Virgin America: Passenger Denied Boarding After Allegedly ‘Cutting Off’ Staff At The Door


An example of a complete power trip (once again!) by airline employees caught my attention when reading the New York Times yesterday. Denied Boarding for cutting someone off at the door!

A319 Virgin AmericaThe passenger, a prominent lawyer, was left baffled by the situation and had Virgin America review the incident. The airline has since apologized for the ‘misunderstanding’.

First I thought this must be something straight out of The Onion but sure enough it wasn’t. The passenger entered the airport through a revolving door where at the same time a lady also tried to go through. Whoever tried to use a revolving door with baggage, let alone with two people, can imagine the situation.

As it turned out this women was airline staff of either Virgin America or another airline who reported the gentleman for alleged misconduct against a crew member. For cutting her off at the door! Yes, you heard that right.

You can access the New York Times piece here to read the story in detail.

A prominent Texas lawyer was not allowed to board a Virgin America flight home from New York on Monday because of an encounter with a crew member at La Guardia Airport in Queens, he and the airline said.

The lawyer, Robert B. Abtahi, the vice chairman of the Dallas Plan Commission, the official body that makes planning and zoning recommendations to the City Council, said he was trying to board Virgin America Flight 885 to Dallas before its scheduled departure at 3:50 p.m., when he was told that he would not be allowed onto the plane.

Mr. Abtahi, who goes by “Bobby,” said the reason he was given was that the captain and crew did not feel comfortable with him on the flight. When he pressed for specifics, a gate agent told him that he had cut off a crew member in a revolving door while arriving at the airport, he said. He was forced to cancel the ticket and rebook on another airline.

Can you see why I initially choked when I read this? This is so bizarre it’s not even funny.

Mr. Abtahi said that the incident, reported online on Monday evening by The Dallas Morning News, happened in one of the airport’s revolving doors when a woman got behind him in the same stall. In response to a reporter’s inquiry, he wrote on Twitter that they “both fumbled to get in,” and he “didn’t know she was crew.”

Mr. Abtahi said he did not think anything of the encounter until a gate agent told him he had cut someone off. He offered to apologize, he said, but was still kept off the plane. He was allowed to cancel the ticket without paying a penalty fee and booked an American Airlines flight leaving around the same time.

So to get this right: The incident occurred upon entering the airport, the lady was so offended that she obviously stalked the passenger to see where he was checking in and even obtained information for what flight. Then this matter was escalated up to the flight crew of his scheduled Virgin America flight who (including the captain) decided he was not allowed to fly. How else would have all of this transpired? There must be tons of personal data compromised along this way without even going into detail about how unreasonable the whole matter was.

The airline offered Mr. Abtahi reimbursement for the cost of the flight as well as two free flights in the future. Mr. Abtahi said he accepted the apology, but directed the airline to give the free flights to the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, a Dallas charity that helps refugees fleeing abuse.

Virgin America calls the matter a misunderstanding. I call it grotesque behavior on behalf of the staff member involved in the initial situation who should be fired over this. Such a person has no place serving passengers and caring for their safety. She herself is a security risk as this example shows.

Virgin America would have been the very last carrier from which I would have expected this to happen given they are among the best in service on the domestic U.S. market. But then again, who knows what this disgruntled employee reported about the passenger. Ultimately they did the right thing and apologize as well as expressed concern which the passenger thought was genuine and adequate.


I said it before and I say it again: Americas flight attendants are completely out of control. This whole environment of privilege and engraving into their brains that they are the safe keepers of aviation security got to the head of many crew members.

It’s not the first time to hear stories like this where airline staff is on a power trip and makes totally irrational decisions. What is most concerning about this situation is the chain of events it took to get this passenger bumped off his flight. This was a complete non-issue that escalated to an involuntary denied boarding.

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