Just why did United UA842 divert into Miami this morning?

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Details to be confirmed, I should caution, but an extraordinary tale if true.

If you’re quick you can see here that UA 842 from Sao Paulo to Chicago O’Hare diverted into Miami this morning. That’s a pretty serious decision of course – adding an unexpected stop to what is already getting on for an eleven hour flight.

Here’s what United is saying about it on its website:


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So what is that ‘customer service’ issue exactly? Well, I’m told it’s the small matter of the captain not liking the attitude of one of the flight attendants. Yikes! Anyone know anymore?

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12 Responses to Just why did United UA842 divert into Miami this morning?

  1. Eager Eddie July 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    So Captain asks for an “air start” to help him sleep on break and she won’t oblige? I’d have her put off the the plane too. Used to be when I was a Captain that he was King.

    Get the popcorn out lads – this ought to be good!

  2. Jeremy July 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    Maybe she served him cold coffee ….

  3. Doy July 15, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    A very expensive diversion and surely ultimately needless. Were the police, or an ambulance called? If neither needed, why a divert on an international long haul flight? Several CRM issues raised out of this. Was FA threatening flight crew? Obviously there are several sides to the story (including what input was offered by rest of flight and cabin crew) but judgement on the part of both the FA and the Captain making the divert decision will be under intense scrutiny.

  4. Romas July 20, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    This captain is a friend of mine a top notch aviator, one of the best I know, a pilots pilot, captains are like bus drivers now, an average plumber makes more than a typical airline captain,I dont know the whole story but I’ll throw my card in w/ him. America, you get what you pay for! Romeo Papa

  5. Tammy July 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    Sounds like an ego problem to me!

  6. william July 25, 2009 at 7:03 pm #

    I work for United and heard that this was the captain’s first trip back from medical leave..What kind of medical is unknown but maybe he came back to work too soon..The rest of the crew including the 2 other pilots seem to be backing the purser…

  7. Wanda July 26, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    If the story I read is true, and he only wanted to be called “Sir” rather than by his name or even “Captain”, then his ego stood in his way. As a flight attendant for another major carrier, respect is a two-way street, and his demand for the crew dec while the f/a’s were in the middle of the FC service was unreasonable and ego driven. To divert for such inflight crew issues was assinine.

  8. joyce ryan August 1, 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    United is backing the Purser 110%. The captain, Leigh Smith, has been pulled off of his flights…suspended by United and FAA has suspended his license, pending further investigation. ALPA (pilots union) has to defend him, but he was a SCAB in pilots strike in 1985….in addition to being ego bloated and crazed…he’s toast. Hope he enjoyed that final flight…

  9. jet jokee August 4, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    Sorry Joyce Ryan but Leigh is not the “Smith W. L” or the “Smith Lee” on the scab list. I have no knowledge on the rest of the info though.

  10. CAF Flight Crew August 17, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    I know & have flown many times with captain Leigh Smith, he is one of the best pilots flying. If he diverted there was a serious problem with the crew member. Leigh has no ego problems what so ever, he is the 1st one to help get the job done no matter what it takes, he is an everyday person. As far as his medical leave goes it had nothing to do with his flying abilities. It is a tremendous loss not to have him flying while this BullS _ _T is thrown out. I trust my life in his hands any everytime my wife & I fly with him. There is nobody more knowledgeable, more stable & dependable than Captain Leigh Smith. Consumers loss not to have him up there protecting passengers. CAF

  11. Kieran Daly April 7, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Thanks Romas. Very interesting comment.

  12. fred perry August 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Wanted details! You clarified often the problem My spouse and i posted on StackOverflow.

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