For the first time since he was kicked off a JetBlue flight held in Florida, former New York Senator Al D’Amato is speaking about the hours-long delay that led to his premature departure.
The 79-year-old was on the plane in Fort Lauderdale that was held for six hours Monday. Witnesses said D’Amato was taken off the flight after complaining about the pre-takeoff delay.
He told New York 1 Tuesday: "We're told by the captain that nine people have to move from the front of the plane to the back so that it's balanced. Otherwise, they can't take off. And then he cuts it down and he says, 'Well, we need four more people.' And then some more time passes by, and he says, 'Well, we need two more people. And if they don't move, I'm going to come and get them out.'
"And another 10-15 minutes go by. Finally, I walk up and say to him - I don't say it from way in the back and shout, I walk right up, I was in 24, seat 24, walked up, and I say, 'Captain, when are you going to do this?' 'You're off. You're out.'"
As he was removed from the plane, passenger Jacqueline Galante recorded him as he attempted to trigger a passenger revolt.
“You know what? This is still America, we have rights. Stand up for what's right and walk off with me,” he declared.
Only one guy joined in the insurrection.
A spokesman for the former senator later said JetBlue apologized to D'Amato.
"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," D'Amato spokesman Gary Lewi told Mic.com.
"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 and then sleep deprivation.”
JetBlue issued a statement about the incident.
"The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. 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 was a New York State Senator from 1981 to 1999, when he was defeated by Chuck Schumer, who remains in the position today.