Chris Matyszczyk INC
This United Airlines Pilot Went Out of His Way to Scare Us, Say Passengers
August 24, 2017
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  • Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

    I used to take drugs to get on planes.

    I was simply scared. First, it was takeoff that frightened me. Then it was landing.

    Then my twisted mind decided that turbulence was worse than being locked in a dark room and forced to listen to political speeches.

    It took 20 years to get over it.

    So I have some sympathy with passengers who say they endured a frightening experience aboard, oh, a United Airlines flight from Chicago to New Jersey.

    As reports, passengers say that before takeoff the pilot told them that they’d be flying through “horrific storms including tornadoes.”

    I fear I’d rather converse with an inebriated CEO at a networking event than fly through a tornado.

    Worse, some passengers say that a Flight Attendant noticed how unnerved some of them were and trying to rectify the mood, by making an announcement that included soothing words.

    Such as “we don’t have spare sick bags, so please be prepared for one huge mess and stink around here.”

    Yes, I’m kidding.

    About the actual words of her announcement, at least.

    Listen to it — I’ve embedded it below — and you can feel that the Flight Attendant is desperately trying to behave calmly and cover up for the captain.

    She told the passengers that what the captain actually meant was that the plane would merely experience delays because of the weather and was worried about needing extra fuel.

    However, when she says “there is nothing to be concerned about,” she sounds a little angst-ridden.

    Yet some passengers insist that the pilot said the flight would be very turbulent.

    Pilots are trained to speak with a reassuring voice.

    I’ve never got on a British Airways or Virgin Atlantic flight, for example, and not felt entirely pleased that the man or woman at the controls sounds like they’re gently cleaning my teeth with coconut-flavored toothpaste.

    Why might this United pilot have disturbed passengers?

    Passenger Pamela Kent told that the pilot seemed angry.

    There was worse to come for these passengers, as the plane finally taxied away and then experienced mechanical problems and had to return to the gate.

    That sort of thing happens. The pilot and crew had to get off too, as they had already been on duty for the maximum number of hours.

    Still, Kent and her daughter didn’t get back on.

    “It was a general feeling of being rattled,” she told “You want a pilot to have confidence. There was not that feeling.”

    I contacted United to ask whether it was at all shaken.

    “We are working to better understand what occurred here,” an airline spokeswoman told me.

    She added: “Customers boarded a new aircraft and continued on their journey. Customers are receiving compensation and we apologize for this inconvenience.”

    Perhaps this was just a pilot having a bad day, but fear isn’t an inconvenience.

    There’s enough of it around in the world already and it rarely feels good.

    Especially if you’re going up to 38,000 feet in a metal tube.