United Airlines removes Microsoft employee from flight en route to a funeral

Airlines - you either love them or really, really hate them. One unlucky Microsoft employee, who was headed to his grandfather's funeral, just got booted off a flight operated by United - and you can bet he won't have much love for them after that. 

What was the offending reasoning for removing Matt Wallaert from his flight? Apparently, he asked a flight attendant for her name because she was being rude to another customer. Now, before we continue, we must note that we only have one side of the story, but the trend of being tossed off flights by overzealous flight attendants is well documented.

Fortunately for Wallaert, according to his Twitter feed, he was able to board an Alaska Airlines flight to Oakland where he will rent a car and then drive to SFO where he will, presumably, catch his connecting flight to his grandfather’s funeral.

For those who have never witnessed or heard about a flight attendant removing someone from a plane before takeoff, it goes like this. If a flight attendant, for lack of a better definition, feels 'threatened' or scared by a passenger, they can request to have them removed without any further justification. This is likely what happened here with the United flight attendant using this excuse to have Wallaert removed from the plane.

Now we do not know Mr. Wallaert personally but he has worked for Microsoft for over a year, according to his LinkedIn profile, and he started the Bing for Schools program that “encourages digital literacy by helping put hardware in the hands of students, creating teaching guides that help them use it productively, and creating a safe/ad-free/private environment to search in.” His prior work doesn't exactly paint the picture of a super-evil terrorist looking to take down a plane, does it?

We would find it hard to believe that Wallaert was really a threat on the United flight and was likely unjustly removed from the plane. Heck, he was headed to his grandfather’s funeral and being removed from the flight is likely the last thing he needed.

We have reached out to United for comment and will update this post when we receive a response from the company. 

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This isn't worthy of a report, just because he works for a tech company. He could have been a real **** to her on board.

Anyway, it still comes down the the captain to boot someone from the plane.

No, but such abuse should not be tolerated by anyone. Anyway it's not against the law to be a ****, it's not justified but the punishment does not fit the crime if that's the case. It was noted that the flight attendant was being belligerent to another customer though.

I'm not defending him, or the airline in anyway, don't get me wrong. IO'm just saying, the end decision is made by the captain, not the cabin crew.

No, the captain has nothing to do with it, they don't deal with this, the power is in the hands of the crew exactly because they have no time to deal with that.

And, to anyone saying "this isn't worthy of a report", I hope something similar happens to you and then someone else writes the same about your case.

audioman said,
No, the captain has nothing to do with it, they don't deal with this, the power is in the hands of the crew exactly because they have no time to deal with that.

And, to anyone saying "this isn't worthy of a report", I hope something similar happens to you and then someone else writes the same about your case.

Maybe different airlines have different policy. I have never, ever heard of the cabin crew having the power.

The captain most certainly deals with this sort of thing, and if you're on a flight where he's not, I'd get off. The captain 100% makes the final call on ANY decision on board that aircraft.

How senseless. It seems like flight attendants' privileges should be dialed back and should at least require additional checks in order to be approved.

Edited by Geezy, Dec 13 2013, 11:15pm :

I would have told that bi@#$ to suck a fat one. If I'm going to get kick off a plane, I'm getting tazzed and dragged out by security.

Doesn't matter what the situation is, a professional should ALWAYS provide their full name when requested, otherwise they show they are not fully taking personal responsibility for their personal behavior.

this is how Macy's customer services staff get a way with providing bad service. You can never pin anything them as they never identify themselves.

I'm sorry, but WHAT is this story even doing on a technology news site like Neowin!??

This is the most tenuous link to a technology story ever!! ...the only connection being that the guy happened to work for Microsoft - a fact that is in NO WAY relevant to the story!!

Come on Neowin - this is where unprofessional "journalism" looks... well, unprofessional!!!

This is a story without enough information so it would be stupid to form an opinion either way on it. Even offering an opinion on a hypothetical version of what happened just creates an excuse to turn the stupidity volume one notch higher until nobody cares about the truth at all anymore.

Let's try keeping this disregard for facts to our political opinions and let everyday mundane things stay boring, okay?

It's a sign of how far Neowin has crawled up Microsoft's unmentionables that their staff would simply assume the removal was unjust after having only heard one side of this story. Working for a massive tech company is some magic magnet that stops one acting like a complete dick? apparently Steve Jobs didn't get that memo. This is yellow journalism at it's worst.

Employees being rude, while annoying is none of your business if they aren't doing it to you. Make a note of it and send a written complaint (or record it and let social media do the rest), don't make a scene and poke your nose in.

Let me simplify it so even you can understand: This is an issue between the Microsoft employee and the UAL employee, not you. You don't need to poke your nose in.

Hmm, so you can't tell the difference between poking one's nose where it isn't needed and voicing an opinion? Amusing.

Typical Microsoft hater response. It is everybody else that is stupid for not understanding, people like you are having their opinion, their rights, their freedoms destroyed, and so on.

Here it is: you know nothing about what happened there, just as I do not. But you automatically jump in and decide that the Microsoft employee is wrong, all while accusing the author of this article of jumping in and defending the Microsoft employee. And this is all done simply because you hate Microsoft. Because someone is associated with that company, you have decided to voice your so called opinion in making an attack against someone you do not know, will never meet, and would not know if they passed you on the street. But because of your biases, your prejudices, your anger, you have poked your nose into the matter, then complain about others doing exactly what you have done. This Microsoft employee was expressing his opinion that the flight attendant was wrong for the way she was talking to someone, and wanted to report the person to UAL. Not only was the UAL employee, in the opinion of the Microsoft employee, rude and ignorant to one paying customer of UAL, but rude and ignorant to all the paying customers on that plane because they had to hear what the flight attendant said.

But in your narrow mindedness you have taken it upon yourself to be judge, jury, and executioner and jumped to a conclusion and declared that the Microsoft employee's opinion is worth less then yours while hiding behind the anonymity of some random person on the internet who has, quite frankly, shown their hatred of a specific company, the company's employees, and the customers of that company.

This Microsoft employee was sticking up for a paying customer of UAL, using the appropriate channels to correct what he thought was wrong. He didn't try to bully the UAL employee like the MS employee thought the flight attendant was doing to a paying customer. He didn't try to physically harm the person, he just wanted the flight attendant's name. Now if Microsoft harmed you in some way, we know you would be here yelling about oppression from the big multi-national corporation trying to take away your rights. But when someone tries to report it though appropriate channels, you want their rights taken away.

Add it all together, and you are a very sad person for complaining about one person wanting to do what you do here over and over again.

Javik said,
I've been using Microsoft software for more than 10 years,

You are a paying customer, and I see you whining about Microsoft every chance you get. The Microsoft employee wanted to complain about poor service, and got even worse service. You being a customer of Microsoft some how entitles you to complain about service, but this customer of UAL is not allowed to complain about poor service?

take your pathetic whining somewhere else please.

1) Oh, so now you want to take away my ability to express my opinion? You just wrote about how you wanted to express your opinion, but now you want to take away mine?
2) Make me.

Also, I find your complaints interesting since you are complaining about one person getting kicked off a plane for expressing their opinion (something I agree with you on, BTW):
http://www.neowin.net/forum/to...edly-offensive-shirt/page-2

But in this article you are complaining about someone being defended when kicked off a plane for expressing their opinion.

But of course, in the situation I linked to, it was something that you hate (religion) so the person needs to be defended, in this case, it is something you hate (a company) so they should not be defended.

Sounds like an unfortunate incident, but the whole missing a funeral bit adds little to my sympathies. Everyone has somewhere to be after all.

"but the trend of being tossed off flights by overzealous flight attendants is well documented."

Where? Can you provide a link/research? Seattle Times did some research this summer, and it didn't appear to be an increasing trend since 1995, based on FAA data, although they do provide a counter data point & source for 2012 that shows an increase in that year. One data point doesn't show a pattern though. I think people should look to data instead of making this assumption. http://seattletimes.com/html/t...3431_kickedoffplanexml.html

waded said,
"but the trend of being tossed off flights by overzealous flight attendants is well documented."

Where? Can you provide a link/research? Seattle Times did some research this summer, and it didn't appear to be an increasing trend since 1995, based on FAA data, although they do provide a counter data point & source for 2012 that shows an increase in that year. One data point doesn't show a pattern though. I think people should look to data instead of making this assumption. http://seattletimes.com/html/t...3431_kickedoffplanexml.html


Can "data" really infer legitimacy when looking at flight attendants taking people off of flights?

Just bing" Travel writer kicked off United Flight"

And then start reading about the trend.

waded said,
"but the trend of being tossed off flights by overzealous flight attendants is well documented."

Where? Can you provide a link/research? Seattle Times did some research this summer, and it didn't appear to be an increasing trend since 1995, based on FAA data, although they do provide a counter data point & source for 2012 that shows an increase in that year. One data point doesn't show a pattern though. I think people should look to data instead of making this assumption. http://seattletimes.com/html/t...3431_kickedoffplanexml.html

NastySasquatch said,
Just bing" Travel writer kicked off United Flight"

And then start reading about the trend.

So Bing was counting passengers being removed from flights, because of FAA requirement to track this, back in 1995? How about Google? No? Neither of them? Why look through the lens of a search engine, when someone who isn't selling news page views is actually counting it, and has been doing it a lot longer?

Reminds me of the movie "Meet the Parents" (it was with AA though)

As a minority, I did encounter some nasty treatments from flight attendants, but overall, it is rare. At this day and age, and given that he works for high tech company, I would imagine him video taping the flight attendant...and turn that into viral video... and he would not have to ask for her/his name, cuz some 4chain / redditors would be all over it like no tomorrow.

I would bet anyone $5k he didn't get kicked off by just asking a stewardesses name. And why would you have to ask her name anyways, I assume he is able to read, why not just look at her name tag.

This is why the airline industry has such a poor reputation. They're like wireless carriers, they charge insane pricing, tack on meaningless fees, then treat their customers like threats. To top it all off, their actions are then defended by the FAA. If the FAA really cared about flyers it would fine companies who inconvenience customers rather than make it permissible without challenge.

mizkitty said,
Flight attendant's version has the passenger being rude and snapping his fingers for service...

Well, we all know someone snapping their fingers in a noisy environment to get someone's attention is not only grounds for removal from the area, but they should even be beaten by local law enforcement.

Unless it hits headline news United probably won't take any kind of beating over this. It's an unfortunate story and United is most likely (again we only have one side to the story) in the wrong.

Flight attendants, unless for good reason, shouldn't be able to just boot someone off of a flight. It's not like they are refunding people for that and who is to protect travelers from flight attendants abusing their so called "power"?

But, for all we know, he was perhaps a little too adamant (seemingly forceful) trying to get the flight attendants name. But, it's more than likely she was rude enough to where he wanted to file an official complaint - which is absolutely reasonable.

Tarrant64 said,
Unless it hits headline news United probably won't take any kind of beating over this. It's an unfortunate story and United is most likely (again we only have one side to the story) in the wrong.

Flight attendants, unless for good reason, shouldn't be able to just boot someone off of a flight. It's not like they are refunding people for that and who is to protect travelers from flight attendants abusing their so called "power"?

But, for all we know, he was perhaps a little too adamant (seemingly forceful) trying to get the flight attendants name. But, it's more than likely she was rude enough to where he wanted to file an official complaint - which is absolutely reasonable.


Refund? If they kick you off of a flight for any reason, you should not only be refunded, but they should have to pay any costs incurred by your inconvenience; including other flights, car rentals costs, fuel, and time lost. But don't worry, the FAA will stand behind United and defend the airlines to no end no matter how egregious their actions are.

xpxp2002 said,

Refund? If they kick you off of a flight for any reason, you should not only be refunded, but they should have to pay any costs incurred by your inconvenience; including other flights, car rentals costs, fuel, and time lost.

So if someone gets on drunk, starts causing trouble and they have to be removed the airline has to give a refund and pay all their costs??

No, they typically allow the customer some time to sober up and reschedule them for a later flight however, the airline is not at all obligated to allow anyone into a flight when they are intoxicated. I don't know if that means the customer gets a refund.

JamesJD said,
US Airlines are ridiculous...asking for a name should not get you kicked off a flight.

got $5k? bet you $5k right here in public he didn't get kicked off by simply asking for a name.

rippleman said,

got $5k? bet you $5k right here in public he didn't get kicked off by simply asking for a name.

Better hope Matt doesnt take you up on that offer .

rippleman said,

got $5k? bet you $5k right here in public he didn't get kicked off by simply asking for a name.

I'll bet a bitcoin.

Shame. Now you can't even try to help others who might not be able to stand up for themselves. Since I don't see any mention of Homeland Security being heavily involved I assume he was calm and quiet and that he did as he was asked immediately.

At least he made it to the funeral. (As far as I can tell).

Looking over his resume suggests this guy is one of the nicest dudes around. If you look at his projects they lean significantly to charity work. Hope United takes a real beating for this.

Chris Dupres said,
Looking over his resume suggests this guy is one of the nicest dudes around. If you look at his projects they lean significantly to charity work. Hope United takes a real beating for this.

Charity work and personality are two different things but don't see how this is news!

Chris Dupres said,
Looking over his resume suggests this guy is one of the nicest dudes around. If you look at his projects they lean significantly to charity work. Hope United takes a real beating for this.

Not that I personally think any of this was warranted, I do have to say it's unlikely the flight attendant or anyone else for that matter is going to pull up a person's resume, look into whom they work for or check out their LinkedIn profile before tossing them off a plane.

nekkidtruth said,

Not that I personally think any of this was warranted, I do have to say it's unlikely the flight attendant or anyone else for that matter is going to pull up a person's resume, look into whom they work for or check out their LinkedIn profile before tossing them off

nekkidtruth said,

Not that I personally think any of this was warranted, I do have to say it's unlikely the flight attendant or anyone else for that matter is going to pull up a person's resume, look into whom they work for or check out their LinkedIn profile before tossing them off a plane.

No, but it reduces the odds (in my mind) that he was belligerent or aggressive. Better to throw an ex-con off a plane than a charity superstar in the court of public opinion.

Chris Dupres said,

No, but it reduces the odds (in my mind) that he was belligerent or aggressive. Better to throw an ex-con off a plane than a charity superstar in the court of public opinion.

Bill Gates is the king of all charity and he was an a**!

nekkidtruth said,

Not that I personally think any of this was warranted, I do have to say it's unlikely the flight attendant or anyone else for that matter is going to pull up a person's resume, look into whom they work for or check out their LinkedIn profile before tossing them off a plane.

This goes to show, you should always treat others with respect, and as you would want to be treated... you knew know if they have a public forum to destroy you or your company for your poor customer service and treatment.

What a bunch of t*****s, talk about hitting somebody when they are down... Speaking metaphorically that is. I hate UA they treated me like and the misses like ***t when I went to the States for a months holiday visiting quite a lot of States. Me and the misses are vegetarians they messed up our meals, even though I selected that would be two vegetarians and we had to eat fruit all the way to the States. One can only eat so much fruit and it put me off fruit for a couple of years. Not a big fan of UA at all. he sounds like a really nice guy and I just hope he files a lawsuit against them.