.

Mamakos says she plans to sue United on the grounds of breach of contract.

While there is no question that Mamakos resisted arrest and refused to get off the airplane, there is a question on whether she disobeyed orders to return to her assigned seat.

The police report states that Mamakos was in seat 27D when they arrived. It was her assigned seat, according to documents Mamakos provided. Also, a fellow passenger, George Giering Sr., of Woodbridge wrote in a letter to United officials that Mamakos returned to her seat prior to the arrival of police.

“I ran my own business and realize things like this happen: but to drag a person, especially a female passenger (who was in her assigned seat at this time,), is beyond belief,” wrote Giering in a letter that Mamakos provided.

He said that he complained to the captain after the flight landed in Anchorage. He said the captain told him that the passenger was not in her assigned seat “which was not the case.”

“She definitely was which can be verified by numerous passengers in the immediate seating area. Evidently not one of the crew observed her moving back to her assigned seat,” Giering wrote.

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17 Responses to Spat Between Passenger And Stewardess Results In Police Dragging Traveler Out Of United Airlines Plane

  1. Ethelred on June 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    When will these idiots learn that in the hyper-charged atmosphere of air travel today that it is appropriate to act like a sheep at all times, and that if one does not one will likely be thrown to the wolves.

    As to the crew, how would you like, in these days of terrorist hyperventilation, to spend your working life 30,000 feet above the ground in those circumstances?

  2. Glenn on June 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I worked on airplanes for years, and closely with the flight crews.If a passenger is acting aggressive, or weird in any way, the flight crew will often make the decision to have them removed from the plane, because if they cause a problem in flight, they may have to return to the airport, or land somewhere else.

    With that being said, it sounds to me like the stewardess over reacted. What was the big deal if she sat in a different seat, if it wasn’t being used.


  3. Navy Gunner on June 29, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Sounds liked she’d had 2 or 3 too many.

    • PATSNYC on July 1, 2013 at 11:02 am

      I am curious as to what part of the passengers actions warranted ejection from the plane. Was it that she was unaware she had moved to a premium seat and then moved back to her assigned seat after choosing not to pay the extra fee? Seriously? Don’t we have the right to decline to hand over our credit cards to flight crew? There is no evidence she was acting oddly or threatening or even argumentative. This is a case of abuse of power, and nothing more. I believe the flight attendant had one too many; flights and/or drinks. She was traveling alone. I am not surprised she did not want to leave the plane in a strange city. She didn’t do anything wrong. Folks, we don’t have to act like sheep and accept this abuse.

  4. Senior Citizen on June 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I think they should be sued by the passenger for their rudeness and actions they took to get her off the plane.

  5. Heavy pilot on June 30, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Well this sounds like a simple,small problem that turned into a out of control spiral. It sounds to me like this is another example of the flight crew over reacting to a minor problem.. first of all if the bird is half empty there is no reason why she could not have switched seats to be closer with her group and I dont see the reasoning for her being removed from the flight at all… I think the flight attendant was on a power trip and I would personally have her reprimanded for the reaction and her attitude towards the whole situation

  6. Nipon Ginko on June 30, 2013 at 9:44 am

    This is the end result of political correctness gone batty -I worked for UAL back in the 60’s when flight attendants could not work for UAL if they were married they sued UAL AND WON -So instead of having pleasant vibrant smiling young ladies serving you -the back cabin of the plane is now inhabited by grumpy aging meat eating Dinosaurs who claw their way from aft to fwd devouring passenger in an effort to claim title of most confirmed kills per flight- and in response to the person who was worried about the stews working conditions ( these particular Dinosaurs probably make more money than the average passenger for working a 40 flt hour MONTH) -there’s an old saying – “if its to hot in the kitchen get out” Any way I hear Denny’s is hiring !

    • Sam on July 9, 2013 at 6:45 am

      This is why I like most Asian airlines. They still strive for service and their flight attendants are among the most pleasant I have dealt with.

      • Name Withheld on July 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm

        Enjoy your flight on Asiana. US Airlines are safer because of well trained, experienced crews — pilots and flight attendants. They may not be pretty, and may not put up with crap from overly demanding, aggressive, and self-entitled passengers (would you?), but flying is a serious business. So relax and enjoy your flight. And always be nice to people who bring you food.

  7. David Primas on July 7, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    I believe the criticism of the airline of United Airlines and the crew on this flight is unwarranted and incorrect. When this passenger tried to sneek to an unassigned seat that had additional inches of legroom that that costs more money and refused to pay for the additional amount that other passengers in this “Economy Plus ” had already paid for; this woman was stealing from United Airlines. Her response that “I am a nurse and can assist in the evacuation of the aircraft by sitting in this exit row” was a self centered narcissist attempt to avoid paying the additional price the the extra legroom. Airlines are such an easy target for criticism; the public wants cheap fairs, yet expect to receive service that these fares cannot support. The public continues to unfairly blame airlines for weather and air traffic delays. The most important aspect of this story has been ignored all the people who have posted comments; a person who is causing a disruption on an aircraft could be part of a terrorist plot in which to distract the crew so that aircraft can be taken over by terrorists. This foolish passenger voided her own ticket contract by trying to sneak into a more expensive seat.

    • jeremy7600 on July 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      That’s funny, stealing.

      I’ve been asked to sit in the exit row. On United. When I booked a seat elsewhere. I wasn’t asked to up charge. So its philanthropy by the crew when the customer is asked to sit there and theft if we move there on our own?


  8. Kristin on July 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Indeed, Mr Primas, “Economy Plus” seats are sold for PLUS fares.

    Sounds like we have a troublesome passenger who likes to make her own rules and “do her own thing” aboard the flight.

    What IS it with people aboard planes these days?? Demanding to use their cell phones and NO it matters not whether they do or do not interrupt radio comms, you are told NOT to use them. That’s the rules. I hear a lot about seat snatching, and people fighting over seats especially ones that aren’t their assigned and paid for seats.

    Get in, sit DOWN, and SHUT UP.

    I am a passenger, I dont work for the airlines, and I am damn GLAD this troublesome woman was arrested. Maybe it will send a message?

  9. David B on July 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    United has a poor track record with ejecting people from planes, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. The passenger was changing seats after being asked not to, then expected that being a nurse would get her off the hook. Without being there, it would be hard to get a picture of her true behavior if it wasn’t for the fact that she resisted arrest. That tells me that the flight crew made the right decision. A rational person would have been angry but followed the police off the plane. If she had stayed, who knows what craziness may have happened after takeoff. As Mr. Primas commented, she sounds like a narcissist. Who cares that she’s a nurse or a retired Army captain? What baring does that have on following the rules like everyone else?

  10. Tom H on July 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Some of us seem to forget that it was the police that forcibly ejected her, not the airline. Her attitude of “all for me” is entirely too common. You want a particular seat, pay for that seat.

  11. Ray on November 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Stop with supporting this woman and he lame excuses. Anyone that flies at all on United knows we have to listen to an ad about upgrading to those seats. It is all over the place. When you check in you are offered an upgrade for a fee. She was on two flights before this one and went through the whole program about it as well. She was obnoxious, got caught at trying to get the exit row for free, and shouldn’t have been so aggressive when confronted. She was warned and stood her ground. She lost. She will lose in court too. She going to out spend United with attorney fees?

  12. ash on May 13, 2014 at 10:17 am

    So shifting seats means jail for three days !!! And we have people supporting this!!! Truly!!Let them spend three days for such a minor thing. BTW US airlines have one of the poorest safety records and the most obnoxious staff. Avoid!!

  13. Anon on December 15, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    I’m the last person who would defend United but I know this woman. She is a total nut job and I GUARANTEE she was being belligerent and did everything to deserve being ejected.

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