Alec Baldwin Says Air Travel Now "Paramilitary"

"30 Rock" star apologizes to plane passengers, as airline fires back.

By DANIEL MACHT
|  Thursday, Dec 8, 2011  |  Updated 9:14 AM PDT
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Passengers on the American Airlines flight that was delayed from Los Angeles to New York when passenger Alec Baldwin got into a dispute with a flight attendant explain what happened.

NBC New York

Passengers on the American Airlines flight that was delayed from Los Angeles to New York when passenger Alec Baldwin got into a dispute with a flight attendant explain what happened.

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Alec Baldwin apologized Wednesday to travelers who were inconvenienced when American Airlines booted him from a flight for not shutting down his mobile device.

But the “30 Rock” star did not apologize to American and chided U.S. airlines for having made travel “inelegant” since the Sept. 11 attacks.

American Airlines, meanwhile, said Baldwin's behavior to staff before takeoff on a Los Angeles to New York flight Tuesday was "offensive."

Baldwin explained his side of the fracas in a column on The Huffington Post. Under the headline, "A Farewell to Common Sense, Style and Service on American Airlines," Baldwin wrote he has been a loyal American customer for 20 years, and has many times before used his mobile device while sitting in the plane at a gate. He said other fellow travelers were doing the same on Tuesday, but he was singled out by a flight attendent.

"One of the big changes, in my time, is in the increase of the post-9/11, paramilitary bearing of much of the air travel business," he wrote. "September 11th was a horrific day in the airline industry, yet in the wake of that event, I believe carriers and airports have used that as an excuse to make the air travel experience as inelegant as possible.

"There are many now who walk the aisles of an airplane with a whistle around their neck and a clipboard in their hands and they have made flying a Greyhound bus experience," he added.

Baldwin did, however, repeatedly apologize for his own behavior.

"The lesson I've learned is to keep my phone off when the 1950's [sic] gym teacher is on duty. That was my fault there, even though this trip was quite a bit different from so many others," he said.

Visitors to Baldwin's usually prolific Twitter account Wednesday found zero tweets and a big egg where Baldwin's headshot used to appear. The word “deactivated” substituted for Baldwin’s name, one day after he used the site to lash out at American Airlines for giving him the boot before takeoff at LAX.

Baldwin had been vocal about the event pretty much since it happened Tuesday afternoon.

“Flight attendant on American reamed me out 4 playing WORDS W FRIENDS while we sat at the gate, not moving. #nowonderamericaairisbankrupt,” Baldwin tweeted as the first shot in a fusillade against American Airlines staff.

“The flight attendants already look.....smarter,” he wrote after being re-booked on another flight home. "Last flight w American. Where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950's find jobs as flight attendants."

American spokesman Ed Martelle had cited privacy concerns at the time in telling MSNBC the airline does not “comment on something that might or might not have happened."

But American said Wednesday it was releasing new details because "an extremely vocal customer has publicly identified himself."

Baldwin refused to turn off his cell phone after being asked to do so then stood up with the seat belt light on and took his phone into the bathroom, according to American Airlines' account.

"He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed, even with the cockpit door closed and locked," the airline said in a statement. "They immediately contacted the cabin crew to check on the situation. The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language. Given the facts above, the passenger was removed from the flight and denied boarding."

In a statement to NBC News on Tuesday, Baldwin rep Matthew Hiltzik had said the actor was “asked to leave” the plane while it was parked at the gate for playing the iPad game “Words with Friends."

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