The pilot boarded the plane dressed in street clothes, and her “long, bizarre speech” spooked more than a dozen passengers into leaving the aircraft, The Washington Post reports.
United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart confirmed to The Associated Press the pilot wasn't in uniform when she boarded the plane Saturday. He said the carrier brought in a replacement pilot for the Austin-to-San Francisco flight, which ultimately was delayed by about two hours.
Passengers on the flight shared details of the unusual incident on social media, posting commentary and even video of the pilot talking to passengers over the intercom system. Several passengers expressed concern about the woman’s mental stability.
"She shows up dressed like a civilian and asked us to take a vote to see whether we should have her change into her uniform or fly as is," passenger Pam O'Neal told San Francisco's KPIX TV after landing in San Francisco.
"She started off by saying that she had not voted for either Trump or Clinton because they're a bunch of liars. ... It just really sort of went downhill from there and didn't make a lot of sense to any of us," O'Neal added.
The Austin American-Statesmen cited a YouTube video of the incident – since removed – that the paper said showed some of the pilot's rant. In that video, the
Chris Moore tells the Washington Post he at first thought the woman was simply another customer on the flight.
“I thought she was a first-class passenger, complaining,” he said to the Post. “Then she grabs the mic.”
Hobart, the United spokesman, told AP that the company didn't immediately have additional information about the incident and said he didn’t know why the pilot was allowed on the plane in plain clothes. He said the company would launch an investigation and discuss the matter with the pilot.
“We hold our employees to the highest standards and have replaced this pilot with a new one to operate the flight, which has since departed from Austin,” the airline said in a formal statement. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”