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

June 28, 2013
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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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41 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?

    • jen on March 18, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      Google this lady, she’s sue happy.

  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.

    Glenn

  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.

      • Donna Reed on December 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm

        According to the story, she wasn’t travelling alone. My guess is, there is a lot more to the story than she is telling….it doesn’t sound like she willingly left the more expensive seat immediately upon being asked to do so. She may have been in her assigned seat when the police came, but my guess is, she was very rude and probably gave the flight attendant a hard time before returning to her own seat.

  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.

        • annon on December 28, 2014 at 6:33 am

          In flight service has rapidly degraded over the last few years. Particularly on United. My impression was service staff were more interested in telling each other about their kids than taking care of passengers.

        • K on December 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm

          @Withheld, you are right about “flying is a serious business”. So, it is time to be open-minded.

          All US Airlines are ranked either 3 stars or below from SkyTrax:

          http://www.airlinequality.com/StarRanking/3star.htm

          Not a single US airline is in the list of “the 20 Best Airlines In The World”.

          http://www.businessinsider.com/best-airlines-in-the-world-2014-6

  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?

      Bullshit.

      • realitycheck on December 27, 2014 at 12:20 pm

        Of course it is, you were extended a courtesy. She demanded it for free. Why is it so hard to understand the difference?

      • jg collins on December 29, 2014 at 1:44 am

        Jeremy, my guess is you look strong enough to open the emergency door if it jams. My other guess is, Kakamos looked iffy to the flight attendants, who say she was making a pest of herself. She was jumped by security inside NY Pres Hospital a few years back, injected, and given a mental exam. She sued them, too.

    • Larry Hubble on December 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      David, please tell me, how does one “sneak” into another seat on an airplane? I mean, clearly, she was in full view of everyone. I have been on flights that have been half-full, from Alaska, by the way, and once everyone was seated, passengers were told if they wanted to change seats, they could, in order to spread out a bit. No one ever mentioned anything about paying more money for the privilege to do so. The fact remains, however, that there are not many half-full airline flights anymore as the airlines try to stuff as many people as they can into a plane, even to the point of overbooking some flights. But I wouldn’t be too worried about terrorists on airplanes, because I don’t think they will try that ever again. Terrorists are the very last thing I think about when flying these days.

  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!!

    • John Doe on December 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      YES! Ash, please do everyone a favor and TAKE THE BUS!!! Also, please tell all your family and friends as I’m sure they have the same ignorant mindset as you. Hugs and Kisses, John :)

  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.

  14. UALSucks on December 24, 2014 at 1:06 am

    I move seats on Alaska Airlines all the time. They encourage it. Sounds like the UAL flight crew was on a power trip, and I sincerer hope this woman gets some $$$ out of them.

  15. Add a "0" to that lawsuit on December 24, 2014 at 4:46 am

    United Airlines has the absolute *worst* customer service. We’re I on the jury for this, we wouldn’t call it a day until they were fined FIFTY million dollars!

  16. John on December 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    If women were involved then I guarantee you that all the women over reacted!

    There is no harm in trying to pull a fast one and then trying to persuade someone to let you have your way. We all do it.

    If Mamakos was belligerent at first then she’s wrong.

  17. Dave C. on December 24, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I fly for a living and have taken many hundreds of commercial flights over 30 years. Somehow, I’m able to take a flight without incident, as are all functioning adults.

    Airline staff take a lot of crap from drunk, belligerent, and self-entitled twits (spell that with an “a” in her case). But to be ejected, you have to be completely off the chart in your buttheadedness.

    I’ve seen these bums removed, and it’s always best when they resist and have to be physically extracted, screaming and shouting, like the tantruming retarded children they are.

    What this story left out was the inevitable reaction of the passengers immediately after the removal of the pest: Applause.

    • Lynn on December 29, 2014 at 4:21 am

      As the mom of a special-needs son, I just want to tell you that it is absolutely painful to read statements such as yours.

    • peace on December 30, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      Dave, I understand you hate those people because you had met them before, but may I suggest not to use the inappropriate words to describe something or someone you don’t like because that will only prove you are uneducated and as rude as the people you don’t like.

  18. Pappa on December 26, 2014 at 10:07 am

    so its a “safety issue” but of course for the $109 upcharge its safe

    Somebody – probably the “Captain” needs to get their head out of their ass and apply some common sense and not be so power mad

  19. radiozz on December 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Attitude is priceless, and reaps it’s just reward.

  20. S diulio on December 26, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    She went back to her seat. Perhaps grudgingly in view of the request to surrender her credit card. She was IN her seat when they grabbed her and dragged her off the plane. There is no excuse for this kind of high handed dictatorial policing, and I hope she wins a bundle. I do not let my credit card out of my hands for any reason, and I don’t blame her for not surrendering it to a demanding employee of the airline.

  21. John B on December 26, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    She paid for a candy and she wanted a hotdog with a soda? laughing

  22. ExFA on December 27, 2014 at 5:12 am

    Being a former flight attendant, I always wondered why passengers never complained enough to the airlines about the economy seats. The airlines will try to cram as many seats as possible in an aircraft to get maximum profit. Now, they’ve added Economy Plus , of which I believe, is what economy should always be like. Mamakos may be a “total nut job”(the ones thrown out usually are) but the crew seem unsympathetic as well. In the end, it’s the airlines that has got you believing the space you sit in in economy is good enough for the average joe. I disagree.

  23. realitycheck on December 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Several folks have made the point,’if the seat is empty, what’s the problem?’
    If you go to a show (concert,symphony,play,etc) you pay for your seat,premium seats are a little more. If there are premium seats that are empty, are you then entitled to take it without the venue’s permission?
    Not to my knowledge,no.
    Why then is it ok for this woman to expect to be able to? It may be empty, but others in the row paid the extra fee why should she get a pass?
    Airlines are easy targets and most of the folks crying foul probably fly very rarely.
    Yes, there are extra costs for certain amenities, it is a business. You go to a restaurant you pay for what you order, how is this different? Just because the kitchen has lobster and steak,doesn’t mean you are entitled to it at the chicken dinner price.
    Other passengers uphold the airline’s story that the woman was abusive and belligerent before returning to her seat. If I’m a passenger on that plane the last thing I want is being sealed up in metal tube hurtling through space withan apparent nutjob.
    By all accounts, if she’d gotten off the plane she would have been placed on another flight and made it to her ski trip,instead she chose to argue and fight with law enforcement. She made the decision to behave the way she did, she got what she deserved.

  24. SFlier on December 28, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I’m not at all surprised that this happened on United. Even before 9/11 and all of the security concerns, United was an inhospitable, awful way to travel.

  25. Mary Doe on December 28, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    There is much more to this story. One of her fellow passengers has a video of her behaving very badly, and cursing at everyone, including her fellow passengers who simply wanted to take off for their Alaskan trip.

    This is not the first time Ms, Mamakos sued for millions of dollars. A few years ago in 2002, she sued New York Presbyterian Hospital for $5 million dollars. She alleged that security guards attacked her, tired her to a stretcher, and she was then admitted into their psychiatric unit. Ms. Mamakos dropped her lawsuit.

  26. Meta on December 29, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    1) Moving to a seat not assigned to her = FAA Violation
    2) Refusing to move back to her assigned seat until after Police were called) = FAA Violation
    3) Disobeying the instructions of flight crew = FAA Violation
    4) Refusing the orders of airport police to exit aircraft = Arrestable Offense
    5) Resisting arrest = Punishable offense with jail time.

    All that happened to Jean Mamakos were the results of her own actions, not the airlines, or police. People have been asked to get off an airline for far less (Jews and Arabs praying before takeoff, an Indian wearing a turban, refusing to get off a cell phone when doors are closed, Playing “Words with Friends” on a cell phone while taxiing, being too fat).

    And her jail time was a result of resisting arrest, and being arrested on a Friday in Seattle, so blame the Seattle court system for not having night court or weekend court. Had she simply cooperated and deplaned when the police officers asked her to, she would have been put on the next available flight to Alaska. A smaller inconvenience compared to 3 days in jail.

    All we are hearing are her and her attorney’s statements, not UA’s. A definite one-sided view. IMHO, this case holds no water (especially with the video evidence of her refusal to deplane voluntarily and resisting arrest) simply based on the FAA rules she violated, and will never get to trial. Mamakos and her lawyer are trying this is a court of public opinion in order to get sympathy for herself and bad press for UA, all in the hopes of getting a minor settlement. I hope UA sticks to their guns and waits for the judge to dismiss this case with attorney fees charged to Mamakos.

    Finally Jean Mamakos has a history of filing lawsuits against companies (which were also dismissed by judge), making outlandish claims of violence towards her, while she was the innocent victim. Read for yourself. https://casetext.com/case/mamakos-v-new-york-presbyterian-hospital

    IMHO, whatever you may think of UA’s actions, they were well within their rights, considering the belligerency of Jean Mamakos.

  27. Sam on December 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    The argument is: why the crew called captain if that lady went back to the seat? Obviously, someone is lying.

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