CT Watchdog: Airline apologizes to sleepy passenger

United Airlines threw off a Niantic woman from a midnight flight to Hartford on April 9 because she was acting sleepy.

Mary Montesi, 46, said she could not believe that the pilot of the United flight from Las Vegas refused to let her fly because he told her she acted "impaired."

"I could see if I was drunk or belligerent but I didn't do anything," Montesi said in a telephone interview. "I don't know why they treat people that way, it was very upsetting."

Montesi was flying back to Hartford with her parents, who decided to get off the plane with their daughter so she would not have to stay by herself. The three were put up in a hotel by United and were rebooked to fly back the following day.

However, United refused to unload the family's luggage from the plane even though her parents told employees that they had their medicine in their luggage. Mary's father, Leonard Montes, is diabetic and needs to take two pills daily. He also lost a day's pay from his job at Electric Boat where he has worked for 48 years.

Mary's mother, Arlene Montesi, thinks she knows why their daughter was kicked off the plane - to make room for a pilot who wanted a seat on the fully booked flight.

Arlene Montesi, who uses a wheelchair, said she was told by the skycap who pushed her wheelchair at the airport about the pilot needing a seat on the flight.

And she said, she saw a man walking toward the plane carrying a pilot's uniform over his shoulder.

United declined to address the issue of whether that allegation was true with the family or with CtWatchdog.

When they returned to Niantic the three wrote complaint letters to United, as well as to the Las Vegas airport management and to the Federal Aviation Administration.

United quickly apologized and gave the family three $400 vouchers. And after I contacted the airlines, United called Mary and her father on May 29 to ask what else United could do to make up for what happened.

The three were taking the 11:33 p.m. flight from Las Vegas. Mary Montesi said she was tired and took an over-the-counter sleeping pill so she could fall asleep for the flight back.

After buckling their seat belts a stewardess told Montesi that the pilot wanted to talk to her.

So she and her father went up to the flight cockpit where the captain told them that he could not let Mary fly on his plane because she acted impaired.

He said that as the pilot he had the legal right to refuse to let anyone fly on his plane.

Both Mary and Leonard explained to the pilot that Mary had not been drinking and she only took a sleeping pill. However, the pilot did not relent.

In a letter to Leonard Montesi, Sheri A. Wittman, assistant general manager of United's Las Vegas operations, apologized for "your unfavorable experience."

"The flight crew had made a judgment call that allowed you not to travel on your Flight 284," she wrote. "Your daughter, MaryBeth had taken some sleeping pills before boarding the flight which gave her symptoms of not being able to stay awake which concerned the crew.

"The experience was very embarrassing and demeaning to your family and I apologize for this."

george@ctwatchdog.com; www.ctwatchdog.com

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