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An On-Board Brawl - American Airlines - Safe, Dependable, Friendly

My friend, celebrity hairdresser Robert Hallowell, (whom I adore) often tells me my life is like a "real" reality TV show since the crazy things which consistently happen to me are never staged, edited or pumped up for shock or humor value.

(Image of American Airlines Logo - American Airlines - All Rights Reserved - Visit the website for flight and reservation information).

OK.  I admit my life does have a series of wacky things popping up on a constant basis, but whose doesn't?  Right?  I think living life is about the journey and all the interesting experiences and people you meet along the way.

Such was my recent journey on American Airlines (AA) from Dallas Fort Worth airport (DFW) to Palms Springs airport (PSP).  My ultimate destination was Las Vegas, Nevada where I was scheduled along with other HairBoutique team members to visit the 2009 Cosmoprof Convention and NAHA 2009.

Lugging my Toshiba notebook, iPhone, Flip as well as my digital camera and video camera, I and my partner-in-crime, Edan Kencayd, was planning to cover the events with live Tweets, blogs and other reporting for HairBoutique.

(Image of airplane taking off - image courtesy of - flysky - All Rights Reserved).

Of course I also hoped to see lots of my professional acquaintances in the hair and beauty world along with business networking.

Even though we planned ahead and booked the trip more than a month in advance, the flights from DFW to Vegas were incompatible with my crazy work schedule.  Since I was taking Edan and other HB team members with me as well, it made it even more complicated trying to book flights.

Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of the Las Vegas airport.  I have a number of reasons for my bad feelings with the most recent events being tied to my trip here in December of 2008, which I blogged about previously.

When I travel to LA I always bypass LAX for Burbank, Long Beach or John Wayne.  When I travel to other large cities, I always look for the least crowded airport close by.  It just makes traveling more pleasant and less complicated in my humble opinion.

I was sharing my angst about the lack of possible alternatives to getting to Vegas, other than flying into the Vegas airport  with a friend.  He mentioned Palm Springs airport as a possible alternative.  I had actually considered John Wayne as an option in Southern California since I love the airport and it would have been about a 3 1/2 hour drive to Vegas from there.

Deciding against a trek from John Wayne to Vegas I had ultimately agreed to just suffer through the Vegas airport expericne.  But my friend insisted Palm Springs was about 90 miles from Vegas.  Really?  I had no idea.  How cool was that?  I had never been to Palm Springs but always wanted to go and there was a very convenient flight time for my schedule.  The flight was booked and paid for.  I was thrilled.

I know what you're thinking.  Did you check to make sure Palm Springs was really 90 miles away?  Nope.  I did ask one of the HB team members to check for me but they didn't check either and it wasn't until the day before the flight when they were putting together all the maps for the travel book they discovered the true distance between Vegas and Palm Springs.

There's a 90 in there alright, but it's more like 290 miles and a drive time of 4 hours and 53 minutes.  Not 90 miles and 1 hour and 30 minutes as I had been previously misinformed.  Yes, you can do the trip faster, which I don't recommend because of all the radar speed traps on the highways.

I was in shock when I discovered I would be taking a 2 hour and 45 minute plane ride from Dallas to Palm Springs and then an almost 5 hour car ride from Palm Springs to Vegas.  Pretty extreme measures to avoid an airport I don't like, even for me.

Unfortunately all the alternative flights from Dallas to Vegas were already booked due to so many travelers going to Cosmoprof09. It was too late to change course from Dallas to Vegas.  Palm Springs was now my only option to get to Cosmoprof in a timely manner.

My only choice was to suck it up and take the planned journey.

After boarding the oversold plane to Palm Springs (yes there was a huge standby list) and making my way back to a seat in the very bowels of the M80, I settled into my aisle seat which was right across from the galley.  Edan Kencayd, my HB team member, was sitting right behind me in the aisle seat.  I put my book onto my seat and got up and went into the restrooms a few rows back, figuring once the flight took off it would be harder to gain access.

When I returned to my seat a man who appeared to be in his early 30s was sitting in my aisle seat next to a woman in the center who also appeared to be in her 40s.  I politely informed the man he was in my seat.  The woman next to him said "these are our seats" and "this is my son" so he needs to sit here with me.  We need to seat together.  She said "you will have to find a seat somewhere else to sit".

I politely explained that I had booked that seat over a month before because I have a preference for that specific area of the plane and did not wish to find a seat "somewhere else" so her son, or whomever the guy was, would have to please vacate my seat.

Edan was watching the events unfold with a look of alarm and amazement on her face. While I was trying to figure out what was happening my iPhone blew up and Edan texted me "bitch is crazy!!!!"  I was amused at her appraisal of the unfolding saga.

I was also flabbergasted since I had never had my seat hijacked before.  I have been asked at times to switch seats and if it is a reasonable request I will often agree or at least consider it.  However, to be told I had to find a different seat somewhere else on the plane was too bizarre for me to comprehend.

Finally after holding firm that I wanted my seat back and was not going to wander aimlessly through the aisles looking for another seat on a plane where all the seats are pre-assigned, the man got up and immediately sat in the empty aisle seat in front of me.

The woman in the center seat was furious that he had to give my seat back to me.  She started hissing at me "get up, get up, I don't want to sit next to you."  I started to get up from my seat, after just sitting down and getting settled but in her rage, she started punching at me to speed me out of my seat.  She also pushed me as hard as she could as I was exiting the seat and pinned me against the wall of the galley.

She shouted "you're rude, rude, rude".  She lowered her voice so the flight attendant couldn't hear and said "just wait until the plane takes off and I'm gonna get you."  She then furiously stormed into the gally and demanded the flight attendant do something about the situation.

What situation?  They hijacked my assigned pre-paid coach seat and then punched, pushed, threatened and screamed at me when I refused to bow to their demands.  While all the drama was happening with the women in the galley, her so called son crawled over me and sat into the middle seat.  He sat there for awhile and then moved again to the empty seat in front of me.  The passenger owning that seat arrived and evicted him from that seat as well.  He proceeded to stand in the aisle and the women was facing the corner in the galley.

Meanwhile the flight attendant nearby was very kind to me and said not to worry. As soon as the events started to unfold she politely but firmly asked the irate woman to stand in the galley and told her she would check into the matter further.

She told me she would handle the situation that was unfolding and in my opinion appeared to be escalating.  Shortly after that point, a very serious looking female security agent arrived at the galley and informed the irate woman, who at this point was crying and continuing to shoot me "I'll kill you looks" that she had to leave the plane.

The security agent was very professional, polite and no-nonsense.  The combative passenger started to argue about why she had to leave the plane and "what did she do?" but the security agent held her ground and told the man traveling with her that he could either stay on the plane or go, but they had to leave immediately.  He chose to go with her off the plane.  I immediately breathed a sigh of relief.

After they were gone, the flight attendant came back and apologized to me for what had occurred.  She said "on American Airlines, we don't tolerate that type of behavior for any of our passengers".  WOW!

I was so impressed with her professional demeanor and how she immediately handled what was a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.  Who could say if the woman had been allowed to remain on the plane that at some point she might have come back and attacked me again putting the lives of all the passengers at risk?  What if she moved towards the front of the plane and had an outburst near the pilot?

Yes, I know that the pilots are very carefully protected these days but who needs a person brawling on board any airplane - grounded or in the air?

I am so thankful that American Airlines demonstrated that they really do honor their committment to offering a safe, dependable and friendly travel experience.

I have been traveling with American Airlines for over 25 years and they are my carrier of choice whenever possible.   Never in all that time have I seen someone evicted from a plane for bad behavior but in this case it was truly warranted.

Unfortuantely I neglected to get the name of the flight attendant who specifically helped me but her co-worker was named Barbara.  Barbara was also very pleasant to me but the tall blonde (with long curly hair) flight attendant who came to my defense when my seat was hijacked was amazing.

Kudos and thanks to her and to American Airlines.

Meanwhile I went from the frying pan into the fire.  After landing at Palm Springs I discovered the temperatures at 7:00 pm when we landed was 116 degrees.  It felt like walking into a full blast blowdryer.

It can be truly said I really have walked through fire to attend the Cosmoprof and NAHA Awards in 2009 in Vegas this year.

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