Alec Baldwin: Me, myself, and American Airlines

Alec Baldwin on Twitter vs. Alec Baldwin on Huffington Post vs. American Airlines on Facebook: someone’s not being honest.

Here’s where everyone agrees: Alec Baldwin was on an American Airlines flight on Tuesday. He used a smartphone after at least one flight attendant asked him not to. Finally, Baldwin was asked to leave the plane. In the process, at least one person was rude to someone else.

But pretty much every other detail of the story has received conflicting reports. For instance:

1. Baldwin’s actual infraction was, after an attendant asked him to turn off his phone, using it to play Words With Friends. Or send out important messages. Or use it as a phone.

Baldwin said on Twitter he was just playing a game. “Flight attendant on American reamed me out 4 playing WORDS W FRIENDS while we sat at the gate, not moving,” he tweeted initially. (His Twitter account has since been on again, off again.) He then tweeted a few jokes about playing: “United Airlines should buy Words With Friends,” “Now, as I was kicked off this flight, the word I was playing was UNITED,” and “My words with friends user name is now #theresalwaysunited.” Boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya, on the same flight, agreed with the game scenario.

However, when Baldwin wrote a more elegant defense of his behavior on the Huffington Post, he instead said he was using his phone to communicate: “I then did what I have nearly always done and that was to pull out my phone to complete any other messaging I had to do before take off.”

Or, if you believe a passenger on the flight quoted by the New York Post, Baldwin was “‘actually talking on his phone’ — not playing a game.”

2. The conflict was based on tension between Baldwin and a single flight attendant, and there’s no indication he ever left his seat. Either that, or he ran to the bathroom, locked himself inside, and raged against the entire staff.

“It was never my intention to inconvenience anyone with my ‘issue’ with a certain flight attendant,” he wrote for the Huffington Post. “In this case, while other people were still manipulating their own phones, this one employee singled me out to put my phone away.” And later: “Again, I was singled out by this woman in the most unpleasant of tones. I guess the fact that this woman, who had decided to make some example of me, while everyone else was left undisturbed, did get the better of me.”

The official American Airlines Facebook statement greatly disagrees: “The passenger ultimately stood up (with the seat belt light still on for departure) and took his phone into the plane’s lavatory,” it says. “He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed, even with the cockpit door closed and locked. They immediately contacted the cabin crew to check on the situation. The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language.”

3. Cell phone signals interfere with airplane communications. Or, they don’t.

The Federal Aviation Administration fact sheet says phones are a problem. “Cell phones…send out signals strong enough to be received at distances far away from the user,” it says. “The FCC…has banned the inflight use of 800 MHz cell phones because of potential interference with ground networks.”

And that’s what American Airlines maintained it was doing in this case. “Our flight attendants were following federal safety procedures regarding electronic devices,” the airline wrote on its official Twitter account in response to a tweet about Baldwin.

Or were they?

“Several airlines conducted ground tests to see if cellphones would interfere with systems,” reported The New York Times earlier this year. “At American Airlines, people dialed cellphones from out-of-service planes parked at various airports. ‘They found no interaction with the aircraft instruments on any aircraft type,’ said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American.”

Looks like we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Kevin Collier

Kevin Collier

A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.