Woman misses flight because of gender. Or because she was late.

Today, the Home Warrior came across this story and he thought I would want to see it. He was right, as usual. Sounds like Jennifer Winning was trying to fly home from a small Wyoming airport, and for some reason security was closed and she wasn’t able to make her flight. Once I read the article from MSNBC, I felt like I had a lot of questions.  Another (short) piece was written about the incident in USA Today, but there’s still a lot of missing information.

“They wouldn’t let me get on the plane because I’m female,” Winning told FOX31 in Denver.

Well that’s pretty inflammatory! You see that, and you think, wow! That’s unacceptable.  Is that what actually happened?

From MSNBC:

Winning told the TV station that she arrived at the security checkpoint at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of her United Express flight (operated by SkyWest) to Denver, but was informed by a Transportation Security Administration employee that she couldn’t be screened because the security checkpoint had been closed and that all the female agents were off duty. If Winning needed a pat-down, there was no one available to perform it.

She told them that was fine, she would sign a waiver, but no dice. So she ended up renting a car to drive home instead of flying.

United said that in this airport, customers are required to have completed their check in process at least 30 minutes before the flight takes off (Of course, my question is–does that include going through security?), and that Winning tried to go through security 27 minutes before takeoff.  The TSA says that once the airline lets them know that security screening is no longer needed, the checkpoint is closed. From USA Today:

However, the TSA says Winning wasn’t allowed to board because she was late and the flight had been closed after several final boarding calls.

It just seems so weird. In small airports, they will often close security if there are no flights going out. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve seen people miss flights they easily could have made because of it. What neither story answers is: would they have re-opened the security checkpoint if the passenger were a man? If the issue is that the security checkpoint was closed, well, that’s unfortunate but that’s what happens when you cut it super close to your flight time. If the issue is that they could have reopened it, but didn’t because there were no female screeners on hand, well, that is another issue entirely.

The USA Today version adds another twist: it says Winning was there, at the airport, and the flight was delayed. She went outside, came back in, and it was too late. There’s no mention of that in the MSNBC article–just that she got there about 30 minutes before her flight took off, and the checkpoint was closed. If it’s true, and she were right outside, wouldn’t she have heard those “Last call for security!” announcements TSA made?

It sounds to me like when TSA tried to explain to her that the checkpoint was closed, she wouldn’t accept it. So they told her that there were no female officers on hand, hoping that would work. Not a smart move (and TSA isn’t exactly known for being at the top of their game all the time), but not the dumbest thing they’ve ever done.

Readers, what’s your take? Do you think she was denied because she’s a woman? Or that she was just too late and refused to accept responsibility?

Comments

  1. This seems more like the “I walked to the next gate during a delay and didn’t hear the announcements” stories than any real gender discrimination.

    She voluntarily left the area where she could hear announcements and when she came back she had missed the announcements and missed her flight. In this case it was because security was closed, that’s it.

    @ Mika – why would United have ANY responsibility in this case? The rules were clear and she didn’t follow them. It was her own mistake to go somewhere where she couldn’t hear them calling the flight.

  2. sounds like another idiot just complaining about her own mistakes. I bet she’s some either rich snob or a poor whore that likes to blame the world for everything.

  3. Reminds me of an AA flight (operated by IB) I tried to take Feb 11 last year from JFK – MIL. I had to take the subway there, and for whatever reason my train way delayed over 30 minutes, making my arrival for check-in 70 minutes before departure. There was only 1 non-elite agent available & by the time I made it to the counter it was 2 minutes past the checked baggage cut-off time.

    AA said my only option was to pay additional $600 to change to the next available flight (apparently, if I was ineligible for free standby BC I wasn’t ticketed on AA metal or AA elite at the time). Bc I had used Travelocity to purchase my AA listed ticket, IB said they couldn’t help either .

  4. There’s not enough facts to make a real decision in the case. In theory though, if Skywest made the call to close the checkpoint as was reported and is normal at smaller airports, then there was no obligation to keep a female screener on hand.

    As to gender bias, there’s an easy measure for that, just reverse the situation. If a man came to a checkpoint staffed only by women would the same thing happen? According to TSA rules, yes.

    We’ve made our beds with respect to opposite sex pat downs at airport checkpoints and the screeners were right in following their rules.

    As to UA/Skywest, in my experience they won’t pickup the tab for a rental car in lieu of a flight. I’ve had multiple times where due to a late connection I missed “the last flight out” and at best you can expect a hotel and meal vouchers.

  5. A lot of smaller airports that are only served by “Express” regional carriers have this issue. I’ve seen it happen many times before where ticketing/check-in counters close down 30 minutes to departure time due to operational staffing and passengers that arrive late assume that they can just waltz through security without a boarding pass.
    I think in this case, the lady arrived after check-in cut off time, after which she was deemed a no-show by the airline who then told TSA that check in was closed and the airline would not accept any more passengers for check-in. TSA then probably closed down the checkpoint and began sending their employees home. If TSA did not have their minimum staffing to operate the checkpoint, they could not have been reopened whether the passenger was male or female. I’ve seen this happen many times before at regional airports. This explains why TSA would claim she was late and the flight was closed after several final boarding calls and why they know when she attempted to clear security in relation to check-in cutoff time.

  6. It all boils down to time. Even at a small airport, arriving at the airport in anything less than 45 minutes from flight time increases the risk of not making it on the flight.

  7. There have been a number of threads about certain airlines closing the doors early on their flights. The moral of this story of this story is the same as for those who are don’t make their flights when the gates close a little early. GET there EARLY! Bring a book or some work or make some calls. Don’t cut it close. It is not the airlines or the TSAs responsibility for the passenger to be on time

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