United Pilot Removed From Flight After Bizarre Behavior
A United captain was removed from her flight last night after showing up for duty out of uniform and making strange announcements to passengers over the plane's PA system.
The incident began before takeoff of United Flight #455 in Austin (AUS) when the pilot boarded the aircraft wearing plainclothes and flip-flops along with a green cap and asked passengers to vote on whether she should change into her uniform or fly as she was dressed.
She proceeded to explain that she was "going through a divorce" and addressed an interracial couple sitting together in the front of the plane. The situation became more uncomfortable when she began to discuss the recent election, saying "look, I don’t care if you voted for Trump or Clinton, they’re both a--holes.” At one point, she also said that "you don’t have to fly if you’re not comfortable" and mentioned she was gong to be on Oprah.
When the captain noticed unnerved passengers starting to disembark the aircraft, she told them “I’ll stop and we’ll fly the plane. Don’t worry. I’m going to let my co-pilot fly it. He’s a man."
Passengers reacted on social media, with one posting a photo of the pilot being removed from the flight by staff and police.
Eventually a new captain for the San Francisco-bound flight was found after a delay of roughly two hours, during which passengers were provided snacks and a meal voucher.
It's unclear why this captain's abnormal behavior wasn't noticed before she boarded the plane. Pilots generally start their day in the briefing room examining weather and maintenance paperwork along with the flight plan, and conferring with their crew.
A United spokesman didn't know why the pilot was allowed on the plane in regular clothes, but said the company will discuss the incident with her. The airline employs over 82,000 people, including more than 12,000 pilots who are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association.
"We hold our employees to the highest standards and replaced this pilot with a new one to operate the flight," the company said in a statement to TPG. "We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience."