A United Airlines Passenger Was Overjoyed to be Upgraded to First Class — Then He Was Threatened to Be Put on a No-Fly List. A traveler's journey went from serendipitous to unsettling when he requested a manicotti for the second leg of his trip, which was in economy seating.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Key Takeaways

  • A United Airlines passenger sought a first-class meal in economy for the second leg of his trip, leading to a confrontation with the cabin manager.
  • The passenger reported that the cabin manager hinted at adding him to a no-fly list.

A United Airlines traveler had quite the turbulent trip when his excitement over receiving a first-class meal while in Economy Plus quickly turned sour. The incident turned into a confrontation with the cabin manager, who hinted at the possibility of adding the passenger to a no-fly list, Business Insider reported.

The passenger, who was identified as Sam for privacy reasons, shared with Insider that his August 3 journey commenced in Madison, Wisconsin and ended in Seattle, with a layover in Denver.

As a devoted United Airlines customer and a Premier 1K member of the MileagePlus frequent-flyer program, Sam was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to first class for the initial leg of his voyage. However, first-class passengers on his flight to Denver weren't given a meal due to a catering oversight. Still, the flight took off seamlessly, and Sam began to chat with one of the flight attendants.

For the next leg of his journey to Seattle, Sam was seated in the Economy Plus section on the same plane with the same cabin crew. On a whim, he playfully asked the flight attendant he had previously interacted with to save him a manicotti meal for the upcoming leg, if available.

"At no point did I actually think she was going to do it. And if she did do it, great," Sam told Insider. "I shot my shot."

Related: Viral Video Shows Passenger Punching Flight Attendant, Opening Emergency Exit Door

Sam boarded the plane following a brief layover, and upon spotting the same flight attendant, he reminded her of his request. However, the cabin manager overheard their conversation and "very rudely" confronted Sam, he told the outlet, telling him that he could not receive a first-class meal in an economy seat, citing United's policy.

However, the flight attendant discreetly brought him the manicotti and a fork after the first-class meal service concluded.

"It was very discreet. She dropped it down, winked at me, and I said, 'Oh my gosh, thank you so much,'" Sam told Insider. "And that was it."

Nonetheless, the enjoyment was short-lived as the cabin manager confronted him once more.

In a tone that was "condescending" and "unprofessional," the cabin manager proceeded to "verbally berate" Sam, adding that she was writing him up, which could lead to being put on a no-fly list.

But the manicotti fiasco continued: The cabin manager informed the captain of the situation. Following the flight, Sam took the initiative to approach the captain to explain. The captain extended an apology for the unsettling episode.

Sam shared his experience on Reddit, garnering more than 450 comments with responses ranging from shock at the cabin manager's behavior — with some calling it "ridiculous" and "disappointing" — to others questioning Sam's perceived breach of airline rules.

"You wanted special treatment in economy and thought it would be ok to eat a first-class meal in front of other people who are not allowed to or am I missing something?" one user wrote.

Sam sent a three-page email detailing the series of events to United Airlines, and the airline's response was an apology and an assurance of an internal investigation involving the in-flight leadership and corporate security team. Despite the incident, Sam was hesitant to completely distance himself from United.

"You don't get divorced over one bad day," he told Insider.

Entrepreneur has reached out to United for comment.

Related: United Airlines CEO Apologizes for Private Jet Use Amid Weather Disruptions and Flight Delays

Madeline Garfinkle

Entrepreneur Staff

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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