HOUSTON - A Houston man says he was shocked to be thrown off a flight and even more blown away when he was told why. Can you imagine having to tell your boss you had to reschedule a major presentation you were supposed to give in another state because you were kicked off the airplane because you were drunk? One Houston man says that happened to him, and he’s speaking out about it because he says he was not intoxicated. “I have never been as humiliated as I was when I walked off that plane. Ever,” explains John Russell who hopped on a plane in Houston. He was flying to lead a major meeting in Oklahoma City and he ended up nearly twelve hours late for his own presentation. “It was absolutely humiliating”.
He finally arrived at his meeting, and encountered a mountain of questions. “Why weren’t you here this morning? Well, you guys ain't going to believe this”. The story actually starts fairly uneventful. Russell says he worked last Monday, and then his wife dropped him off at the airport for a flight to Oklahoma City. He was traveling in Oklahoma City to lead a meeting there the next morning. Russell has a receipt for a salad and bottle of water there at the airport and once he was seated on the plane, there in first class he ordered a Rum and Coke.
”I normally am not a drinker. Sometimes when I get on the plane and I’m flying first class I might have one or two”. Even before his drink arrived Russell says he noticed the man across the aisle from him. “He was blatantly drunk. It was apparent” and then he says a woman came onboard “and she ran into the flight attendant and she went to cussing him out,” explains Russell.
Russell says a few sips into his onboard drink and a United Airlines representative asked him to gather his belongings and exit the plane. He says the man and woman who appeared drunk were being thrown off the flight and so was he.
“Bucket list, check one off. Removed from plane for being drunk. I just, I couldn’t believe it”. According to Russell the only alcohol he had all day or all week for that matter was the unfinished drink he was served on the plane. ”I’m not a drinker at all, never have been. Anybody that knows me knows I’m not a drinker”.
He asked to be given a breathalyzer and tried to explain he had an important business meeting but he wasn't allowed back on the plane. United Airlines booked him on another airline that took him to Oklahoma the following day. “We had to put the whole meeting off to that afternoon. Then I also had to explain to my VP. I’m third level down in a large corporation and I had to explain to my Vice President why I was removed from a plane”.
Russell said sent emails to United Airline's President, Vice President and CEO and never heard back. When he posted a bad review on Facebook, he says he was contacted by a United representative. “It took them 30 seconds to remove me from a plane and took them two days to get in touch with me to apologize and it was a half-hearted apology,” says Russell.
According to an email, Russell shared several members of airport staff back up his claim that he was not drunk. The message goes on to say United is offering a $600 flight voucher or 30,000 miles and a $100 visa gift card to cover the cost of his hotel room for "being wrongfully removed from the flight". Russell says that isn't enough. ”The walk of shame, you know, walking up the aisle and then having to fight for my dignity”.
The construction manager says United had been his airline of choice but now? “I’m done with United”. Russell says he still hopes to get a sincere apology from United and an adequate offer. A United Airlines spokesperson says they are still investigating to find out exactly what occurred.