United Flight Diverts and Boots Family Off, Because They Didn’t Like the Movie???

United Airlines Airbus A320

United Airlines (file)

A United Airlines flight diverted and kicked a family off the plane due to ‘security concerns” when the family criticized the movie being shown, according to multiple reports.

A family traveling with their two sons (aged 4 and 8) on UA Flight 638 from Denver to Baltimore say they were alarmed at the movie being shown on the drop-down screens. The R-rated movie “Alex Cross” was too violent for their kids to see according to the couple. So they requested that the movie be turned off.

Fox News reports:

‘”Alarmed by the opening scenes, we asked two flight attendants if they could turn off the monitor; both claimed it was not possible,” the family said, according to The Atlantic.

After some back and forth between the family and the flight crew, the family reportedly relented to the movie being shown and did their best to engage their children to keep them from watching the movie.

“We asked if the captain has the authority to address this issue, but received no response,” the family said. “Throughout these interactions the atmosphere was collegial, no voices were raised and no threats, implicit or explicit, of any kind were made. The flight continued without incident, while my wife and I engaged our children to divert their attention from the horrific scenes on the movie screens.”‘

But reports say a short time later the Captain announced he was diverting the plane to Chicago due to “security concerns”.

The family was then questioned by the FBI after they got off the plane at O’Hare.

The family says the Captain overreacted:

“We understand that airline captains can and should have complete authority,” the family said. “However, when this authority is used for senseless, vindictive acts, it must be addressed.”

United Airlines said:

“United flight 638 from Denver to Baltimore diverted to Chicago O’Hare after the crew reported a disturbance involving a passenger,” United Airlines told FoxNews.com. “The flight landed without incident and the customers were removed from the aircraft. We reaccommodated the customers on the next flight to Baltimore and have since conducted a full review of our inflight entertainment.”

How about reviewing when you should divert the plane because someone didn’t like the movie? Maybe that could be reviewed too….?


Something is missing here. Why did the family get kicked off?? What was the ‘disturbance’?? If the family made threats….then tell us. But nothing more than their general statement. Divert the plane?  Really??


  1. Erik Winter says

    First of all this is not the full story, I’m 99% sure of that…

    Second of all I think that it would have been rude to stop a movie just because a couple thinks that it is not appropriate for there kids (for bloody sake one of them is 8 years old! Don’t tell me he does see violence at school); I’m sure that you could not listen to the movie if you did not have headsets so since I’m sure the parents did not buy them I don’t see the big deal, give your kid a book, a magazine, a iPad or even just make him look outside.

  2. Doug McPherson says

    I agree that there is likely more to the story but initially it does appear to be an overreaction on behalf of the crew. A piece of paper taped over the screen would have avoided these needless costs for both the airline and the other pax that were affected by this decision.

  3. Captain says

    I’m an Airline Captain myself. Of course, any security concern needs to be dealt with apropiately but…it is a family with two kids a security concern? In my airline, the captain would have been fired or demoted to an F/O position after demonstrating such a lack of common sense, delaying the other passengers and having the airline pay for all the extra expenses generated.
    The re-allocation of the family in another flight, demonstrates they weren’t such a security concern.

    • indyracer33 says

      I hope you’re never my captain. You’re stating your decision without knowing the “facts” of this situation. I like a rational better safe than sorry type captain (and airline) that puts the safety of its passengers ahead of additional expenses! Yeah, I would not like the delay, but if the captain says he/she has concerns that need to be resolved on the ground, then get the aircraft on the ground asap. I’m sure the captain knew what the delay meant for him/her and felt it was necessary to go through the red tape to ensure the passengers’ safety. Good for him/her!

      If I was United, I’d blacklist this family from future flights! Btw, I’ve got three grown kids that we have taken all over the world and we would never ask to have a movie turned off. We’ve certainly been subjected to a whole bunch of lousey movies on flights and when that happens we figure out something else to do!

  4. says

    Did you see that this incarnation of the story has already altered the facts. the source story reports the movie was rated PG. This story says it was R. Credibility is Z for zero.

    • Kenneth Holland says

      Altered the fact(s) Shane?

      Is it a fact that the movie was rated PG? If so, we will change it.

      So if true one mistake and no credibility?

      I don’t think the movie rating has much to do with what happened.

      And what other facts did we alter exactly?

      Many of our readers consider us pretty credible from what we hear every day. :)

  5. Lee Elliott says

    the affected tw@t parents shoulda just changed the channel, folded up the movie into the back rest and told the brats to look out the window ffs!

  6. says

    First of all, False News is never a credible source to cite. We do not know the real reason the captain diverted, period. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? “Captain” I would think that you would expect to be respected for your decisions, or at the least, be given the benefit of the doubt till all the facts are known-surprised you don’t do that for another captain. We do not know if he diverted due to a simple customer service issue, or if there were other security concerns involved. The movie was PG-13, and if kids are not wearing earphones or looking at the tiny TV’s it shouldn’t be a big deal, something doesn’t seem right. But again, I don’t know so I won’t judge the family either :).

  7. Lee Elliott says

    Those parents should realize that the “leave it to beaver” utopian lifestyle is no longer in effect and need to gauge their lack of parenting skills towards themselves!

  8. Frequent Flyer says

    Seriously? Parenting skills? I would not let my 4 year old watch that movie and it was inappropriate to show it on the overhead screens on an airplane.

    • indyracer33 says

      My parenting skills would allow me the ability to engage my 4 year old in something else so he/she wouldn’t “worry” about a movie and not interfere with the operation of an airline flight or the rights of the other passengers to be left alone.

      • Franklin says

        Dude, the issue isn’t the movie (some passengers complain about everything), the issue is that the captain screwed up a flight for hundreds of people and cost the company a pile of money because of a “security threat”. The family went on to take another flight so where’s the security threat?

  9. Frequent Flyer says

    Wow. Quite the reaction. If you want to let your 4 year old watch a violent movie, I don’t object. But, if United subjects my 4 year old to that movie, I will fly a different airline. That’s the way our capitalist society works.

      • Nobody says

        The flight shows the movie across the entire plane.
        The family can’t change the channel. It’s not your TV set you have at home.

        Try doing some basic airline research before calling people morons.
        And look in a mirror.

      • Exuma Guy says

        @ Lee Elliott- Much of United’s fleet has movie screens overhead, not in the seat backs. Therefore they can’t simply be turned off nor can the channel be changed. To tell children to look out the window, which is very boring when there is so much haze and clouds that the ground can’t be seen, brings into question your credentials for judging how others should raise their children.

        • says

          However, knowing this, parents must come prepared to know that all movies are not going to be rated G. It is not only an airlines for kids. I’m sure there would be complains on that as well. Everyone has different standards for raising kids, some don’t let their kids watch tv at all, in that case, just come prepared with a different form of entertainment for your kids. The movie was rated PG-13. I would have understood more if it was Rated R, because it is restricted.

      • Flyer says


        It appears that you are the biggest idiot.

        You don’t read the story (or understand it), yet you feel free to criticize those who have.

        I suggest you apologize.

  10. Frequent Flyer says

    IMDB description of the movie, “A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.”

    Sounds perfect for a four year old.

  11. Shawn says

    I’ve often wondered if there are regulations for movies on flights. Often I’ve flown with younger brothers and sisters and for the whole 8-hour flight R-rated movies were playing directly above us. Obviously other passengers might enjoy certain movies, but don’t they have some sort of list of movies when they are playing in plain view of all audiences? I definitely think it was an overeaction to divert though.

    And the movie was actually PG-13 rated, but had a warning that it contained extensive violent and sexual content. Definietly not the thing for 4 and 8 year olds.


    • Exuma Guy says

      There are no FAA regulations concerning entertainment selections. I watched this movie on a United flight last week. I saw it originally in a country with strong censorship, and don’t know if the first release had any sexual situations, but the United version does not. United’s version does have the violence, and the opening scenes are graphic, but not excessive. The scenes may be inappropriate for a 4 year old by some parents’ standards, but most 4 year olds have seen it before.

  12. Dave Blevins says

    You gotta be kidding me ! I would have reamed that “captain” if I was his supervisor for many things. We are now losing a huge battle in our American society regarding decency. It’s very obvious from some of these comments. Shawn, you are correct, and I don’t know if it’s possible to turn off individual monitors or change channels. We have a lot of FAILED leadership in America as well. That is a fact and extremely evident from the top ( president), down. Everyone try and have a really nice day and night. Remember that when you wake in the morning it is always your choice as to how you want to look at yourself and the world. Smile, and treat others nice. What a huge waste of money and time for this diversion.

  13. Geoff says

    This is a bit O.T.T both by the parents and captain going by this story what people esp parents need to realise that they are not the only people on a plane why should the movie be turned off for only 4 people what about the rest of the passengers and what did the cabin crew say to the captain to make him change course one other thing the kids could have listened to the kids radio as all airlines cater to kids needs it all boils down to it is a parents job to look after the kids not everyone else to much of that going around these days where parents think they have all the rights and everyone else has none.

      • Flyer says


        You misunderstand me. I believe that you should apologize to those other posters you labeled idiots and morons because they disagreed with your suggestion that the facility should simply have turned the channel.

        As the story made quite clear, the plane was equipped with screens that dropped down. The family could not change the channel as you suggest. As a result, your solution was unavailable.

        Other posters (the ones you ungraciously called idiots and morons) actually read the story and understood this. You did not.

        I suspect that we have not been told the entire story. If we had, other passengers who were delayed because of the pilot’s decision to divert would have justifiably complained and this story would have erupted earlier. On the other hand, if the story is basically true, the pilot clearly deserves to be fired.

        Keep in mind that the reason so many have accepted the story is that the hassles in flying have increased considerably. And United appears to generate a disproportionate amount of complaints.

        United should be concerned that so preposterous a story took off.

    • Franklin says

      If you read the account you’ll see that the parents resigned themselves to distracting their kids while the movie played. If the idiot captain hadn’t diverted the plane, everyone would be happier. He may have received the wrong info from the flight attendant but he could have verified it before causing a huge inconvenience. I’ll bet even the parents that complained would have been happy to get to their destination more quickly. Its a common sense issue.

  14. katie says

    Well a simple google seach shows that this movie “Alex Cross” is rated PG-13. Not R. Read your kids a book. It’s not rocket science.

  15. Exuma Guy says

    Here’s what I read in this- What we have here is a lack of communication, between the cabin crew and the flight crew. Oh, and we may have some disgruntled pilots because there is a merger thingy happening. The clue is that the family was released from custody within 5 minutes of being detained, and that some of the crew timed out in Chicago (a crew base).

  16. Maverick says

    The flight had space available? And if it did why the cabin crew didn’t placed the family or part of the members on another section of the cabin? Did the captain any notion in what Direct Operations Costs concerns? Or something happened and we don’t know? Anyway the diversion seems to me a very bad move … and expensive!!!

  17. Maverick says

    Correction : I meant another program on the menu of entertainment’s choice would be a solution. Disregard the comment regarding the seats change. Tks!

  18. Lotus says

    I am almost ashamed to say that I was a United flight attendant for 34 years since the merger with Continental. They have taken our name, but
    everything has changed to CA. The CEO the training etc. Incidents like this tarnish the Name of a once highly respected airline even further.
    UAL used to show only movies with a G rating that everyone could enjoy.
    We never had to worry that children would be exposed to the kind of violence that is routinely shown on flights presently. United as well as most other airlines changed this policy several years ago. It is the right of every parent to protect their children. If your child can’t be admitted to a PG rated movie then why should airlines think it is fine to show onboard? I believe this captain went way OVERBOARD in his actions inconveniencing an entire plane full of passengers, not to mention the family who paid good money for their overpriced tickets. Good Grief, what is this country coming to when citizens have no rights?
    Airlines should respect all passengers regardless of age. Some airplanes have huge screens and children can’t help but see what is going on. I believe they owe this unfortunate family a free ride anywhere they wish to fly to along with a heartfelt apology. I hope this incident changes the future content of movies being shown inflight.
    By the way, I used to write up movies being shown that were inappropriate along with passenger complaints to assumingly no avail. I hope someone in the airline industry takes notice and offers flights with G rated movies. With long flights, a decent movie goes a long way to entertain restless people as well as children.

  19. Harold says

    I can’t believe that you people believe what the media is dishing you. You really think that an aircraft was diverted because someone nicely asked to have the monitor turned off? If that’s the case I am selling some ocean front property in Kansas if anyone is interested.

  20. Harold says

    I can’t believe that you people believe what the media is dishing you. You really think that an aircraft was diverted because someone nicely asked to have the monitor turned off? If that’s the case I am selling some ocean front property in Kansas if anyone is interested.

    • says

      Couldn’t agree with you more Harold. The issue of appropriate in-flight entertainment certainly warrants proper discussion, but to rush to judgement on the actions of this captain is way off-base. Obviously, this was reported only from the passenger’s point of view. A clue for me that indicates there’s much more to this story is the quote from the passenger where he asked if “the captain had the authority to intervene.” If he asked the FA’s that the captain leave the cockpit to intervene, certainly red flags would be going up for the crew. We also don’t know United’s SOP in this situation.

  21. retiredskybird says

    Jcos15: Amen! You are sooooo right! There’s a chunk missing & at some point the Captain said “ENOUGH!” ..I’ve seen enough up there & the story is not as ‘innocent’as it appears.

  22. Adam says

    There is a LOT of information missing from the above story that calling this a news report is Shameful. Sorry but that’s the truth, as for the resulting situation Depending on what TYPE of aircraft it was being a A319/320 or 737 more and more of United’s aircraft are being updated with the Seat Back TV Screens that CAN be shut off, was that the case I don’t know without going back and pulling up the actual tail number of that flight. Either way, the problem is The Parents didn’t like the movie, refused to comply with Flight Crew instructions and Calm Down and find something else for their children to do ( You don’t Have to Watch the Movie or use the Headsets for the Movies Station, there are plenty of Music stations available ). And When You Start refusing to follow Flight Crew instructions on -any- airline and become Disruptive to the flight Family, or a Single person alike you become a Risk and these people became Disruptive enough to the other customers and the Cabin Crew themselves that the decision was made to divert the aircraft. Nobody in this incident is to blame but the Family, Not United, Not the Captain, and not the Cabin Crew. But the family who wanted to piss and moan like the Children they were trying to “Protect” from a movie and Have everything Exactly Their Way. And Got It by being removed from an airplane in a Different City.

    • JJ Joseph says

      Adam, are you being an idiot on purpose? It was an old beater airplane with DROP-DOWN screens. They DID calm down and read a book for the rest of the flight. The family WASN’T disruptive. What’s your purpose in fabricating so much BS?

  23. Lee Ferrara says

    Shameful? Hmmm…

    And United told you all this? Because if they did, and you can verify it, we would gladly update the story.

    So please respond here if you would be so kind or you can email us.


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