Did A United Plane Divert To Belfast Over Nut Rage?

Filed Under: United

This past Saturday a United flight from Rome to Chicago diverted to Belfast, Northern Ireland, after a passenger became unruly and had to be off-loaded. The flight was ultimately cancelled due to crew duty limits. United claimed they were unable to find hotel space for the 269 passengers and thus many of them ended up spending the night on the floor of the airport. The flight finally commenced almost 24 hours later.

I wrote about it in United Diverts Again Stranding Hundreds In Belfast For Over 20 Hours.


Well, we’re now finding out a little more about what happened to set this guy off. He literally went nuts over nuts.

From the Telegraph:

A constable with the Belfast International Airport Constabulary told the court the incident unfolded when the accused allegedly got up 15 minutes after take-off from Rome, when the seatbelt lights were still illuminated, and demanded “nuts or crackers”.

He claimed Thede, from The Alameda in Berkeley, California, refused to sit back down again until he obtained a snack.

The officer said a member of crew managed to “appease” the passenger by giving him some nuts and Thede then retook his seat.

But ten minutes later he got up and demanded more nuts and crackers, the policeman told judge Christopher Holmes.

He said crew members then advised the passenger he would only get another snack if there were some left over after packets had been given to other travellers.

The officer said Thede allegedly replied: “I can have as much nuts and crackers as I f****** want.”

Well, alrighty then.


Let me be the first to say that I’m sure there is more story that we haven’t heard yet. I have no doubt that he was rude and verbally abusive. Other passengers reported that he was cursing before the plane ever boarded in Rome. Then he was repeatedly getting items from the overhead bins, blocking the aisle, and making multiple trips to the lavatory while the plane was in flight.

But the crux of the issue seems to be about nuts. Specifically the fact that he wanted more nuts.

(For the record, a doctor examined the passenger and concluded that “alcohol was not a factor.”)

United’s Hot Nuts

Now it is true that United’s nuts are a hot topic. When Jeff Smisek took over after the merger he boasted about how the catering team had saved $200,000 in one year by switching from whole cashews to split cashews, saying that “customers don’t care if it’s a whole nut or split in half.

Then there’s the temperature of Jeff Smisek’s nuts. Some passengers prefer their nuts to be warm to the touch, while others like them smoking hot. Heck, it wasn’t until I became a frequent flyer that I learned that the vessel in which the nuts are served is called a ramekin.

So yes, these nuts are legendary.

Germany 164-400

But they aren’t served to passengers in economy which is where I’m surmising that this fellow was seated. 

So on one hand, I guess the crew sort of went above and beyond to try to appease him by serving him nuts that he wasn’t entitled to in the first place. Then like the over-entitled elites that United CFO John Rainey insists dominate the ranks of United’s Premiers, this guy had the nerve to demand even more nuts. I mean, once he tasted Jeff Smisek’s hot nuts, I guess he just wanted more. And more. And more.

Nuts Aren’t Just A Problem For United

I seem to recall Ben posting once or twice about the Korean Air executive who single-handedly delayed an A380 from New York to Seoul over a case of nut rage. She didn’t like the way she was served her nuts — apparently they’re supposed to be served in a ramekin, not in a sack.

She was ultimately indicted and jailed, though may return to the airline soon.

It seems to me that maybe it’s time to add nuts to the list of items that aren’t allowed on a plane. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth. 

What do you think? Should they just have given this nut some more nuts to shut him up? Or was he a real threat to the safety of the passengers and needed to be off-loaded immediately?

  1. The bolded statement “But they aren’t served to passengers in economy which is where I’m surmising that this fellow was seated” isn’t relevant, they do serve un-heated nuts in Economy. The ‘crux of the issue’ wasn’t just someone requesting a snack from Business class

  2. I think there should be a mechanism that keeps passengers in their seats during taxi, takeoff, and landing. Perhaps a seatbelt that only releases when the plane is cruising or stationary.

  3. Read the flight was cancelled because the crew would go over their allowed time by 2 minutes. I smell BS from the United crew on this.

  4. John — I don’t recall getting nuts in economy on United long-haul. It had been pretzels. Haven’t had such a flight in several months, so maybe the new catering has them?

  5. “The Alameda” in Berkeley, California? Okay…it’s just Alameda, sans article. And it’s not in Berkeley. They’re not even adjacent. And they’re two separate cities. Has the Telegraph ever heard of Google Maps?

  6. “customers don’t care if it’s a whole nut or split in half.”

    Jeff is wrong. only nut halves or pieces honestly look like garbage to me.

  7. live media ( tv) said the passengers were “forced” to sleep in the airport?

    no one was allowed to make their own plans for the layover ?

  8. @ Adam: “The Alameda” is actually a street in Berkeley. I live nearby it in Berkeley.

    That said, I’m amazed the author actually listed the street this person lives on. Maybe they thought “The Alameda” was the neighborhood?

  9. problem with society today: Everyone wants to be SPECIAL….well if everyone is SPECIAL then everyone is just NORMAL?…

  10. This wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t serve nuts. With risks for severe allergies at altitude, I’ve never understood why they still serve them. They should stick to pretzels and cookies. And cupcakes.

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