There are eight million stories in the naked city, as an old television show used to say. A United Airlines pilot was arrested for being one of them.

It's an embarrassing, mildly tawdry tale--but when you dig into the reasons behind United Airlines Capt. Andrew Collins's arrest, you just might find you have some sympathy.

And, you might also find yourself wondering just what life is like for pilots these days.

First the story. Collins, 54, has been with United Airlines for 22 years. As he told The Denver Post, last September he was up for about 30 hours straight, flying around the country and being diverted because of thunderstorms.

He arrived finally in Denver, and checked into the Westin Hotel at the airport. 

The next morning, he woke up around 10:30 a.m., and walked around his room, getting ready to take a shower. At one point he stood in front of the 10th floor window of his hotel room for more than 20 minutes while he talked on the phone.

Key detail: He was stark naked. Remember, he was alone in his hotel room, as he tells it, not expecting to see anyone, or to be seen. 

But then things took a turn for the worse: a knock at the door, cops barging in with their guns drawn. Collins wound up in handcuffs and carted off to an airport jail, where he was charged with indecent exposure.

The problem, as he tells it, is that he didn't realize the window he was standing in front of was transparent on both sides, or that anyone else was had a line of sight that would let them see him. Apparently, he was wrong.

"We're not disputing the fact that I was standing nude in front of the hotel window," Collins told the Post about the Sept. 20 incident. But he added, "Some witnesses said I was dancing, gyrating and waving. I'm completely innocent. It's really unfortunate that it happened at all."

Collins's lawyer later went to the same room Collins stayed in at the Westin to investigate. And he says he concluded it's totally reasonable for Collins not to have realized that anyone could see him while he was standing in front of the window.

"The concourse windows are tinted green and are opaque and reflective," the attorney, Craig Silverman, told the Post. From the hotel room, he said, "It's like looking at a green wall or a green mirror."

It's a misdemeanor case, and Collins has been "removed from his duties pending an internal review," a United Airlines spokesperson told me. Of course, he has the presumption of innocence under our justice system.

Collins doesn't quite blame what happened on the fact that he'd allegedly been up for 30 hours straight, but this story doesn't exactly make it seem like flying for United is any kind of glamorous, high-reward job.

Bounced around the country, up a day and a half, stuck in a hotel room waiting for your next flight--only to wind up humiliated and facing legal jeopardy. He's the head of his local union shop and was running for the national presidency when this all happened. That opportunity went out the window (sorry).

Airline employees have a lot of complaints these days. Heck, we've seen stories of pilots living in RVs in a parking lot at LAX because they can't afford regular housing.

Meanwhile, airlines say they're going to be short of pilots in the coming years, as younger people simply aren't enamored of flying the way their predecessors were. Stories like what happened to Collins don't make it easier.

He's due in court Dec. 5. His lawyer hopes he can get the whole thing dismissed.

Published on: Nov 24, 2018
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