Former Senator Tells JetBlue Pilot To “Grow Some Balls,” Gets Kicked Off Plane

Okay, so admittedly the way he handled the situation may not have been ideal, though he had the right idea.

Former New York Senator Al D’Amato was on a JetBlue flight on Monday from Fort Lauderdale to New York, which already had a delay of over six hours. Understandably people were agitated, and once the flight was boarded, the captain announced that 10 passengers seated at the front of the cabin needed to move to the back of the cabin for weight and balance.

At the front of the JetBlue cabin are the “Even More Space” seats, which presumably many people paid extra to sit in. Many people weren’t happy about moving. That’s when the former Senator took the situation into his own hands. Per CNN:

Passenger Layla Delarmelina said six passengers refused and “the captain wasn’t doing anything.”

Delarmelina said the former senator got up and confronted the people that refused, and then told the captain to just pick people to move.

“He called them idiots and said, ‘The captain needs to grow some balls,'” said Delarmelina. “So they kicked him off the plane.”

Okay, so based on this story I certainly see where the Senator is coming from. I understand people are unhappy about moving, but if that’s what’s needed to safely operate the aircraft, the crew needs to get them to move, or otherwise kick them off.

Once the police boarded to remove the ex-Senator from the flight, he tried to get people to rally behind him and walk off the plane with him, as he said “stand up for what’s right and walk out with me. If you don’t, then what do you stand up for?”

While many people screamed in support of him, I don’t think the movement picked up the momentum he had hoped for, as only a couple of people walked off the plane with him. Here’s the video of him being removed from the plane:

You can hear one passenger saying “I thought we had freedom of speech.” While I get the sentiment, “freedom of speech” doesn’t apply in the context of interactions between private citizens, and certainly not on a plane.

According to D’Amato’s reps, he apologized for “speaking his mind at a time when he clearly left his patience at the gate,” while JetBlue apologized for “overreacting” (though JetBlue didn’t confirm that they apologized).

What do you guys think — was JetBlue right to kick the ex-Senator off the plane for trying to take matters into his own hands?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. You would think those passengers not willing to move and hence not complying with FA instructions would have been the first to get kicked out. FAs should have (and may have) opened with a polite request for passengers to move to safely operate the aircraft. If they did not comply, the tone should have been quickly harshened to “move to the back or get off the plane.” If this had been done properly by the crew, the Senator would have never needed to involve himself.

  2. Tired of stories of airline personnel not doing their jobs and trying to make passenger’s lives miserable. This is going to get worst for someone to fix it. Every FA, gate agent and pilot is now trying to be a FBI agent and their actions are very subjective. They now feel threatened and offended for anyhing and like crying babies call the cops so they can feel safe. Yes, they all have to grow some balls, do their job and not try to be dictators of the air.

  3. I’ve never heard of a weight balancing request on a big jet. How often does this occur? Give up my Even More Space seat? Hope a refund is due!

  4. I love how the person in the seat in front of the camera is watching The Simpson’s, and you see a clip of Bart Simpson pulling down his pants at everyone. LOL

  5. I had that issue on AA once and they asked for volunteers to deplane and offered an $800 voucher. That’s what they should have done here if they want people to move to the back. I’m not about to give up my extra legroom seat.

  6. More airline incompetence!

    If I pay for a seat, thats the seat I expect to sit in. Imagine paying for 1st class to Australia and being told to go to the back and sit in economy!!! It would be like paying for a brand new Ferrari only to get a Lada delivered.

  7. Never heard of this situation being handled so poorly. Once, on Delta, in a similar situation they asked for volunteers and offered vouchers. Jet Blue screwed up and so did the senator. The airline was right in removing him but the whole episode stinks especially the airline crew’s conduct.

  8. I would not put even more space seats in the same category as a Ferrari but if JetBlue asks passengers to give up their paid upgrade, the JrtBlue needs to be ready to comp those passengers on the spot or put something in their Conditions of Carriage to make sure that comp (refund) would be paid.

    How many times have you had to ping airlines, car rentals and hotels to refund when they fail to deliver what you paid for? Ex: I’m still waiting for Hertz to credit my United miles for rentals in October. It’s a never ending issue and not worth the hassle.

  9. As a pilot myself, I certainly understand that sometimes, (and yes..even on BIG planes), weight and balance requires that we move some passengers around.

    This is not the optimal situation for both parties involved. Both were understandably agitated. But, on an aircraft, the pilot has final say who gets to fly on his plane…and who gets kicked out.

    Of course, a refund for those who paid extra for the better seats is due…..but telling the pilot to get some balls….is not the best way to treat the person who’s going to be flying you there.

    Safety first….which in this case is the weight and balance of the plane.

  10. @Marvin D: I agree 100% that safety first but what you just described that the pilot should do is exactly what this pilot did not do. Capitan asked passengers to move. Safety first, right? Passengers DID NOT move and pilot didn’t do anything. Senator complained that pilot was not doing anything and passengers should be moved and he was the one kicked out of the plane. Safety first???? Again, a clear example of over authority of airline personnel. Senator told him the truth and he “felt threatened” and called the cops. Wow!!!!

  11. Passengers are required to comply with crewmember instructions in matters of safety. Suggesting the Captain grow some balls is not cause for removing a passenger.

    But by the same token, the Captain cannot order people to move while the plane is still at the gate. He can ask, but it’s not a safety issue at that point, so he can’t order it. The gate personnel are in control of seating until the plane’s door is closed, and the JetBlue gate personnel should have handled the reseating, including compensating people as appropriate. If the issue is not handled before the plane pushes, *then* the captain can order passengers to move, if the balance is far enough from ideal to create a safety issue (usually, it just means a bit more fuel consumption).

    This article also ends without reaching its conclusion. What happened after D’Amato was ejected? Did gate personnel offer compensation to passengers to move? Did cabin crew? Did passengers move voluntarily? Did the plane sit at the gate much longer? Did D’Amato get to his destination before the other passengers?

  12. Ben,

    I’ve been on some tiny planes flying out of tiny airports, and frequently there is a request for some people to move back from the front rows, just for take off (I don’t think it’s necessary for touchdown).

    I really don’t understand what the fuss is…Between taxi, wait in order, and the ascent to 10k feet, you’re looking at maybe 20 or 25 minutes? Wouldn’t an airline like JetBlue be able to handle this with choice of a free drink or a snackbox, to compensate people who did understandably pay maybe $30 or so for the privilege? Not sure how this type of thing is not handled in the operating manual.

    Your opinion?

  13. “What do you guys think…”
    I think its time to refocus. The political landscape is a hellhole right now and you have commenters turning stories about uber into an angry debate.
    And now you are asking people for it.
    I like deals and reviews, but every other day now it seems, you share some story about people kicked off planes that will incite rants from idiots on both sides of the political spectrum.
    This is our problem. Let’s stop being so angry.
    And as 100 people have noted, its your blog, so do what you want. But youre on the verge of losing this reader. Its stressing me out more than working air traffic.

  14. Legroom on Jetblue, even in the back, is not bad. I can’t believe people would refuse for a 3 hour flight that is 6 hours delayed already.

  15. Yup… this is why I stopped flying JetBlue. Don’t assume they were giving out any refunds. Every…. and I mean EVERY time I was scheduled to fly from FLL to JFK there were long delays (albeit not 6 hours). And every time there was a new excuse. When I called after the final time (after the crew was late and then there were mechanical issues) and asked for some compensation to help cover the taxi I took home from the airport after getting in past midnight, the manager told me they weren’t obligated to give me anything and hung up the phone. Direct TV and snacks are nice, but I’d rather fly an airline that actually gets me to my destination somewhat on time.

  16. Sorry to be that guy, but Al D’Amato’s title should not be “Former New York Senator.”

    This makes it sound like he was in the New York State Senate, not the U.S. Senate.

    Instead, he should be referred to as “Former U.S. Senator from New York.”

  17. It’s a bit precious to desperately cling to your extra 2 inches of leg room, whether you paid for it or not, but then at other times accept free upgrades

    Take the rough with the smooth. The pilot has every right to move people around. There is a serious sense of entitlement here

  18. The one filming this and DOING ALL the talking should be put off the plane.
    The Captain is the one in charge of the aircraft. Not her big mouth.
    I can tell the big (no sense) talkers are American. And we don’t want to hear your
    garbage talk on the plane or your music? at the stoplight in traffic.

  19. The pilot is in the wrong here. They needed people to move, he made the announcement and let the the FA to deal. The only reason he can remove someone from the plane is if the passenger is a threat. The x-senator had every justification to tell him to grow some balls!

  20. More American over reaction. Everyone is suspect, everyone is a terrorist, everyone is guilty.

    American exceptionalism indeed.

    Ridiculous.

    This weight and balance is an over reaction too.

    In the old days, they never asked people to move.

    This is yet another , lawyer driver, over reaction.

    And yes, if they had to move, after the plane had leveled off, they could have returned to their seats.

    What a country. Are you proud of your country ? Its only going to get worse. They good news is, there wasn’t a trigger happy cop, who might have killed you on the spot for asking for peanuts.

  21. Isn’t the rebalancing only for take off and landing? They could move back to their extra legroom seats once airborne.

  22. I am the only one who has noticed that this flight was out of FLD, the same airport that was closed and locked down only days before because of mass shooting? From what I read on line, it wasn’t just this flight that was delayed..because of the all the rebookings, rescheduling ect, the entire terminal over 3 hours delayed.

    The narrative that they sat for hours and hours because passengers wouldn’t move is IMO grossly exaggerated. Nor, does taking it on yourself to move about the cabin and berate other passengers and the Captain a useful tactic. But this jack ass thinks he can mosey on up and say what is what.

  23. Good for the ex-senator. Now that it has been clearly established that Amendment #1 doesn’t exist on an airplane, airline personnel have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime in their “excuses” for kicking people off a plane. Pax are required to sit on the tarmac, wait at the gate, or whatever the circumstances warrant, with little or no communication, for hours at a time. They can’t use the restrooms, get anything to eat or drink, and saying ANYTHING puts them at risk of being kicked off the plane. This all in the interest of “safety.” Really, it’s total, unmitigated bullshit. Airline employees are no more capable of good judgment than is the general population. Jet Blue’s pilot should be suspended after being required to sit in the middle seat of row 48 during a 6-hour tarmac delay.

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