Former New York Sen. Al D’Amato was kicked off a JetBlue flight heading to the city from Florida on Monday night, captured on video trying to lead a “rebellion” on a delayed flight.
D’Amato, who was visiting a sick friend in Florida, became angry when the flight crew asked people to change seats due to “weight and balance issues” after an already several hour delay, he said on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” on Tuesday evening.
The former senator said he was thrown off the plane as soon as he walked to the front to talk to the captain. He said the crew made several announcements over time asking more and more people to move for the weight issues before he walked from further back in the plane to the front.
“You’re off. You’re out,” he said the captain told him. “I think you’ve heard the people themselves, they were very supportive [of me].”
D’Amato’s plane, Flight 1002, was scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale for JFK at about 1:40 p.m. Monday but didn’t take off until after 8 p.m., according to JetBlue’s flight tracker and the New York Post, which first reported the story.
On Tuesday, D’Amato said he had gotten about three hours of sleep over two days — he first caught a flight down to Florida at about 6:30 a.m. on Monday.
“We can still speak in this country,” D’Amato was heard saying on the video, which was posted to Facebook, adding he was “making an appeal to all you people.”
“Stand up for what’s right and walk out with me,” he said, standing in the aisle. “That’s the only thing they’ll know … if you don’t then what do you stand up for?”
D’Amato walked down the aisle with officers from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. A spokeswoman from the sheriff’s office confirmed that officers responded to the plane but said JetBlue handled the entire incident.
A woman can then be heard telling people to “stand up” while a flight attendant makes an announcement requesting everyone to remain in their seats with their seat belts fastened.
Twitter user Layla Delarmelina posted another video, which shows D’Amato getting out of his seat on the plane as a woman wearing a Broward County Sheriff’s Office jacket motions him toward the front of the plane.
“They’re throwing me off the plane because I complained about what they were doing,” D’Amato said in the video.
Passengers booed and said “that’s not right” in the Twitter video. One woman can be heard saying, “I thought we had freedom of speech!”
D’Amato said on Tuesday that a few people got up to leave with him, but were asked to sit back down so the plane could take off.
Delarmelina, who said JetBlue contacted her after she posted the video on Twitter, added that the captain had told passengers in the first nine rows to move to the back of the plane because of weight issues, and the plane could not take off until the seating was redistributed.
“Everyone was exhausted and just wanted to go home, but only a few people moved and the last six weren’t moving,” Delarmelina said she told JetBlue. “The captain wasn’t doing anything so [D’Amato] got up and confronted the people in the front and asked them to go to the back. No one was moving so he flipped out on them.”
Delarmelina said D’Amato told the captain he should select people to move.
She said she told JetBlue it wasn’t right that D’Amato got kicked off “because he was just using his freedom of speech and he was right to say something since nobody was doing anything to hurry up the process. We had to wait nine hours in the airport just to be treated this poorly and see a righteous man get kicked off the plane.”
A spokesman with D’Amato’s company, Park Strategies, said the airline had apologized to the former senator.
“Anyone who knows Senator D’Amato knows he speaks his mind … 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,” the spokesman said.
On Tuesday, a representative for JetBlue said a customer was removed from Flight 1002, but would not comment on the passenger’s name.
“The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly,” the representative said in an email. “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.”
D’Amato served 18 years in the Senate before he was defeated in 1998 by Sen. Charles Schumer.
D’Amato then founded Park Strategies, a public policy firm, where he serves as the group’s managing director.
– With Newsday