When you shove a bunch of people into a metal can and force them to wait for hours to go anywhere, those people are probably going to get a bit cranky. And if you then ask some of those folks to exchange seats with extra legroom for seats with less space, well, things might get even more tense. Like on a recent JetBlue flight, where a former lawmaker was escorted off the plane after urging his fellow travelers to protest what he saw as crappy treatment by flight crew amid a six-hour delay.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. Senator from New York, was removed from a flight from Ft. Lauderdale to John F. Kennedy Airport on Monday night, reports the New York Post (warning: link contains video that autoplays).
D’Amato’s flight was originally slated to take off at 1:40 p.m., but was delayed until around 8 p.m. That’s when things went south for the three-term senator.
Eyewitness took video of the incident, with one passenger texting a Post reporter that D’Damato was kicked off the flight. The former lawmaker and others were already “super cranky” about the delay, the passenger said, and things got worse when the flight crew asked people who had upgraded to seats with extra legroom to move elsewhere due to “weight and balance issues” before the plane could finally take off.
That’s when D’Amato reportedly stood up from his seat near the back of the plane, and began chanting “make them move” and marching up and down the aisle. His mini protest led flight crew to ask him to leave the flight.
“They’re throwing me off the plane because I complained about what they were doing,” he says in one video taken by a passenger and posted on Twitter.
He didn’t leave, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was called in to escort him from the flight. D’Amato claimed during the incident that he was exercising his right to free speech.
“We can still speak in this country. I’m making an appeal to all you people — you want to know what? Stand up for what’s right and walk out with me. That’s the only thing they’ll know,” he says. Several other passengers booed as he was removed from the flight, and one other passenger followed him off the plane as well, the Post reports.
Travelers received a $100 credit for the delay, but it’s unclear whether or not D’Amato would receive a voucher as well.
JetBlue confirmed that a passenger had been removed from the flight without identifying who that person was.
“If a customer is causing a conflict on the aircraft, it is standard procedure to ask the customer to deplane, especially if the crew feels the situation runs a risk of escalation in-flight,” said an airline spokesman.
A spokesperson for D’Amato says the airline has apologized for how things played out.
“Anyone who knows Senator D’Amato knows he speaks his mind – but in this case he spoke after a long and demanding trip to Florida to visit an ailing friend,” the spokesman said. “JetBlue has apologized to the Senator for overreacting and the Senator apologized for speaking his mind at a time when he clearly had left his patience at the gate.”
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