Nearly half the passengers reportedly fled a United Airlines flight before it could take off on Saturday evening after a seemingly disturbed pilot went on a bizarre political and personal rant over the intercom.
As passenger Randy Reiss wrote on Twitter, the pilot dressed in a ball cap and casual shirt remarked on her appearance after she boarded the flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in the late afternoon, "Then she says ‘sorry, I’m going through [a] divorce,'” Reiss wrote. “Ummmm uh oh.”
She got on in street clothes and asked if we were ok with her flying like that. We all said okay. Cute, right?— Randy Reiss (@undeadsinatra) February 11, 2017
Reiss told BuzzFeed that other passengers even sympathized with her at first. The sympathy quickly changed to dread as her speech veered from her personal life into a string of non sequiturs, at which point the mood aboard the San Francisco-bound jet turned from cozy to uncomfortable, to worse.
Then she identified an interracial couple in first class, I think in an effort to say "yay unity" but it was was awkward.— Randy Reiss (@undeadsinatra) February 11, 2017
“She’s like ‘I don’t care if you voted for Trump or Clinton. They’re both [expletive],” Reiss wrote. He started shaking, he wrote, after the pilot said she was about to take off.
“So I’ll stop and we’ll fly the airplane,” she says in another passenger’s video. “Don’t worry. I’m going to let my co-pilot fly it. He’s a man.”
At this point Reiss got out of his seat, collected his bag and made for the exit. “Half the flight followed my lede,” he wrote.
“Okay, if you don’t feel safe get off the airplane, but otherwise we can go,” the pilot says in the video, still cheerful, as her passengers begin to revolt. “Did I offend you?” she says to someone in first class.
“Disarm the doors,” a flight attendant says.
Reiss posted a photo of a police officer standing by after the pilot followed her passengers back to the terminal. Reiss wrote that she hugged him before they parted. She offered to write a book with him. She had been crying.
So, she's off the flight. pic.twitter.com/4Lzq8O9jzY— Randy Reiss (@undeadsinatra) February 11, 2017
After the incident, United Airlines said it was investigating the incident: according to AP, United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart confirmed the pilot wasn't in uniform when she boarded the plane Friday. He says another pilot was brought in and the flight was delayed about two hours.
Hobart also confirmed the pilot was the woman shown in videos posted on social media talking to passengers over the intercom. Some people tweeted they were passengers on the flight and that the woman seemed unstable. Hobart says he didn't immediately have details about the incident, including why the pilot was allowed on the plane in plain clothes or if anyone thought something was amiss before she boarded. He says the company will discuss the incident with the pilot.