The Encounter with TSA Flight Rules: Being Kicked Off a Flight by TSA

tsa flight rulesOn a trip to Russia The Husband and I boarded our United flight, settled into our seats and took a deep breath. We were on our way. Or so we thought…

When you’re flying into Moscow from the US you’re usually the minority on-board. At the time we weren’t allowed to discuss why we were going to Russia (adopting Princess Two) so as to avoid conversation I had learned to keep my head down, lower my voice and limit my English. Thus, I delved into the new edition of US Weekly. The Husband on the other hand was admiring the scenery and soaking in the “culture” on the plane before we were fully re-immersed in it. And that’s when it hit him. Yes, actually hit him. The Husband got an elbow to the leg from across the isle as two passengers got into a “little scuffle”. One man from the States and another from Russia.

I’ve witnessed a few fights in my life but never one on a plane. I was actually scared. I mean really, two big people yelling and pushing each other in a confined space with you right next to them (with no exit strategy) is a bit unnerving. The poor flight attendant along with a few other passengers had to break things up. Yes, I put my hand on The Husbands leg and urged him to keep to his seat and reminded him we were on our way to meet with a judge in Russia regarding custody of our daughter. Not the time to get into ANY trouble.

Apparently, the man from Russia had a daughter in her tweens who had been seated away from the rest of the family. As there was an empty seat next to her (on an isle of three seats, the American and child had an empty seat between them) the father came to sit next to his daughter so she wasn’t alone. Good Dad move in my opinion. Apparently, the American didn’t think so, or would have preferred the seat to remain vacant. Regardless, there were words between the two and with the language barrier things got a bit “heated”. It was actually the American who escalated things. The man from Russia continued to apologize and reiterate he simply wanted to sit next to his child in the vacant seat. Another man from Russia in the isle in front of them who also had a vacant seat next to him volunteered to change seats with him. The American was happy as he got his way.

I was embarrassed. For the American. For the fact that he represented my country. I kept my head down. I didn’t speak. I read my magazine while he popped two sleeping pills and got cozy and fell asleep in his seat.

And then it happened. A voice on the overhead speaker broke the silence, “My apologies for the delay. I have been made aware of an incident on the aircraft that is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The doors have been opened and TSA officers will be be boarding. We ask that everyone remain seated.” Hello TSA flight rules – or the captains rules.

Wow. Now the question was who was going to be escorted off the plane? The American? The Russian?

Three BIG and very intimating men in TSA uniforms walked toward us, lead by a petite, uniformed woman who did all the talking. They had to wake the American; remember he popped sleeping pills. He had no clue why he was being asked to deplane. Really?!?

I was proud. Proud of my captain. He (in a small way) saved the reputation of the few Americans on that plane. Or at least I felt he did… But I had one question. What was going to happen to this man? Did he get arrested? Did he get fined with a ticket? What TSA flight rules did he really violate? Would he lose the money he spent on his flight? Would he be allowed to fly on United again? Would he get to Russia? Not that I really cared what happened to this specific individual; he was a jerk, but I had never thought about it and wanted to know. After-all people are kicked off for less crimes, such as a crying baby or an offensive t-shirt.

The flight-attendants on-board weren’t sure what would happen when I asked them (in private, at the back of the airplane at 2am). But my girlfriends who are also flight attendants filled me in on the process after the fact. I was told it totally depends on the offensive. That makes sense. In this instance the man was probably booked on the next flight to Moscow and simply had to wait until it was time to leave.

The thing I never knew though was that every airline has a contract of carriage that lists the violations that can get you banned from boarding or even kicked off a plane. Most include things that prohibit passengers from doing anything that endangers the safety or comfort of fellow flyers (that can include a lot of things). The big thing though is that these violations are subject to interpretation by airline employees. Hence the reason why we see people getting kicked off planes for smelling badly, wearing offensive t-shirts, crying kids, etc. Everyone interprets things a bit differently.  (Check out Seven Ways to Get Kicked Off a Plane on

Have you ever been kicked-off a flight by TSA? Witnessed someone being kicked-off?



  • I know all about putting the hand on hubby’s leg, telling him to keep out of it! We were sitting at the back of the plane on a short domestic flight in Canada and a passenger was standing in the entrance of the back galley, “shooting his mouth off” to the flight attendant, talking about this and that, complaining, but using rude language. Was he drunk or just a moron?

    You could tell the attendant was just trying to bide her time, get some work done, and wait for the man to take his seat for takeoff. Finally my husband spoke up, told the man to watch his tone, and suggest he take his seat. I was so worried this guy would punch him! But he just shot his mouth off some more and eventually went to sit down.

    The flight attendant thanked us for being there for her. I was on the verge of a freak out, thinking we were so close to a brawl, when another passenger, sitting 2 aisles up, identified himself as a member of the military (in civilian clothing) and said he was ready to have our back (and that of the attendant) if our ‘guy’ got violent. Whew!!!

    The funniest thing is that this guy was ranting about rich government workers flying first class everywhere (great, a government ranter! on an airplane! Just what we all want!). And it turns out all of us at the back of the plane, in economy, worked for the government – what is this mythical first class we’re entitled to!!??!

  • I used to work for CATSA-ACSTA, which is Canada’s version of the TSA. In Canada it would most likely be either an onboard secret air marshall or a representative from the airport police detachment (the bigger airports I believe all have their own on-site police detachments) who would be responsible for removing an unruly passenger, so it’s quite interesting to read that the TSA agents do this in the US. I haven’t witnessed any situations like this. I’m glad nothing bad happened (relatively speaking) in your case.

  • wow.. very interesting. I never had such an experience onboard and I can understand the unsettling feeling you were feeling. I am very claustrophobic to begin with and such an event that occur in a confined space will definitely push me to the edge. Glad to know these TSA rules. Will never know when I might find them handy 🙂

  • I’ve never been kicked off a plane, BUT I also would object to someone taking an empty seat on such a long flight, having that seat open is a luxury. If you want to change seat to accommodate being with others in your party, that should be done at the ticket counter, or with agreed moves made within the plane. Just my humble opinion.

  • Never been kicked off a plane. But I’m surprised I wasn’t arrested for flipping everyone off in Phoenix when they took my kid’s water bottle. Long story….

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