Baldwin apologizes to passengers, not airline
Thursday, December 8, 2011
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Alec Baldwin issued an apology Wednesday to fellow passengers on an American Airlines flight that was delayed by his refusal to stop playing a cellphone game — but stopped short of apologizing to the airline or the flight attendant he later mocked on Twitter.
The “30 Rock” actor’s note, posted to the Huffington Post (http://huff.to/sENHR2), instead lamented the state of modern air travel. Baldwin noted the financial struggles of airlines, saying the result is that air travel has devolved into an inelegant experience, akin to riding a Greyhound bus.
Baldwin said the level of service on U.S. carriers has deteriorated.
“Filthy planes, barely edible meals, cuts in jet service to less-traveled locations,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin writes that increased security on commercial airplanes post-9/11 has resulted in a “paramilitary” aura around air travel.
“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,” Baldwin writes.
Baldwin’s letter is the latest volley in a dustup with American Airlines, with the airline taking to social media Wednesday to maintain it was following federal regulations when it booted an “extremely vocal customer” from a flight for refusing to shut off his cellphone.
The airline, which earlier cited passenger privacy in declining to discuss the matter, said on its Facebook page it decided “to provide the actual facts of the matter” after Baldwin stated publicly he had gotten kicked off the flight.
The company never cited the “30 Rock” TV star by name.
Baldwin took to Twitter after Tuesday’s incident at Los Angeles International Airport, saying he was asked to leave a New York-bound plane after a “flight attendant on American reamed me out” for playing a game on his cellphone. Baldwin said he was playing “Words With Friends” while the plane sat at a gate.
American said on Facebook Wednesday that Federal Aviation Administration regulations require that cellphones and other electronic devices be turned off as soon as the airliner’s door has been closed. The company said Baldwin refused to comply.
“The passenger ultimately stood up (with the seat belt light still on for departure) and took his phone into the plane’s lavatory,” American Airlines said. “He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed, even with the cockpit door closed and locked. They immediately contacted the cabin crew to check on the situation.”
The airline added that Baldwin was “extremely rude” to the flight crew, calling people “inappropriate names” and using offensive language.
Baldwin’s spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, said Wednesday it was the flight attendant who acted inappropriately. He said other people on the plane were violating the regulation and that Baldwin was singled out.
“The plane was already delayed half an hour at the gate when Alec was playing ‘Words with Friends,”’ Hiltzik told The Associated Press. “Other passengers who tweeted flagrantly violated these rules without any repercussions — proving that they were obviously selectively enforced.”
Airport police have said they did not respond to the incident.
Baldwin deactivated his Twitter account and all of his previous tweets were removed. Hiltzik said that was because the actor was setting aside his Twitter activity to concentrate on “30 Rock.”
At least one other celebrity came to Baldwin’s defense on Twitter.
Boxing great Oscar De La Hoya, who was on the same flight, tweeted that he thought the flight attendant overreacted.
“(at)AlecBaldwin was doing nothing wrong but playing ‘words’ on his phone,” De La Hoya said.
Baldwin boarded another American Airlines flight to New York after Tuesday’s incident, but said he wouldn’t fly with American again.
In the tweets that have since been removed, Baldwin mocked American Airlines as a company “where Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950’s find jobs as flight attendants.”
He also called “Words With Friends” an “addicting” game. Players compete online to score the most points by building words with tiles on a Scrabble-like game board.
Baldwin plays the role of the vain executive Jack Donaghy on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock” and played an amorous ex-husband to Meryl Streep in the 2009 romantic comedy “It’s Complicated.”
He also is featured in a series of comical TV ads for Capital One credit cards. In one spot Baldwin strolls through an airport and luxuriates on an airplane while surrounded by a coterie of assistants.
Associated Press Writer Christopher Weber and AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang contributed to this report.
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