News

A Flight With a Massive Fuel Leak Almost Took off Like Everything Was Fine

United Airlines is doing little to escape the avalanche of negative PR that transpired after its forced removal of a passenger went viral earlier this year. A couple en route to their Italian honeymoon this week noticed something peculiar and potentially disastrous outside of their plane’s window at Newark International Airport: a fuel leak gushing from the plane’s left wing.

Rachel Brumfield and her husband Michael filmed the leak as it spurted fuel and pooled on the tarmac. Not sure what was happening, but unwilling to take any chances, Michael summoned help from the cabin crew. As the New York Post reports, he sprinted down the aisle -- obviously disturbed -- informing flight staff that something was amiss as the plane prepared for departure. His pleas were met with borderline hostility, according to Rachel Brumfield’s account of the interaction:

“He’s like, ‘But something’s not right.’ They [flight staff] said, ‘Is it an emergency?’ He said, ‘I don’t know,’ so they said, ‘Go sit down.’ They said, ‘Everything’s normal,” she told the paper.

As a last minute precaution, a stewardess looked out the window, only to see jet fuel spewing from the 767’s wing. The plane was then stopped, and the same flight attendant that rebuffed Michael’s warning offered an apology.

While the flight’s staff did say thank you to the couple with a glass of champagne in the cockpit, all the airline offered in consolation was a meal voucher, per the report. They slept on the floor of baggage claim, only until another passenger was kind enough to gift them a hotel voucher as a reward.

Rachel Brumfield claims the couple is never flying United again -- and that’s without ever achieving liftoff in one of its planes. The airline, for its part, issued a statement on the incident, which doesn’t mention the couple:

“While taxiing to the runway yesterday evening, United flight 170 traveling from Newark to Venice, Italy returned to the gate due to a fuel leak, and was later cancelled. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience. Our team helped provide customers with hotel accommodations for the night and are working to get them back on their way to Venice today.”

United’s vortex of bad news has been pretty unceasing since the forced removal incident in April: stories include rogue scorpions, near crash-landingscockpit access codes made public and a giant rabbit meeting a premature death. Other couples heading on romantic journeys have been similarly affected by the airline, which promised a massive overhaul of company procedure after botching its response to the public’s outcry.

The couple managed to score a flight to Venice for their honeymoon cruise via Delta, and are hopefully somewhere in the sun, far away from any kind of jet fuel. 

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.