One of the most difficult dilemmas when working in a customer-facing role is where to draw the line on the “consumer is always right” mentality. In the case of one United Airlines captain, a gratuitous insult by a 1K member proved to be the line.

United Captain Puts Premier 1K Member In His Place

A United pilot who has posted on FlyerTalk for years and flies Boeing 757s and 767s for United shared the following story:

The other day I was kicking off a trip, and we had a combat wounded veteran flying in the Polaris cabin. The GA [gate agent] who is a friend of mine made me aware of his presence.

Boarding was underway, but I had a few minutes and wanted to introduce myself one veteran to another, and thank him for his service. I did so, and we had a pleasant exchange.

As I turned to head back to the flight deck, a passenger two rows ahead, who had clearly heard our conversation says rather loudly, “Hey Captain, why are you thanking him? I’m a United 1K, and spend 45K a year flying your airline, where is my thanks?”

To be honest, his comment stopped me in my tracks, and for a second I didn’t know what to say. I smiled at him, said thank you, and that while I appreciated his business, I also appreciated the sacrifice a solider made in defense of our country.

His reply? “Who cares guys like me pay your salary.” I looked him square in the eye, and told him to fly another airline next time.

What a sad man that passenger is. It would be one thing if the United captain was thanking others for their business and skipped over him, if he does indeed spend that much (I doubt it..). But the pilot thanked the veteran for his military service, not his business.

United has told flight attendants and pilots to recognize 1K members, but that does not give passengers the right to be rude. The “who cares” line really rubbed me the wrong way.

Maybe the captain should have just walked away and not told him to go fly another airline. But the captain’s anger was righteous and I support him 100%.


I’m also a 1K member with United and I too love a word of thanks from a captain or flight attendant for my business. Yet I never demand it and find the disgruntled passenger’s conduct deplorable here. Soldiers do not send themselves to war…they go where they are assigned. Many never return home or return home very different than when they left. Thanking a soldier for his or her service does not imply anything more than being thankful for that soldier’s service.

Kudos to the captain.


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