The Funded founder Adeo Ressi was arrested and briefly detained earlier this evening over an altercation with a flight attendant. The airline? Virgin America, which I’ve been holding up as virtually the only airline that doesn’t suck (See Virgin Airlines Fails To Commit Atrocities On Flight VX746 and Delta Flight 1843 From JFK To Hell).
Ressi’s description of the incident is below, and he has sent this to Virgin, he tells me. I’ve reached out to Virgin America for their position.
I can’t help but note the similarities with Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater, who has now been rewarded for his behavior with a reality tv show. The worse the flight attendant, the better the chance for fame and glory, I guess.
You posted something nice about Virgin America a little over a week ago. I actually agreed until I was briefly and wrongly arrested as a result of a stressed out flight attendant today.
I am horrified by the incident on VX22 today, after flying over 70,000 miles with the company. Here are the details.
I was on flight VX22 in seat 2B, First Class, under the name Adeodato Gregory Ressi di Cervia. My company, the Founder Institute, is enrolling hundreds of entrepreneurs from eight cities into the incubator, so I was working before taking off. I shut everything down when the cabin door was shut, and started working again when the Internet was turned on at 10,000 feet, reviewing founder applications.
The first class steward, the “ITL,” served some food, but otherwise ignored passengers. There was a young stewardess in the back of the plane that brought me two ginger ails, some nuts, and Pringles. It was strange that the steward ignored passengers, focusing his attention on a baby in the font row, but I didn’t really notice much, since I was busy.
As we started to descend, the captain came on and asked everyone to shut down computers and electronic devices. The ITL walked down the isle immediately following the captain’s announcement and tapped my computer to indicate that I should shut off my computer. I looked up, nodded and indicated that I needed a second to finish an email, and he walked past me into coach.
By the time he returned, approximately 60 to 90 seconds later, I had finished the email at exactly 5:33 PM EST (according to email records), and I was closing the laptop lid. He stood above me, and the ITL said in a loud voice, “I told you to close the computer. You need to listen to me. You need to obey my orders. I am in charge. I told you to close the computer. You need to listen. I am in charge. Not you.” This went on for a while. It was awkward, uncalled for and embarrassing.
Meanwhile, I was holding the closed computer up off the tray table for everyone to see, as it was being shut down even before he walked over. He then said, “I can contact the authorities and have you arrested.” I responded, “I have done nothing wrong. Go ahead, if you like, I have done nothing wrong.”
Now, a few minutes after the original announcement by the captain, the ITL walks up to the bulkhead phone, and I presume he calls the captain. The captain then makes an announcement that everyone should have their devices off or “the authorities will be contacted and meet us upon landing.” My device was already off for a few minutes at this point, and I ask for the ITL’s name, who now completely ignores me.
As we continue to descend, I had a bag on the floor in First Class, which I know is not allowed on Virgin America First Class because I have flown over 70,000 miles on the airline. So, I ask the ITL to put the bag up, and he responds, “get up, and put it away yourself.”
I get up, and then the ITL starts yelling at me again for standing up when the plane is below 10,000 feet. I toss the bag into the overhead, leaving it open, sit down quickly and he calls the captain again using the bulkhead phone. He then comes over to shut the overhead compartment. At this point, we did not speak again during the flight.
We land at 5:49 PM, 16 minutes after I closed my computer down. We taxi to the gate, and there was a 15 minute delay while the authorities were called. Two NYC police men escorted me off the plane. Passengers are delayed even further as the police interrogated me in front of the exit door. Once I start moving up the platform, escorted by two police men, and the passengers are finally let out. Three First Class and Main Cabin Select passengers agree to be witnesses on my behalf to the police, taking more of their valuable time to say that I did nothing wrong.
Meanwhile, I was detained for an hour at the gate by police, who eventually let me go, jokingly referring to this as an “argument over a cell phone” to the TSA. Meanwhile, the Virgin America captain lectured me twice on the importance of turning your computer off, without even listening to my side of the story. The ITL told the police a story that I had been disruptive at other points in the flight, and the police said that the Virgin America flight team were now defending each other. The police also clearly indicated that they thought the ITL was not telling the truth. The police and the TSA had no charges.
You can get the police report for the names of two supportive First Class customers.
I am extremely disturbed by this incident in First Class on Virgin America. I request that Virgin America (1) terminate the ITL in question and (2) refund my money for the whole trip, allowing me to purchase alternative travel home. I do not want to wind up with this ITL on my flight again, as I have recognized him from my 70,000+ miles of flight with the airline.
I a law abiding citizen that has never gotten more than a mild speeding ticket, and I fly over 250,000 miles per year. I never raised my voice. I never cursed. I followed the captain’s instructions. Yet, I was removed from a Virgin America by police for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
Update: Virgin America’s statement:
We are currently investigating this with our crew, JFK station and the authorities. Although we never want to inconvenience or upset our guests, safety and adherence to FAA rules are always our first priority. As indicated by the post, refusing to turn off a personal electronic device or delaying doing so — is a violation of FAA rules. The FAA makes all airlines and flight crew strictly accountable to enforce these rules. That said, we do take this post very seriously and are investigating in order to determine what unfolded onboard and address any miscommunication that may have occurred. When we have more information, we will connect with Mr. Ressi directly as well.
Update 2: Another person claiming to be on the flight has commented:
Adeo – I had to dash but handed my business card to you as you were being detained. I heard you shut your laptop as I was still fiddling with my kindle. Perhaps I should have been arrested as well. The flight attendant was clearly stressed out and over reacted. When he phoned the captain the first time your device had already been shut down and stowed away. As an eyewitness to the event I was taken aback by the unprofessional out of control behavior of the flight attendant I’m more than happy to be interviewed by the CEO of Virgin America. VA lost more than one customer. Kpb