Woman Thrown In Jail For Moving Into Empty Row Of Seats On United Flight


united-airlinesA Long Island woman claims she was treated like a criminal and pulled off of a flight just because she wanted to change seats.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported exclusively, the in-flight fight turned into a three-day stay in jail for the woman.

“They did handcuff me, there were three policemen that dragged me out of the plane,” said Jean Mamakos. (And did they tell you what they were charging you with?) They said trespassing.”

Mamakos, 68, of Huntington, never made it to her ski trip in Alaska.

Police in Seattle, where Mamakos and her ski club were changing planes, were called aboard the United aircraft to arrest her, McLogan reported.

One of the passengers recorded the incident.

Officer: “Do you want to come willingly or be arrested for trespass?”

Mamakos: “Whatever you have to do.”

Officer: “OK.”

Mamakos said she resisted the arrest because she had paid thousands in airfare for the round trip flight, and claims unfriendly flight attendants overreacted when she tried to move to an empty row after the doors closed for take off.

It was the third leg of a long cross-country trip, and she hoped to sleep.

“One of the stewardesses said ‘Oh no you don’t.’ Which stopped me in my tracks,” she said.

So Mamakos moved toward the front of the plane.

“So I went forward and then another stewardess came along and said ‘Give me your credit card,'” she said.

Seated now, resigned to her crowded row, an announcement was made.

“I heard the captain say ‘There is a lady that wants to get off the plane on this flight, so we have to wait,” she said.
Flight attendants then surrounded her.

“And said ‘You have to get off this plane.’ And I said ‘no, I paid for this seat and I’m going to stay here,'” she said.

Mamakos was eventually booked, fingerprinted and had her mug shot taken before she was sent to the county jail. Her bags and her shocked friends went on to Alaska.

“They enjoyed their ski trip and I had an experience in jail,” Mamakos said.

Her attorney, Patricia Swicicki, said Mamakos spent three harrowing days in jail because courts weren’t open on the weekend. They are suing United Airlines for $5 million.

United acknowledged the lawsuit and said it may be tried in Brooklyn federal court.

Read more at CBS LOCAL.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Is there anyway to see the actual charges from the Seattle police? If she’s telling the story as is, and charges were indeed trespassing, then I hope she wins. If the charges were disorderly conduct, or something similar, then may the truth come out that you can’t behave rudely on airplanes even if you’re tired.

  2. Be grateful that flight attendants are not permitted to carry firearms, otherwise we would soon see cases where passengers are fired upon because they looked crossly at airline personnel.

    Because of the new paradigm in air travel, passengers must immediately and without the slightest hesitation comply with any suggestion by flight personnel.

  3. That’s a real chutzpa on the airline’s part. Whenever there are empty seats, they usually are available for whoever takes advantage of them. I didn’t know it was a crime to use them. It’s getting harder and harder to fly comfortably for a reasonable price any more. Why did the airline have to do this?

  4. She should sue for as much as it would take to bankrupt the airline and add the stewardess to the law suit and bankrupt them as well.

  5. “Be grateful that flight attendants are not permitted to carry firearms”

    Clearly not a member of the National Rifle Association.

  6. It is forbidden for passengers to move around the cabin during taxiing and anyway before cruise altitude, and it is even more forbidden to change seats before staff has finished counting passengers, which among other things is a federal offence on USA arliners due to anti terrorist laws and regulations.

    Also, the story says she “moved forward” I suppose to the economy-plus seats (which carry a fare supplement, or are booked by the airline for very frequent travelers, full-fare, or other classes of special passengers).

    Airlines may or may not have a sign separating “economy-plus” from ordinary economy seats, but if they do, one may not trespass (IATA regulation); one needs to ask crew, and they will only permit it rarely. Say a lady needs lady-items? A steward will get it no problem in a business-class bathroom, but will hardly ever allow the tourist class passenger in business class bathroom (although they will e.g. if there are huge lines and a passenger is sick and needs the toilet right now). Say a passenger is hungry on a 10+ hours leg because their special meal was not onboard? The flight attendants will accommodate the passenger and bring some fruit from business class, but will rarely invite the tourist class passenger beyond the curtain without a serious and real reason. And so on.

    I can not understand why the lady did not ask the crew if she may move to the row of empty seats as she wishes to sleep.

  7. To Jet Queen
    Thank you for the information. However two things first, Airlines need to do a better job in educating passengers about regulations. Second it is necessary to have many of these regulations reviewed as the effect is it turns passengers in to prisoners— something has to change and not in favor of the airlines even if it is better information for the public,

  8. “So I went forward and then another stewardess came along and said ‘Give me your credit card,’”

    We know there are different prices for the seats.
    It is clear to me that the lady refused to pay the difference so this would be considered as trespassing the regulations, no? Liable to be thrown out of the plain?