Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato was removed from a JetBlue flight in Florida that had been delayed for several hours after complaining about the flight crew — and urging fellow passengers to walk off with him — in an incident captured on social media videos.
One video, posted by Twitter user Layla Delarmelina, showed D’Amato on Monday getting out of his seat on the plane as a woman wearing a Broward Sheriff’s Office jacket motioned 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 could not be reached for comment and his office referred comment to his lobbying firm, Park Strategies, which said in a statement: “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, a five-hour airport ground delay, additional delays as the crew sought to deal with weight and balance issues. . . . 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.”
Delarmelina said JetBlue contacted her after she posted the video on Twitter. She shared her message to JetBlue with Newsday over Twitter direct messages, and the airline apologized.
The flight, JetBlue 1002 out of Fort Lauderdale and bound for Kennedy Airport, was originally scheduled to take off at 1:42 p.m. It took off shortly after 8 p.m.
Delarmelina said the delays were weather-related, and that passengers wound up sitting on the plane for about two hours before takeoff.
She said the captain 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.
Delarmelina said airline staff was rude, and she defended D’Amato for standing up to the airline crew.
“Everyone was exhausted and just wanted to go home, but only a few people moved and the last six weren’t moving,” Delarmelina said in her message to 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.
Delarmelina 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.”
Another video, posted by Facebook user Jacqueline Galante, also shows D’Amato standing in the airplane’s aisle. “Stand up for what’s right and walk out with me,” D’Amato said in both videos as he tried to get other passengers to join him.
Galante said on Facebook that D’Amato was escorted off the plane by the sheriff’s department.
A flight attendant can be heard asking for people to remain seated with their seat belts buckled.
One man followed the former senator off the plane, Delarmelina said. It was unclear if that man was on the trip with D’Amato.
A representative for JetBlue acknowledged on Tuesday that a customer was removed from Flight 1002. However the representative would not name the passenger. “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.”
A spokeswoman for the Broward Sheriff’s Office referred comment to JetBlue. “It was not a law enforcement issue,” she said.
Galante, whose Facebook page says she is from Northport, could not be immediately reached for comment.
With Alison Fox