updated 09:00 pm EST, Tue December 6, 2011
Escorted off plane for ignoring crew instructions
Actor Alec Baldwin was removed from an American Airlines flight at LAX after ignoring a command from flight attendants that he turn off a Words With Friends game on his phone. Baldwin had apparently been playing while the plane was parked, but didn't turn it off in a timely fashion as the plane began its departure. Baldwin allegedly then caused a disturbance sufficient to turn the plane back, where he was escorted off the flight.
Various reports allege that Baldwin failed to stow his phone as required at the beginning of the flight, then got into an argument with attendants and became unruly. Another passenger tweeted at 1:45 about the incident: "Alec Baldwin removed from the plane. We had to go back to the gate. Terrible that everyone had to wait."
Law enforcement authorities confirmed that following a further incident (reports claim Baldwin left his seat and slammed a bathroom door), the captain returned to the gate (the plane had not yet left the ground) and the 30 Rock star was escorted off the plane. He tweeted about it from his Twitteraccount at around 2 p.m.: "Flight attendant on American reamed me out 4 playing WORDS W FRIENDS while we sat at the gate, not moving." He finished the initial tweet with a hashtag "#nowonderamericaairisbankrupt".
Baldwin tweeted a few minutes later with a new hashtag: "#theresalwaysunited". Shortly after, he added "But, oddly, 30 Rock plays inflight on American."
American Airlines responded to the tweets at 2:35 p.m., attempting to get in direct contact with Baldwin. He later responded publicly that he was "now on the 3 o'clock American flight. The flight attendants already look ... smarter." He later added another riposte: "#theresalwaysunited Last flight w American. Where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950's find jobs as flight attendants."
Baldwin later added that he has changed his Words With Friends identity to "theresalwaysunited." He addressed the issue one last time before moving on to other topics, such as TMZ.com reporter Harvey Levin, who initially broke the story: "United shud hav app onboard where u can play WWF w other passengers. American shud have app where u read the new testament w flt attendants."
The requirement that all electronic gear needs to be completely turned off is somewhat controversial in itself. Airlines have consistently insisted that gear must be turned completely off, even though both Android and iOS devices have an "Airplane Mode" which eliminates all signalling from devices but allows them to be used, and no evidence has ever been produced that commercial electronics interfere with aviation systems.
However, despite the lack of hard technological data, defenders argue that it is still best that electronics be stowed during takeoff and landing, because those are the two periods where an airline emergency is most likely to happen, and that pilots will need the passengers' full attention in order to relay information and instructions, along with the standard safety information given at the start of most flights.
No charges have been filed against Baldwin so far. American Airlines has said that it is "looking into" the incident. Reports have not specified the specific model of phone the actor was using.