Leaked EMail Regarding United Soda Incident

Last week, as has been all the buzz on social media, you’ve most likely heard the story where a passenger on a United Express flight was denied a closed can of soda, because she might use it as a weapon. Whatever variation you want to take on the incident, there are a ton of different spins on the story.

Rants of a Sassy Stew has uncovered an interesting email from the CEO of Shuttle America, the operating carrier for the United Express flight regarding the incident:

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Bryan Bedford Letter 06.05.15
Sent: Friday, June 05, 2015 3:31 PM
June 5, 2015

Dear Fellow Associates:

I am writing today regarding the recent media coverage involving one of our flight attendants and a passenger on board one of our United Express flights to Washington, D.C. last Friday. The events that have transpired during and since the flight require further clarification at this time. During the cabin service portion of what was an otherwise ordinary flight, one of our flight attendants had an unfortunate encounter with a guest.

There has been extensive reporting on the incident and as is many times the case, not all of what has been reported is accurate. Additionally, some key details of the incident were not reported at all, but one thing that has been reported is what was most problematic. A female guest, wearing a hijab, asked for an unopened can of Diet Coke and was told that it was not allowed “because the unopened can could be used as a weapon.” The guest was left with the impression that the comment was expressed because of bigotry or discrimination on behalf of our flight attendant.

The comment was a regrettable, off handed comment that was an incorrect statement of policy. Yet, we understand how the comment could be offensive to a passenger. Our flight attendant sincerely apologized to the passenger and in most cases that would have been the end of the story. But in today’s social media world, it only took hours for an isolated comment to be turned into a media firestorm.

The company truly regrets that the incident occurred and I have written a letter of apology to our passenger and to our partner. Additionally, we are reviewing our current sensitivity training to determine whether any improvements are necessary to insure our customer facing associates continue to have the best possible training to help avoid such inadvertent exchanges in the future.

In closing, I do want to assure our associates that based on our preliminary investigation, we do not believe the flight attendant’s comment was intentional, was made with any racial bias, or was intended to be an act of discrimination against this passenger. While we respect United’s position in this matter, we continue to support our flight attendant. When someone makes a mistake, they should admit their error, express genuine remorse, and offer a sincere apology. Our flight attendant (and the company) has done that. For our part, we are obligated to respond with forgiveness.

Best regards and God bless,


If you’re wondering my opinion on the story, here it us:

  • I agree with the letter in thinking the incident was not made with any racial bias or was intended to be an act of discrimination. Purely, I think it was a mis-interpretation of words.
  • According to the story I heard about the “verified passenger” who overheard the entire incident, the passenger in question in the incident was not given the full can because the stock of that particular soft drink was low and the flight attendant, rightfully so, was trying to save some some from other passengers, since she started service in the front of the cabin.
  • Of course, with social media, things always seem to take a different spin, as people share it, and share their own differing opinions.
  • I believe Shuttle America has confirmed that the flight attendant in question is still employed (she was not fired), though I believe she may now be working for a different company?
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Regardless of what you think of the story, or what your opinion is, it’s certainly interesting to read the letter from the Shuttle America CEO.

What’s your take on the United soda can incident?

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  1. Michael says

    The best way to avoid these incidents is simply to have a policy that no one gets a full can of soda, without having to offer up any other explanation. Several airlines have done this. If there is enough supply, a passenger can always ask for seconds once they are finished drinking their first cup. The FA’s comment was regrettable, but probably honest, but as I stated, could have been avoided by not feeling they had to explain themselves.

  2. Security Theatre says

    The best way to avoid these incidents is to stop believing nonsense that unopened soda cans are to be feared. What about laptops? you get hit over the head with one of those you are out cold. What about pocketknives? They’re back to a limited extent. The only true safety method, which we already have, is the strengthening and locking of the cockpit. It’s time to bring rationality to procedures and stop this ridiculous fear of soda cans.

  3. Jana says

    Have to disagree with you on this one – what about the passenger who told her to F ??? Why didn’t the FA step in? Clearly she agreed with the swearing passenger.

  4. don K says

    Read some of the comments from other passengers. You can see a good writeup from a passenger that was on the flight on FlyerTalk. This woman was looking for something to complain about. There is always more to a story and we have not heard from all sides.

  5. mark johnson says

    “Best regards and God bless” Hardly seems like something someone in his position would write. Is this “leaked” email real?

  6. Stephan says

    In the end it’s always about “race” or “bigotry” when someone doesn’t get what they want in this country today. It’s ridiculous. That, and idiotic anti-terrorism rules that mean nothing and accomplish nothing. Flying on US airlines is beyond a joke these days.

  7. tom says

    When telling someone that an “unopened can” can be used as a weapon and giving an unopened beer to another passenger is much more than unintentional. This definitely has bias.

    • says

      The story from the other passenger in the area was that the type of Coke the Muslim passenger requested was running low, so in order to preserve some for other passengers, the FA decided to only pour a cup and not give the can. Personally, that’s an acceptable thing to do.

  8. Carfield says

    Why can’t the F/A be honest with the passenger? Just tell her the truth and none of these will happen. The “weapon” comment is hurtful and has strong racist and anti-Islam tone, whether intentional or not. Why could the F/A be honest with the passengers? “Sorry Miss, we are a bit short on our supply of diet coke on today’s flight and I can’t give you a whole can. If you don’t mind, I can offer you X, Y, or Z.” She can even offer to wipe a fresh can of diet coke with a napkin before opening it. Those are basic customer service.

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