Air Marshal Sues After Being Kicked Off Flight

Filed Under: Security/TSA

We’ve seen tons of people in the airline industry on power trips post-9/11, be they flight attendants, TSA agents, or air marshals. Just about anything can be justified under the guise of “national security.” Though when it comes to wasteful uses of government resources, I think the federal air marshal program might just take the cake. The fact that it’s still around amazes me.

I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories from airline staff about air marshals on power trips, though this one might just take the cake.

A US federal air marshal filed a lawsuit this Monday over an August 4, 2012, assignment, whereby he and three other air marshals boarded an undisclosed flight. The air marshal is making claims of discrimination. How was he discriminated against?


Via the NY Daily News, here’s how the event unfolded:

Before takeoff, a flight attendant spilled a tray of drinks on Maldonado and “responded by laughing sarcastically and walking away without apologizing … or offering to clean the spill,” according to the suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

In the suit, Maldonado says he believed the flight attendant spilled the drinks deliberately.

Thirty minutes later, she offered another air marshal the choice of three different meals — but only offered him a “beef” entrée, Maldonado claims.

Outraged, he rushed up to the cockpit, where he informed the captain that he might be required to report the incidents to the TSA’s Mission Operation Center in Washington, D.C.

The captain clearly wasn’t in the mood for Maldonado’s complaints.

“Are you mad? Because I don’t want a mad person with a gun on my plane,” the captain said, according to the suit.

“I didn’t serve 21 f—–g years in the military being shot at so that you can threaten me with a phone call!” the captain said, according to court papers.

Maldonado made good on his threat, but the captain barred him from getting back on the plane.

The air marshal was suspended for seven days, which he claims was a retaliatory move from his supervisor due to previous complaints he had filed with the agency.

Chip on your shoulder, much, Mr. Air Marshal?

Bottom line

Yeah, clearly the flight attendant deliberately spilled a tray of drinks on the air marshal, and conspired not to give him his meal choice. And clearly he was suspended for seven days because his supervisor was conspiring against him.

Kudos to the captain on this one. I wish we knew who it was, so we could buy him a drink (or seven).

  1. You’ve got to be kidding? This guy is there to protect us, he gets treated like crap and provoked by an idiot, he gets kicked off and you defend the pilot? You’re a fool. The flight attendant created a dangerous environment and the pilot is an ass.

  2. Interesting. I was recently bumped from a biz class seat assignment because an air marshall apparently wanted my specific seat. I was seated next to my wife so I was not pleased given that the trip had been book for 6 months. They moved me several seats away. Airline did not say why they bumped me but when we got on the plane my wife asked the gentlemen if he was an air marshall he said “no, I’m a friend of the pilot” which was odd since when the pilots came through the cabin during the flight no one acknowledged him.

  3. @Mike, newsflash I (we) pay his salary, so I’m certainly entitled to my opinion. Second, there are TWO sides to every story, and have a feeling our little marshall friend was being hyper sensitive. “Dangerous environment” was created by the marshall making a scene like a 2 year old.

  4. Government employees everywhere are overpaid. Including the one on the top. At least he doesn’t blow hot gas in his speeches any more. Notice the less speeches he gives the more he is getting done. I think he just loved hearing himself.

  5. @Mike Why is someone “there to protect us” going to a plane’s cockpit and bothering the Captain with trivial nonsense like this? I want the captain flying the plane and not discussing beverage service with a jumped up security guard.

    Look at it from the Captain’s point of view: An armed man get’s upset by a drinks spillage and the lack of meal choice and considers it important enough to disturb the flight crew…why wouldn’t the pilot think this guy was overreacting to the point of being unstable? Add to that the fact that we now know he clearly has had previous issues too and it would appear that the Captain make a good call on the Air Marshall’s character.

  6. Good for the pilot. The air marshal program has to be one of the biggest wastes of money among the long list of things our government wastes money on.

    This guy is clearly out of his mind and is unqualified for anything that allows him to be carrying a weapon or be given any sort of authority.

    @Mike – You’re a parody, right? Way to tow some blowhard line about how every authority figure is infallible and should be unquestioningly followed, despite their behavior.

  7. no posting before my morning coffee..BUT…I stand by my comment. Here is how the game goes. Airlines in the US have built high pressure cattle cars that create tension and unhappy passengers. Some flight attendants are in direct line of the situation that their executive suite has created. The attendants having a bad day get a thrill out of throwing back their power with passive aggressive behavior. (Like you have seen this…please). The pilot is concerned with flying the plane. He is going to politically side with the attendant. Some of these attendants ….let’s just say…. are not Harvard graduates. The pilot hasn’t witnessed a damn thing…he just wants to get out of there and be safe and on time. These crews can act like idiots. Most do not. I’m a pilot….not a commercial pilot…but this is how the game goes down.

    Throwing off an air marshall? Yeah….that isn’t exactly more safe with him off the flight. It’s power and politics from the petty. He had every right to be frustrated and mad. These airlines have created this environment. It makes me sick when they have the shamelessness to play victim. But ahead…Blame a safety officer….but don’t be a hypocrite and call 911 the next time you need a defense.

  8. @Mike

    Threw off one of THREE air marshals who were most likely there for other things and not their “duty”. Last I heard, you don’t have that many on a single flight, etc.

    It isn’t like there was a safety issue other than the one said marshal created.

  9. @Mike:

    I’m going to parse this issue.

    Air Marshall felt flight attendant spilled drinks on him deliberately.
    – How often have you ever seen this happen? Seriously? Why would anyone do this? Even if they did, which I can barely comprehend, this is an employee who needs a write-up, not a current threat.

    Flight attendant is rude about spill.
    – This is quite believable. Rudeness is quite common. Rudeness is not a crime. Again, a write-up

    Air Marshall only gets offered one choice of entree.
    – This is quite possible that they ran out of food. Even if they were discriminating against the air marshall, they are just being rude.

    Air Marshall runs up to complain to the captain.
    – This is where I draw the line. This is totally unacceptable, self-righteous behavior. Air Marshall is there to do his professional job. Other employees are perhaps not doing their professional job. However, the air marshall is now drawing attention to himself and no longer doing his professional job, which is to keep a low profile and look for people intent on committing crimes. There are appropriate methods for dealing with the rudeness and unprofessional behavior of the flight attendant. This was not it.

  10. The only thing worse than an ass with a power trip is an ass with a powertrip and a gun. Kudos to the pilot for throwing him off.

  11. @Mike

    This is a joke, right? First of all, thousands of flights take to the air over the US every day without an air marshal aboard. Unsafe to not have a FAM aboard every plane? Safer to have one on? Hardly.

    Second, ironic that you call out “power and politics from the petty.” There are way too many people who spout off after having bad days, or too quickly play the race card, as this FAM did. Indeed, it makes me sick to see someone in a position of power and authority (FAM) play the victim b/c he didn’t get his meal choice or an accident happened.

    Third, HIS OWN SUPERVISOR saw fit to suspend him for his actions. If that’s not an indictment on his behavior, then I don’t know what is.

  12. Get the man with the gun off the plane? Sounds like they’re making things SAFER on board! Shouldn’t have any guns I’m the cabin at all, that would be a much safer state of affairs – presumably even the TSA would manage to pick up guns at screening!

  13. They should all be kicked off. This is a waste of money and worthless program (just like the TSA) for a false sense of security.

  14. Kudos Dave – well said. Regardless of the quality of service the flight attendant may or may not have provided, the Air Marshall’s behavior was totally unprofessional, irresponsible and completely out of line. The matter at hand was completely unrelated to the Air Marshall’s security and public safety responsibilities, rather one of a passenger who feels he was provided bad in-flight service. He does not have legal authority over the food and drink service, rather he has option of filing a complaint with the airline as would any passenger. He certainly does not have the right to make demands or threaten the captain or anyone else under his authority over drink and meal service. It would appear from this description of events that the captain made the right call to remove him from the aircraft, as would be the proper course of action for any other passenger exhibiting similar belligerent, unstable and unpredictable responses over perceived service deficiencies. Consider what would have happened if this had continued to escalate into something even uglier – then we’d all be faulting the pilot for not removing him before it got out of hand when there was clear reason to have concern!

  15. i love the argument that if you dare criticize law enforcement, you should never rely on 911 again lest you’ll be hypocritical.

    america, land of all or nothing.

  16. We are all forgetting the best part, after the ‘marshall’ threw a little tantrum for not getting his food he wants (NEWSFLASH – WE are the paying customers and get first choice pal), he is now suing. I can just see the judge laughing this pathetic attempt to squeeze more $$ out of the publics pocket. I don’t get the lobster choice so I’m going to sue. What a pathetic wimp.

  17. Air Marshals are literally more likely to *be arrested* for a felony than make a felony arrest. The average rate at which they’ve made arrests since 2001 is 4.2 per year—for the *entire agency*, not per officer. And they have 4000 useless officers. Every time an air marshall is thrown off a flight, that flight becomes safer. That’s in addition to not having to inconvenience customers whose seats get taken, etc.

  18. I am not defending Maldonado’s bad behavior, but the Federal Air Marshal Service has been investigated several times for the brutal scheduling that is slowly destroying the mental and physical health of many of their air marshals. Air marshals are overworked, overmedicated, seriously sleep-deprived, it’s a wonder that anyone expects them to function well in a professional capacity, let alone polite society. If you’ve ever been on a flight where someone decides to try Ambien for the first time and has a meltdown or experiences an antagonistic response to Xanax and alcohol, you may have seen how deep exhaustion can work in concert with anxiety/alcohol/medication to produce seriously undesirable behavioral effects.

    I do believe that there are certain lines of work which attract very specific personalities, such as people who get off on power trips and general a**holes, but I think this incident is just one of many examples of how poorly run some DHS agencies are and how bureaucracy and society as a whole are not well-equipped to manage mental health issues very effectively.

  19. @Mike – Maybe you shouldn’t comment either before – or after – you’ve had your java! You’re comments are idiotic!

    Kudos to the pilot for taking charge. Would anyone want that Air Marshal on their flight? He should be fined and fired for wasting everyone’s time and money. He is just another self-entitled jerk who gets paid way too much and thinks he’s important. Whatever happened to quietly “serving your country”?

  20. @ MIKE: “The pilot is concerned with flying the plane. He is going to politically side with the attendant. Some of these attendants ….let’s just say…. are not Harvard graduates. ”

    Not sure which airline you’re referring to, but I can assure you that most cockpit/cabin crews are not simpatico by default. Many trolly dollies regrettably feel the need to compare their compensation packages to those of the folks steering the metal tube. This creates tension between said work groups. Air Marshal was out of line. Captain trumps FAM. End of story.

  21. Only way the story would have been better is if the captain threw the guy off the plane prior to landing!*

    * I know this is technically not possible.

  22. I hate air marshall’s and think they are just a waste of time.
    Most carriers around the world apart from US ones don’t seem to bother with them.

    And ok a few guys with guns on board might feel like protection , but its just a waste of time, if someone really wanted to take down the plane you were on, they would. An air marshall won’t stop that.

    @mike …. your pretty much exactly what they want you to be, so paranoid that everyone will attack the US that you want the services.

  23. Agree with Dave D. and Jeff K. on this one. The air marshal was totally unprofessional. Even if everything he says happened on the plane is true, none of it warranted running up to the cockpit to report to the captain. He should have sucked it up and done the job that he’s being paid to do. Just to be clear, this isn’t a case where the air marshal is complaining about discrimination by the flight attendant or the pilot. According to the referenced New York Daily News article, he’s complaining that his employer discriminated against him by suspending him for his disgraceful conduct on the plane and that his suspension was predominately in retaliation for for internal complaints that he made five years earlier. Yeah, right…his employer waited for FIVE YEARS to retaliate and get back at him for making complaints. Good luck proving that one. Based on the reported facts, I would not expect that this suit will not result in any meaningful compensation for the air marshal, but will likely be disposed of on summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

  24. Sorry….have to vent…its driving me crazy…….

    Its Air Marshal with one “l”…not two. The US Marshall service has two “l”s.

  25. Well handled by the captain. And why was the marshal only given a 7 day suspension? Sounds like he has a track record of unstable behavior and needs to be taken off airplanes permanently.

  26. Why must Air Marshals sit in business or first class? Why can’t they sit in economy class like the majority of people? Poor @Bill

  27. Wow, lotta LEO haters in here. You’ve no idea the duties of an Air Marshall and what it entails. Maybe they should take them all off commercial flights and see how well you fare if and when God forbid something happens mid-air.

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