American Airlines Passenger Taken Down By Police at Orlando Airport. He Wanted to Make a Point About Police Brutality

American Airlines staff called police Thursday morning just before 6 a.m. at the Orlando airport. I’ve seen little written about what the man did to create a disturbance at the check-in counter.

The airline decided that 59 year old doctor Jeffrey Epstein’s customer service should be outsourced to law enforcement. Airline staff decided that he wouldn’t be allowed to fly as well.

That’s when the man says he decided to make a point.

  • Airlines shouldn’t be calling the cops on customers who aren’t dangerous
  • When airlines do call the cops they should be trying to de-escalate the situation
  • If a 59 year old white guy is going to be manhandled by the cops, what chance do minorities have?

He calls himself “a conservative Republican, I’m a Trump guy” but he says the situation he found himself in — caught on video — makes him sympathetic to what others go through, “I don’t blame black people for being upset when they get arrested.”

He said he was trying to make a point about police use of force. He said the disruption was done to “prove a point.”

“If you’re going to do this to a white doctor, who’s 59-years-old, for doing nothing, then why would black people trust you?,”

..Epstein also said he was trying to teach airlines a lesson about customer service.

“I was no danger. I was being loud because I wanted everyone to see. I wanted everything to be out in the open. Big companies have to take care of their customers, and when they call the cops in, they got to deescalate, not escalate,” Epstein said.

Police used pepper spray. After they arrested him they claimed to have found “a plastic bag of suspected cannabis, less than 20 grams” and he was hospitalized for chest pains after being taken away before being transferred to jail.

Here’s video of the altercation.

Let’s be clear. We don’t know what happened before the video, in his interactions with American Airlines staff. In reading through coverage at most I’ve seen reported that he “continued to yell profanities and other remarks about American Airlines’ business practices.” There’s been no allegation of any threats or physical violence.

If he was a very frustrated customer it hardly seems like the right outcome is to call the police and arrest the man. Once the police were on the scene the man seemed to have – and acknowledges – that he sought to provoke a response. Maybe he shouldn’t have done that, but was the police response here necessary either?

I continue to worry that airlines really haven’t learned very much — other than to pay more involuntary denied boarding compensation — from last year’s United Airlines David Dao fiasco. Police remain adjunct airline customer service representatives for dealing with unhappy passengers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. How far off is what that guy did then “inciting a riot” or “inciting violence”? He did it on purpose.

  2. I’m not sure I can side with this guy either. What is an airline supposed to do with an unhappy, unreasonable customer? Allow them to hijack the customer service line with demands and complaints indefinitely until the airline submits?

    Whether an unhappy customer “threatened violence” or not, at some point a person who is disruptive to *everybody around them* has to be removed. I would challenge you to imagine any business scenario where you would allow a customer to stand in your business indefinitely with unreasonable demands and disrupt all of your other customers without calling in law enforcement.

  3. This guy is a moron if he thinks his experiment leads to anything more than this conclusion: no matter what color you are, if your are continually loud and disruptive at a place of business, the police will be called. And you will be manhandled if you continue to escalate the situation and resist arrest.

  4. I witnessed a similar incident in LGA a year or so. Myself and an entire plane load of passengers who had our Jetblue flight cancelled were in the queue back outside of security, at least 100 people. This woman walked right out of the concourse to the first agent (who probably already was helping one of us from our flight) because she had missed her flight and wasn’t happy with the gate agents. At first despite being rude and disrespectful of everyone else who was waiting, she was just explaining her situation, but when it was clear whatever her expectations were of the airline were not going to be met (I suspect nothing would have made her happy, they offered her different flights that night, a free transfer to JFK to take an earlier flight, ect), she got increasingly angry, periodically walking away from the desk and down the terminal, only to come back a few minutes later and doing the same thing.

    Eventually she descended into screaming every possible obscenity, getting inches from the agent’s face across the desk calling her a “mother b****” over and over again, saying the airline was trying to rip her off, and looking at all of us for support like we were supposed to be on her side for cutting all us off trying to get on another flight. All this in front of her probably 8 or so year old son. The agent remained just amazingly professional and calm through all this, even though you knew it had to be horrifying.

    They had no choice but to call the police as this went on (probably close to an hour of this by the time an officer came), who came in, spoke with her, and stood by while she tried one more time to approach the desk. As I recall they eventually agreed to refund her, which she wanted cash, and they told her it had to be refunded to the card it was purchased on, after more screaming about being ripped off and the airline needing to give her more for her inconvenience and how she would never fly again (I certainly hope she meant that part) she left. Sometimes you need law enforcement to show up and have eyes on the situation.

  5. “If a 59 year old white guy is going to be manhandled by the cops, what chance do minorities have?”
    Well, looks to me like he has inadvertently proven that d-bags are treated equal regardless of race.

    Whether it was right to arrest him or not I don’t know, but once you start resisting police officers that are attempting to handcuff you, it’s on you. He got what he deserved.

  6. Fully agree with the comments on this thread. Nothing in this video indicates he is trying to resolve his customer service issue so the situation has clearly escalated. If this happened at a restaurant there would be no debate this has shifted from a customer service issue to a law enforcement issue.

  7. Sorry bud but you don’t get to go into an airport and cause a scene. If you’re looking to cause an incident you’ll likely end up in handcuffs. Society right now needs to tone down these challenges to authority. If you act normal and do what you are supposed to do, none of this happens. Race should never be a factor, although we know at times it is unfortunately.

  8. @Jason In the paragraph right below the photo I’m making a point that like United with David Dao airlines are still calling cops on customers who are not alleged to have been a physical threat and expressing concern with continued outsourcing of customer service to law enforcement in our hyper-security focused environment.

  9. @Gary and @Jason –

    Then Gary how is the “Apparel Division” related to the below paragraph or the article. This was a wrong picture to post for an AA related story. Jason is correct to call you out on the picture.

    The apparel issue WAS irrelevant as the woman that reported it had nothing to do with the situation – she is the equalivalent of a Linda Tripp in “mind your own business!”

  10. put that guy in front of gary’s house and then see if he calls the cops or instead just blogs about it.

  11. @ Gary: “a conservative Republican, I’m a Trump guy”. Angry white guy huh? [Tease: So Gary what do you really think of Trump supporters?] LOL. I think he sounds like a lefty. That is, entitled, evoking identity politics, anti-corporation, and anti-cop: in other words, If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. I bet he voted for HC and BHO.

  12. @Casey ‘special seating and apparel division’ was created after the dao incident which followed on the nonrev leggings incident. Seemed relevant to the final point I make, right below the photo, though of course YMMV

  13. @ Gary
    “… airlines are still calling cops on customers who are not alleged to have been a physical threat and expressing concern with continued outsourcing of customer service to law enforcement…”
    So if a customer isn’t a physical threat (yet) but is spewing all sorts of profanities and causing problems, then law enforcement shouldn’t be called?

  14. This guy seems to have been looking for a fight and to cause a scene. That’s all i get out of it. Why United continues to be invoked is beyond me – it’s a tired trope. Time to move on and actually provide the “Thought Leadership” in travel as this blog promises. I dont know what’s leading about this tired discussion.

  15. What an idiot! A few days in jail will help teach him some manners and to respect legal authorities! When the police tell you are under arrest, you DON”T resist!

  16. Total BS.. the guy was yelling in the airport, then when they began to cuff him he was definitely resisting and continued to resist when they put him on the ground holding his hands in front of himself and continuing to yell “Oh my God.. Oh my God”… What total B.S.
    He should have been arrested continuing over and over to call the policeman “genius” like a smartass. If you treat a police officer like that, what do you think is going to happen???
    Exactly what should have happened!

  17. Admittedly, we do not have all the relevant facts here but, it sure looks like he was a set up to force a confrontation.
    Let’s see if we learn more as we go on

  18. Laxjeff. I have to disagree with your comment that we need to tone down our reactions to authority. Police authority seems to have grown very militaristic due to their ability to make us believe that we have no rights to question authority, video their transgressions, or take legal action when our rights are trampled. Unfortunately, people like this guy ruin it for the rest of us that believe in a calmer approach to demanding our rights and refusing to drink the Kool aid regarding their authority whether it is an airport, city street, or a court house. America is becoming a police state and our blind obedience is the cause.

  19. We’ve all known people who have ‘issues’ . My ‘issue’ would have been “I just want to get on the plane so quit campaigning on my time .”

  20. This guy was an idiot. However, I feel sorry for him anyway. According to WOFL FOX 35, “He is charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis. ” Battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence are 3rd degree felonies in Florida. Trespassing, disorderly conduct, and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis are misdemeanors. Not sure about the medical profession, but in my business, one cannot have felonies or 1st degree misdemeanors and continue working. He is going to have to make a deal with the prosecutor and have the records sealed, otherwise it will follow him forever. Moreover, even though the records are sealed, when he applies for certain sensitive jobs (or Global Entry Pass) he will have to disclose it anyway. All because he had a bad hair day. Stupid.

    Now for a piece of advice for everyone in the blog. If you ever get arrested, lawyer up. If you plead guilty to a misdemeanor, make sure the record is sealed. Further, if you had an arrest or pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the past and you did not get it sealed, go back and pay up to get it sealed. Finally, if you had a record sealed say in 90s, go back and check it is really sealed. And get a copy of the sealed order, just in case you need it. In today’s world of information technology, any arrest record, sealed or not, will show up in personnel searches. Or circling back to the point of this blog, in Global Entry searches.

    I am sure there are some of you thinking, me arrested never. Sure. If you are at the wrong place at the wrong time, anyone can get arrested for doing absolutely nothing. I have heard first hand stories.

  21. @HADLEY V. BAXENDALE – i take it you didn’t realize that i link to the WESH article in my post, as well as to another news source, what ‘bias’ or errors are you finding here?

  22. I don’t think you have much place commenting on an agent being forced to call the police on this ‘man’. You should watch closely what they have to deal with day in and out and you might realize that at least one point every week that they feel like their safety in at risk by some irrational, belligerent and abusive child. We aren’t outsourcing customer service to law enforcement, we are calling for assistance because someone is presenting a possibly physical risk to ourselves and would really rather not wait until that harm actually comes to pass. Maybe is passengers presented themselves with a little civility then things might calm down just a little bit. Not many people truly understand the stress that a gate agent goes through and most of it is because of people like this.

  23. @Gary Leff
    “The airline decided that 59 year old doctor Jeffrey Epstein’s customer service should be outsourced to law enforcement.” I’d call that an allegation. You are saying we would rather the police deal with it because we don’t want to. You are essentially accusing the agent of having the police do their job for them and judging from the video, if he was that asinine to a police officer, I bet you can guess what he said to the agent.

  24. @Other Just Saying The doctor does appear to be a conservative. Just google him and check out his Facebook page. He posted a personal concern over the treatment of conservatives on a college campus and a Billy Reilly defense of Trump.

    However, his political leaning is irrelevant. His behavior was inexcusable, and it is no more leftie than it is rightie. A jerk is a jerk.

    The doctor lives and practices in Lakeland, FL, which is a very conservative area. My sister lives there. I will warn her never to go to this guy.

  25. Many comments focus on the interaction between the cops and the customer. That’s not what this story is about. For us airline customers, the primary issue here is what happened between the customer and the AA agent. There are no videos or statements I’ve seen that objectively show cops should have ever been called in the first place. But the AA agent’s decision to call the cops led to the customer being arrested and charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors and the cops winding up on candid camera and subject to potential disciplinary action or public ridicule if they made any mistakes. Meanwhile, the AA agent, who could have been the one in the wrong, walks away smelling like a rose when the agent was the proximate cause of everything that happened. To me that’s wrong.

    Those who think this incident shows that people who behave improperly are treated the same regardless of race are assuming that non-whites always have it coming to them when they suffer from police use of force.

  26. Gary: What’s with the cheap-shot photoshopped picture showing United when the story was about an American Airlines incident? You bring up the old, rehashed Dr. Dao incident. Remember, no United employee touched the passenger and no United employee told Chicago Police to rough up the passenger. You must have been refused your fourth drink request on a UA flight to be this much of a UA hater. Get a life.

  27. @Helen S. Thank you for looking that up. I stand corrected. I should have checked. I was just teasing Gary for dropping Trump into the conversation about an out of control passenger which has nothing to do with Trump or the passenger’s political beliefs.

  28. 1. WTF does it matter if he’s conservative or liberal?

    2. If you cause a scene in ANY business and repeatedly curses loudly, particularly in the earshot of children – then refuse to stop or leave, the police will be called.

    2. Don’t ever fight with the police. The time to plead your case is in front of a judge. If you start acting aggressively towards them or resisting arrest, it will not end well for you and will almost certainly mean additional charges.

  29. Situations triggering nonviolent aggressive behavior in a controlled environment seem to increase as, worldwide, a billion or so people gradually transition from 20th century customer is always right mentality to 21st century, fine print contracts, discounts galore, customer is lucky to find a product or service, business models. Examples of airline triggers: difference between boarding time, check in time,and departure time, all variable dependent upon the airport and other factors, TSA lines, gate changes, and delayed flights that move back and forth, etc.
    Newsflash for this customer: after the TSA check point, airport is not free speech alley. Nobody is there to see runway activity up close. Read your ticket contract and if AA is cheating you, sue, and good luck because the airline agent probably knows the rules better than you.
    Worse, a tricky agent can trigger an irrational behavior.
    To Gary’s point, I don’t see SWA treat their customers like AA, UAL, DAL, but I think SWA customers have lower expectations and still get free baggage check. Although I haven’t seen much news with DAL, I have experienced it. My solution, patience and find another gate agent without a chip on their shoulder.

  30. Orlando airport needs a new outlook on volume of passengers. TSA there is the worst I have seen. The attitude of TSA stripes on the shirt think they are Gods gift to us. They pull you(not me) aside in the pre check line and then leave you there with no one to do the check. If you speak to a officer she barks at you like a junk yard dog. All the while doing nothing to move the lines along or help out. Stand on the side and talk about nothing to do with the job at hand. Hope MCO gets another source for security lines. Tensions do get high as the lines are long and flights donot wait. Getting to the airport 2 hours in advance is not enough at MCO.

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