A flight attendant has been fired after passengers raised concerns that she was drunk aboard their United Airlines flight from Chicago to South Bend, Ind. The attendant, later identified as Julianne March, now also faces criminal charges for public intoxication.
On an Aug. 2 morning United express flight, passengers expressed concern about the condition of their lone flight attendant, with some initially believing she had suffered a stroke, according to court documents of her charges from St. Joseph County, Ind. According to passengers’ accounts, flight attendant March, 49, was slurring her words, bumping into the aisle, dropping items and could barely stand before she promptly fell asleep in the jump seat.
Aaron Scherb, a passenger on Flight 4849, tried to direct message the United Airlines Twitter account to express his concerns about a potentially inebriated flight attendant. Before the flight took off from O’Hare International Airport without March confirming the cabin was secure, Scherb tells Yahoo Lifestyle he quickly tweeted out what he and other concerned passengers were suspecting — that their attendant was “drunk (or high) and had passed out.”
“Hey United, our flight attendant appears to be quite drunk on this from ORD to SBN,” Scherb tweeted on Aug. 2. “All the passengers seem to recognize it too. This is appalling.”
All the passengers seem to recognize it too. This is appalling— Aaron Scherb (@aaronscherb) August 2, 2019
According to Scherb’s account, March appeared to be in a drunk stupor for the duration of the flight, and too inebriated to fasten her own seat belt.
“After we were in the air, a female passenger toward the front of the plane noticed the flight attendant didn't have her seat belt on and helped strap her in,” Scherb tells Yahoo Lifestyle in an email.
Scherb says he approached the pilot after the flight landed at the South Bend International airport to report March and recommend that she not be on the returning flight. However, it appears as if the pilots already suspected something was amiss — two police officer were waiting for March at the gate to escort the attendant off of the flight.
According to court files, March began to cry when the South Bend International Police officers approached. When officers asked March where she was, she mistakenly responded, “Chicago.”
When police later breathalyzed March at the St. Joseph County Jail, she registered a 0.204 breath alcohol concentration level, which is five times over the legal limit as mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. March told police she had consumed two “vodka shooters” before going to work that morning.
March and the entire crew operating the flight on Aug. 2 were employed by Air Wisconsin, a regional carrier for United Airlines. Since learning of the incident, Air Wisconsin says they have fired March.
“The Flight Attendant involved in this incident is no longer employed by Air Wisconsin,” reads a statement from the company. “We will continue to cooperate with local authorities and assist them as necessary.”
Although United Airlines did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, a spokesperson told ABC News the following: “We expect our regional carriers to take appropriate action as required when issues like these happen with their employees. Legally and with regards to regulatory agencies this is an Air Wisconsin issue.”
On Aug. 8, March was charged with a misdemeanor for public intoxication. “...In state of intoxication caused by the person's use of alcohol or controlled substance, and Julianne Elizabeth March endangered the life of another person... the passengers on the flight,” reads a court document from St. Joseph County.
Passengers reportedly to local law enforcement “they felt scared for their lives.” Scherb tells Yahoo Lifestyle he was later contacted by a United Airlines representative, who offered him a $500 voucher or 25,000 miles in addition to a refund for that particular segment of the trip. Scherb says he has yet to accept either because he finds their response “insufficient.”
“Given that the safety and well-being of all 50 passengers on that flight was jeopardized, I find United's response to be insufficient, especially since United had just given a $1,200 voucher to a would-be passenger on United flight 4849 as we were about to board because the flight was oversold," says Scherb.
Despite his discontent with United Airlines and Air Wisconsin, he says he hopes that the airlines get March the help she may need.
"I would hope that United Airlines and Air Wisconsin treat this person as an employee, not as an expendable commodity, and that they will help her get treatment for addiction, if that's in fact what she suffers from,” says Scherb. “Given the significant safety and security roles that flight attendants have, United should consider adopting zero tolerance policies for flight attendants going forward.”
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