United Pilot Tells Passengers To Stop Talking About Politics

Filed Under: United, Videos

Tensions are running high following Tuesday’s presidential election. Since Tuesday I haven’t gone anywhere without overhearing people talking about the election, and without a generally somber mood (well, I’ve been in California for much of the week, which might explain why).

Well, it looks like even airplanes aren’t exempt from political talk, and it’s almost becoming problematic. United flight 1212 from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta yesterday apparently had an issue where two passengers got into a heated political exchange.

Here’s how the YouTube video is described:

On my friend’s @wirelessness flight from SFO to Mexico, some kinda scuffle broke out where an individual with a “plaid shirt and a camo cap” said something racist (about being “glad to have kept his guns”) to an African American lady, and she began to cry and freak out. They separated the two of them, and then the Captain of the flight got on the PA and made this announcement.

In the video you can hear the captain telling people to basically keep politics off his plane. Here’s his full announcement, along with the cheers that followed:

While there’s perhaps a slight bit of grandstanding in the announcement, perhaps that’s what it took to make the point to passengers.

Of course everyone is free to talk about what they’d like to talk about, but it becomes a problem when it potentially causes a disruption to the flight. It’s similar to how drinking on a plane is fine, until it becomes disruptive.

What do you make of how the captain handled this situation?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Corporate cencorship at its worse.
    What’s next?? I cannot ask kids to stop shouting when there parents don’t care??

  2. @Lucky
    You are such a genius to find various ways to tap into the energy of this divisive election and capitalize on it by generating fervent discussion (and visits to your blog)!

  3. Hasse,

    What corporate censorship (you’re welcome on the spelling correction) ? Kids screaming at each other are unlikely to flare into fights, but adults talking about something as intense as politics can, and often does. If youre are thick enough to not see that, then, what can I say, congrats on your candidate winning

  4. @WR: The lady next to him perceived the sentence about guns as a threat to her safety. There are many reports of minorities being harassed and assaulted in the past few days (including a lot of asians who usually don’t experience it to this extent) because some bigots feel suddenly empowered to let out their aggression. These bigots are a minority, but are dangerous nonetheless.
    While this lady did certainly overreact to his comment, i understand why she did. As for him, if you see that a fellow passenger is distressed by what you are saying, then you should back off and try to defuse the situation. It sounds like he enjoyed provoking her, and while that is legal (freedom of speech etc), it’s rude and mean.
    It’s the captain’s job to ensure that things in the cabin are peaceful, and he can tell people to shut up, or to get off the plane. While the doors are closed, the captain and flight crew are in charge and that’s how it should be. The captain did a good job because everybody shut up and the flight proceeded without further incident.
    We need to get back to a world where people act like polite and law-abiding citizens who can calmly voice their opinions without insulting each other. Sadly if the President-elect is himself having trouble behaving in a civilized way and talks about grabbing women by their genitals, that does not set a good example, especially to the younger generation who look up to those role models. So it is up to all of us to set the good example.

  5. The Problem of course is – San Francisco. Notice no other flights – especially from the Northeast – could care less.

  6. @augias
    You didn’t answer the question. How is being glad to keep your guns considered racist? Feeling threatened by someone talking about guns on a plane is certainly understandable, but is it racist? Just because she is a black woman doesn’t make everything said to her a racist remark.

    Then you say “There are many reports of minorities being harassed and assaulted in the past few days”. So that’s what you take away from the last few days? Unbelievable. Nevermind the violent mobs destroying property, beating innocent bystanders, burning cars, etc, that’s just done out of love, I suppose. There are many more cases of Trump supporters being harrassed and assualted. There are also reports of minorities falsifying claims about being harrassed and assaulted by Trump supporters. It’s interesting how you can cite the one or two reports about minorities being harrassed (those that weren’t fabricated), and completely ignore the violent mobs roaming around the cities. Cognitive dissonance and delusion at its best.

  7. A quick thinking pax may have replied: I totally agree with you, that’s why hip-hop celebrities never leave home without one. To the pilot: Papa don’t preach, in a flight from SF there must be a Madonna impersonator.

  8. The height of privilege—abhorrent, deplorable. When it becomes about you losing your healthcare, the freedom to marry the person you love or the ability to legally enter or reside in this country, then you can say it’s just “politics.” I’m so ashamed of so many people in my country.

  9. @WR: I have read those other reports too. I mentioned racist slurs and harassment by Trump supporters because the black lady in this case would have been concerned about those episodes, coupled with some of the rhetoric of the campaign, not about the anti-Trump protests.
    Most anti-Trump protests have been peaceful (all the ones I have seen in Philadelphia and New York City at least) but of course (if that needs to be said), I do not condone violence in any way. As is often the case with protests is that they start with good intentions (making your voice heard) and then violent people take them as an excuse to riot and destroy property. Anyone who does so is a criminal and their political frustrations are no excuse.
    But do I really need to clarify this? Didn’t I just say that we have to get back to a time when we are all law-abiding and polite to each other? And I would hope everybody agrees with that statement.
    In fact, I suspect that you and I share the the same opinion about many things.

    Was the comment about guns racist itself? No. Did he pick a black woman to say this comment in order to intimidate her? If yes, then that is racist behavior. That is how it was perceived by her. We will not know the answer since we don’t know these people and weren’t there and there is no video footage, and in these cases we should definitely give him the benefit of the doubt.
    If you want to get along with other people, intentions matter (whether you mean to offend) but perception matters too (whether other people are taking offense, whether it was intended or not).

    Anyway, it sounds like the conflict was resolved well – nobody got into a real fight, nobody got off the plane, the passengers all got where they needed to go and it gives everybody some food for thought.

  10. The description of what was said comes from a man who is citing what was witnessed by his friend. Unless his friend was sitting right next to the people this was happening to, I would doubt that he was privy to exactly what was actually said. It is far more likely that in the aftermath all he was able to gather was that there was a mention of guns and he probably heard the man give an explanation that he was referring to gun rights. The man could’ve been either telling the truth or covering up to avoid repercussions. WE DONT KNOW. As such, all that can be taken away from this event is that emotions are very high right now and that may not be ideal when a bunch of people are packed in a small metal tube. Pilot is in the right to try to control the passengers if he/she feels it may impact the safety of the flight.

  11. So typical. The only ones blocking the streets, setting fires, breaking windows in random cars and businesses, are the anti-Trumps. The only case I know of where a mob beats an elderly man, (who “must be a Trump supporter because he’s white”) are the anti-Trumps.

    The invariable slurs used by the anti-Trumps against Trump supporters are “racist, homophobic, misogynist, and intolerant”. It doesn’t matter who the person is, or what their actual attitudes and policies are, they are by definition “racist, homophobic, misogynist, and intolerant”. It doesn’t matter that Trump got the votes of 8 percent of Blacks, 29 percent of Hispanics, around the same amount of Asians, and 49% of Cuban Hispanics. I’ve actually read that “if you are white, it’s impossible for you to not be racist”.

    It doesn’t matter that Trump’s campaign manager is a very bright and capable woman, and many of the managers in his businesses are women, he is by definition misogynist.

    Should Blacks, Muslims, and Hispanics be afraid bc of this election? It was only Republican offices that were firebombed. It’s only been anti-Trumpers beating up elderly Trumper supporters. The only ones I’ve read about being arrested while carrying 6 Molotov cocktails in the streets are anti-Trumpers.

    The only campaign that hired goons to go to opposing political rallies and beat up the supporters there was the Clinton campaign against Trump supporters. Google “Robert Creamer wikilinks”

    The death threats on Twitter have all been directed at Trump, not Clinton or Sanders.

    From the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, the Nazi Brownshirts that disrupted political rallies of opponents, to the Khemer Rouge that killed 30% of the Cambodian population, right up to the Riots in Portland, it’s always the Left that uses violence to try to get their way.

  12. @Robert Hanson: your comment is an example of comments that don’t bring people together.
    First of all Nazis were right-wing nationalists and white supremacists, so I suggest you get your history straight. I am from Germany and cannot let a blatant lie like this stand, with all due respect. I have spent my entire childhood learning about the Third Reich. There was no element of Communism or Socialism in Nazi ideology and they murdered hundreds of thousands of communists and socialists and banned those parties. The term “National socialist” simply appropriated the word ‘socialist’. The Nazis were a right-wing, nationalist, racist, populist party, that got elected (with only a third of cast votes), promising to discriminate against minorities (esp. Jews and Gypsies), and to achieve mass employment, and to make Germany a great military power again. All of which they did, and we all know that it was one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century.
    [End of history lesson – while we need to talk with each other in a friendly way, we must always speak up to correct false information]
    Your point about left-wing violence is well taken – no argument there.

    There have been Ku Klux Klan rallies and one of them in Anaheim resulted in stabbings just today. Every single person I know is terrified of what will happen. Their fear is real.
    Trump’s misogyny was in the words when he was caught on tape. Yes, women work for his campaign – your point being? What he said was still disgusting and wrong. I am a man, and I would never say anything like it, and neither would any of my friends. Almost everybody, from the right and from the left, condemned his 2005 comments, and for good reason. Hopefully he will never say anything like this again while he is in office.

    Nevertheless, he won the election and is the next President. His office (if not himself) deserves respect and anybody who disagrees with him and his election needs to use our political system to achieve a change in the 2018 midterms and/or 2020 presidential elections. Anything else (and especially anything violent) is useless and counter-productive.
    I have not given up hope that he will do good things in office (we don’t really know what he will do as he has said so many conflicting things). He may yet turn out to be very good at the job. I certainly hope so for the sake of the country.

  13. @ RobertHansen

    Its almost adorable that you are so perturbed by Americans (of which about 2 million more voted for Clinton) peacefully protesting in the streets as a temper tantrum rather than having an issue with the 8 year long temper tantrum thrown by the Republicans in Congress from the day Obama was inaugurated. People expressing their anger in the streets is far less problematic than Republicans deciding to ensure that stopping a rightfully elected president from enacting legislation would be their number one goal. Also, all of these complaints from Trump supporters who think its unfair that people are calling them bigots is particularly rich after an entire campaign that ran against political correctness. If it should be OK for people to say racist/misogynist/homophobic/Islamaphobic things it should absolutely be ok for people to call those who supported a candidate who endorsed those things as being at least tolerant of bigotry. It’s insane to me that the anti-PC right-wing has somehow made it so the word “racist” or “bigot” is more offensive than the “n word.”


    The thing is, why did he even feel the need to say that? Given that somewhere around or over 90% of black people who voted, voted for Clinton in this election, and given that this flight was departing from a state where more than 60% of the voters voted for her (and was also partially responsible for giving her more than a 2 million vote advantage in the popular vote), its pretty safe to say if you had to guess, this woman was not a Trump supporter. Furthermore, she was a random stranger on a plane that he didn’t know. The only reason he would make such a comment is that either he wanted to gloat, or he felt entitled after this election to make her feel uncomfortable (funny that he was on a flight to Mexico).

    Right or wrong, many minorities, women, LGBT people who saw Obama’s election as a sign that this country was willing to move past merely tolerating us but actually starting to accept us, this election has been a massive blow. Many people in those groups are scared of what’s to come and have been particularly on edge for the last few days. It’s not unreasonable for her to be stressed upon realizing she is going to have to sit next to this person for a 3+ hour flight.

  14. @chasgoose I think you summed it up pretty well.

    It’s silly those that spent the past 4 years screaming about imaginary things (Obama’s birthplace/taking away your guns/instituting sharia law) think protesters against Trump and his the literal things-he’s-going-to-do-because-he-said-he’s-doing-them (Stop and Frisk, repealing Obamacare, defunding planned parenthood, censoring the press, sexual assault / fraud charges, Roe V Wade, retweeting KKK figures) are throwing a ‘temper tantrum’ because their person lost.

  15. “First of all Nazis were right-wing nationalists”

    Seriously? It appears you don’t know what the word Nazi means. I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. It translates as National SOCIALIST Workers Party.

    When Hitler came to power, the US Communist Party strongly supported him. He and Stalin were BFF’s, right up to the point that Germany invaded the USSR. Now US communists had a problem. They couldn’t support both sides, and with a world view that Socialism was the way of the future, how were they to explain one “workers paradise” invading another “workers paradise”? The obvious solution was to pretend that the Nazis were really Right Wing. The exact sort of propaganda that Goebbels meant when he coined the term “Big Lie”. The fact that they were also Nationalists in no way conflicts with their being Left Wing.

    The same lie is told about the Fascist Italian movement of Mussolini. From Wikipedia:
    “In 1912 Mussolini was the leading member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party Prior to 1914, he was a keen supporter of the Socialist International, starting the series of meetings in Switzerland that organized the communist revolutions and insurrections that swept through Europe from 1917….

    Was Trump’s campaign anti-PC? Yes. Which appealed to many voters since PC is simply a code for Left Wing Ideology.

    Was Trump’s campaign based on Racism? No. Trump won the vote in 700 counties, 1/3 of which voted for Obama not just once, but both times. Dr Ben Carson is heading up Trumps Transition team for Health and Human Services. Dr Carson is very much Black. 😉


  16. I say let bygones be bygones. We should all get together with Mr. Trump at his retreat in the Miss Teen USA dressing room and sort this out. Then we can all get on the bus and sing kumbaya. Also, let us give our new President all the support he needs, not unlike the Republicans did when President Obama was elected. I remember the warm feeling of togetherness during those heady days. Oh, if only we could relive them.

  17. @ Robert Hanson @ augias — Resident Political Science major chiming in to remind everyone that defining governmental or party politics often requires more dimensionality than a spectrum would allow. At some point it doesn’t practically matter whether a system started to the “right” or “left” of the mainstream. Authoritarian fringes bend toward each other like a “U” and blend in terms of tactics and impact.

    Also, as resident hostess, thank you to everyone for maintaining a civil tone. This country has a great deal of listening to do right now, and I love that some of it is happening here.

  18. @Robert Hanson
    Dude, you are so far off in your understanding of political history! The Nazi were not a socialist organization. Try fascist. All you are doing is conveniently interpreting history to justify your world view.

    I think it is darn scary we have so many Americans who think like Robert, that a man like Trump could be elected in America. For a country and as a species, we are screwed. But Robert is just doing the best he can in life. Unfortunately, Robert represents the state of the human species, a soon to be extinct species.

  19. Give me a break Augius your brand of politics and PC is what is driving this country to the brink! U would rather have a corrupt career politician who can’t even protect our countries secrets than someone who could be considered at worst a womanizer. Get your priorities straight!

  20. Oh, I think there are many more problems than being a “womanizer” whatever that is. But it’s all water under the bridge now. He’s not the saviour you think he is and all the ” crooked Hillary” talk is really over the top. We’ll know soon enough how things are going to go when we learn who will be in his government. Hopefully it will be people with a level head who know what they’re doing, or we could be in real trouble.

  21. @C Morgan: Trump is also currently accused of defrauding students with his fake university, he discriminated against black tenants in his buildings, and we don’t know the extent of his debt and business dealings with countries who are not friendly to the USA (such as Russia). The misogyny (not womanizing) is the cherry on top of the cake.
    And you think he will be more competent at handling classified information? We will see I guess.
    I share your reservations about Clinton. She did however have extremely detailed policy proposals, so you know what you’re going to get. There’s something to be said for that. I think everybody who voted made a choice which one for them was better, or less bad.

    @Robert Hanson: as I said, I am German. I know what Nazi stands for (Nazionalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei), thank you very much. I think you are hung up on the term “socialist” in the name. They wanted to make clear that they were a populist party for the common man, that is why they chose this term. The Nazis persecuted and murdered countless communists and socialists (and started those persecutions straight away in 1933). During that election, they rose to power by exploiting fears of the communists, which according to them were controlled by Jewish bankers.
    The pact with the Soviet Union was purely strategic. (and then they broke it) None of their policies were socialist in nature (usually that would have entailed some redistribution of property, nationalization of industry, internationalism). Instead they fought communism within Germany, started militarizing, fostered an extreme patriotism and nurtured fears and hate of other countries, and were supportive of capitalism – all traits generally considered right-wing. They were the party supported by the military, and by the aristocracy (another trait that in Europe at the time put them on the right-wing side of politics)
    The role model for the Nazis were of course the Italian Fascists. Mussolini, it is true, was a socialist at the beginning of his political career, and and then his views evolved and he became ultra-nationalist. (and, by definition, right-wing, “destra”). He never tired of railing against Communists thereafter. He may be the politician who has contradicted himself the most in all of history. You are unlikely to find anything he said, that he did not at another time contradict completely.

    None of this has much relevance in this election.
    As Tiffany said, these distinctions often get fuzzy – once a system devolves into a totalitarian dictatorship, whether they started on the extreme left or the extreme right doesn’t make much difference anymore. A dictator at that point is often just a dictator. Good point!

    Interestingly, many of Trumps points (particularly being against free trade, and his more isolationist stances in terms of foreign policy) used to be left-wing positions. So that explains why some people are switching parties. If you hate free trade and want more protectionist policies, then Clinton (or any mainstream Republican for that matter) is not for you, but Trump or Sanders might be.

  22. @Robert Hanson: last point: The Nazi party has always been considered to be right-wing in Germany and elsewhere and I suspect that you are insisting that they are on the left in order to make some political point. But you do have to look at them in the context of German culture and the German language in order to gain a fuller understanding (The Neonazis in Germany are referred to as “Rechtsradikale” by the way – radical right).
    It would be interesting to hash all this out sometime but I just remembered that this is a blog about flying 😉 So we must have at least one thing in common, that we travel a lot or enjoy traveling! And I’m sure that we both want what’s best for the country. Let’s not forget that. Have a good night!

  23. The pilot of that flight had every right to make that announcement. He is in command of the aircraft and responsible for all on board. I applaud what what he stated to his passengers. He has enough to do in that cockpit to get them to their destination in one piece without worrying if their will be a political brawl at 30,000 feet. Why to go Captain!

  24. Not sure what lucky meant, but he doesn’t seem to have used the word “grandstanding” correctly. The pilot was merely making an announcement to the passengers on his plane. It was recorded by a passenger, not the pilot, and presumably the pilot didn’t have any reason to know his announcement would end up on YouTube. So I don’t see any basis for accusing the pilot of playing to an outside audience or trying to attract media attention.

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