By Ken Hegan for MSN

Did you hear the one about the grumpy flight attendant?

Here’s some good news: if your flight from L.A. to London was delayed or cancelled because of a bomb threat, it wasn’t from a militant terrorist organization like Al-Qaeda. No, just a guy from Southern California who was training to become an American Airlines (AA) flight attendant.

United airlines

There’s a mad moon on the rise              AP Photo/Nick Ut

From October 2012 to January 2013, Patrick Cau called in eight fake bomb threats to United Airlines and 911 operators. Cau, 40, made the calls from pay phones in L.A., New York City, Las Vegas, and Seattle. Why United? The airline confirmed that they were once Cau’s employer but wouldn’t reveal why he no longer works there.


Police finally realized Cau was on the TSA’s no-fly list under his assumed name Patrick Kaiser. In May, they caught up to him in Forth Worth, Texas where AA was teaching Cau how to mime-buckle a seatbelt. AA says they hired Cau in February and he passed their security checks without raising any alarm bells.

CauI don’t know what’s more amazing: That a would-be flight attendant made bomb threats to a rival airline, or that he managed to find a pay phone anywhere.

AA promptly fired him and Cau was charged with making fake bomb threats. According to WFAA news in Dallas, he’s expected to plead guilty in a California federal court next week.

United, of course, took the threats very, very seriously. They evacuated the targeted airplanes, towed them to safe areas, searched and re-screened each passenger and all their baggage and cargo, and used dogs to search the planes. Total cost of the disruptions: $267,912.

Not only does Cau face 21 to 27 months in jail (maximum sentence is five years), turns out he’s a German citizen facing possible deportation. Plus United wants to send him a monstrous bill for the hassles. If Cau accepts the plea deal, he must pay a whopping $250,000 in retribution to United. That’s a lot of scratch. It’ll be hard to raise that much money in jail, unless he uses his daily pay phone call to bilk seniors out of their savings.

If you’re like me, you’re left with one big question: “Why?’

Did Cau make the threats as payback for being fired? Or maybe he was supposed to work on each of those flights but was too lazy to call in sick?

According to an Australian paper, Cau’s lawyer John Duran said United failed to investigate Cau’s claims that a male supervisor sexually harassed him.

“There was an actual basis for his unhappiness with United,” said Duran. “He’s a good guy who made some really poor decisions.”

Wow, if he got that angry over being sexually harassed, imagine how he’ll feel in prison.

— Ken Hegan

Read all Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

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