Flying American First Class With A “Real Housewife!”

Filed Under: American, Travel

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the “Real Housewives” franchise.


Just to clarify (since I know this confuses some people), it’s not that I find the plots to be especially deep or the production quality to be especially high. Rather it’s just a fun escape. Nowadays I live a fairly drama-free life, so it’s a fun way to be amused by other peoples’ lives. I actually think the show gets worse by the season (can we do something other than speculate on Brooks’ cancer or Yolanda’s lyme disease, please?), but I’m still watching.

Yesterday I flew American’s A321 first class from Los Angeles to New York (I was on a cheap paid business class fare which I was able to upgrade to first class thanks to an expiring systemwide upgrade which a reader generously offered), and as I walked aboard, who did I see seated in front of me? None other than Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Erika Girardi.


She’s the newest cast member, and I love her. She totally owns who she is and doesn’t really care what others think, and I respect her for that.


She seemed like a really nice person on the flight. I don’t think anyone else actually recognized her, but she was nice to the flight attendants, and generally seemed to be a funny person. She was traveling with her entourage (she’s also a “dance performer”), who mostly seemed to be seated in economy.

What cracked me up was that she was flying commercial, because in the show she makes a point of talking about how she has two planes. And while she was talking to the flight attendant I overheard her saying “yeah, I fly out of here all the time and they moved the Starbucks.” I didn’t know LAX Terminal 4 also services private jets. 😉

This actually raises a general question which I’m curious to get some thoughts on. Over the years I’ve flown with more “celebrities” than I can count, from politicians to actors to singers. And I forget most of them, since it doesn’t really faze me.

Ford was flying with me yesterday, and I encouraged him to ask her for a picture, and I think we sort of had different approaches as to what a reasonable request is when on a plane.

I’m curious where you guys stand on this, given that planes are confined spaces:

  • Is it appropriate to approach someone on a plane and tell them you like their work?
  • Is it appropriate to approach someone on a plane and ask for a picture with them?

I guess my general personal thoughts are as follows:

  • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying something nice to someone on a plane, as long as you’re not doing it in a creepy way or while they’re busy
  • I personally wouldn’t ask for a picture inflight, but I think it’s fine while deplaning, or ideally on the way out of the plane

I think generally you can also tell what kind of an attitude a person has. I’ve flown with celebrities who seemed like the nicest people on earth (like Chris Pratt), while others came across as complete pricks. So I don’t think it should be too tough to “read” someone.

Lastly, it probably also depends on how famous someone is. I’d say Erika is more niche famous than anything, so she might be thrilled if someone recognizes her. It’s different if we’re talking about Brad Pitt or Justin Bieber.

How do you guys feel about when it’s appropriate to ask for pictures with a celebrity on a plane?

  1. Did you end up asking for a photo – or is this onboard WiFi? because if it’s the latter, DO IT!

  2. My thoughts on this matter would be she went onto the show to be famous and for publicity, if she was being polite on the plane I would see no harm in politely asking for a picture, if she says no, apologise for bothering her and wish her well.

  3. Flying out of LAX often, see a number of actors also, less often on board. If I know their work well enough, and the situation was right, would certainly bring it up, like with one of the actors in Supernatural, my favorite show. The only time I crossed the line and asked for a picture was way back when I walked by Bob Hope getting out of a car to play golf. Way before cell phones, but had a camera to take pictures at the Glider port.

  4. I think it depends who it is (I’m a fan of a few trashy shows, do you watch Below Deck? I think you would probably like it, but wouldn’t class them as celebs and wouldn’t want a pic with them) and how approachable they look on the day. You can probably tell from body language if they are ok with a chat or pic.

    Chris Pratt though he’s awesome so funny in so many interviews I’ve seen.

  5. OH WOW! How exciting. Not.

    Some soon to be has been person enjoying her 5 seconds of ‘fame’. Give me a break.

    Such ground breaking journalism.

  6. It depends on the status of the celebrity – living LA, I see just about every level for celeb from mega A list to these C list reality show celebs, my husband actually created a reality show that’s going into its 5th season.

    In public, I generally ignore the celeb and don’t approach except the time Jude Law sat right next to me at lunch, and I mean right next to me, not a couple of tables down. However, on a plane – if Leonardo DiCaprio is seated next to me, or very close by and not 5 rows away, I’d say something but wouldn’t ask for a picture no matter how badly I’d want it. Then, I’d get on FB and tell everyone Leo is on my flight.

    Departing the plane in Puerto Vallarta and going through customs, I noticed John Malcovich was on my plane and he was standing in the customs line like everyone else. However, he was ahead of me but I’d never say anything unless I was right by him.

  7. I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking a celebrity for a photo no matter where I encountered them (a book signing might be the only exception), so I might just smile politely, and dip my head to acknowledge that I recognize them.

    My husband is a guitar player, and a huge fan of many famous guitarists. He was thrilled when he noticed that BB King was standing behind us in the Immigration line at LAX a number of years ago. He struck up a conversation with BB King, and they ended up talking about “Lucille” (his beloved guitar), but didn’t ask for a picture or autograph.

  8. However, for a reality show celeb – I wouldn’t make such a big deal BUT they want to be famous so I don’t put them in the same category as A List. And I like Erika Girardi too – nice replacement for Brandi Glanville.

  9. You mentioned in this post that a reader gave you a system wide upgrade and you were able to use it. I have 7 system wide upgrades that are expiring on 2/29/16 and I know I will not be able to use them, if you want some or all of my SWU’s you can have them. I know you probably have a lot of SWU’s but if you want mine they are all yours.

  10. I’m an introvert so I wouldn’t go out of my way to go up to the celebrity and ask for a photo or whatever. However, if I’m at a fundraiser meet and greet and the celebrity is the guest speaker… or if I’m at an expo or conference where the celebrity is doing a book signing or speaking at an event, I’d go up, say thank you, and kindly ask for a photo.

  11. First question my husband asked before I read him the rest of the article! “Why is she flying commercial”?

  12. I would ask as we were walking off. I wouldn’t want to make a big scene in the air.

    But if she was with her entourage, I’d probably want to go hang out in economy. Yum!

  13. I think the biggest mitzvah you can do for these people is just to ignore them and let them live their lives. Do you like being approached in lounges for photos?

  14. I’m also LA based and see lots of celebrities flying to and from LA. I had Ted Danson and his wife right in front of me in first class last summer. I didn’t want to draw any more attention to him so I didn’t ask for a picture.

    I’ve run into fighters like Chuck Liddell or Bruce Buffer and got pictures with them.

    I had a female celebrity on my flight the other night. We got diverted and I invited her into the admirals club where we hung out talking for 2 hours til our rebooked flight boarded. I didn’t ask for a picture. I totally chickened out but felt like she wouldn’t appreciate having her picture taken at 4 am with no makeup on.

    I guess each situation is different. If they have their kids or spouse with them I won’t bother them.

  15. I was on 32 yesterday- the mid afternoon LAX-JFK. Sounds like we must have just missed one another. I will say this – lunch in the LAX Flagship lounge was not worth getting early to the airport for.

  16. @stvr: “I think the biggest mitzvah you can do for these people is just to ignore them and let them live their lives. Do you like being approached in lounges for photos?”

    That’s a strange take considering this woman is a “reality” TV star. It’s not as if she was so amazingly talented (e.g. BB King as another comment mentioned) that her incredible skills thrust her into the spotlight. Her “fame” was “earned” by simply having a huge ego and being able to manufacture drama. If everyone did them this mitzvah, she’d have no show! … or perhaps that is the best mitzvah for the rest of the world. 🙂

    As to Lucky’s question, I try not to interrupt celebrities. I’ve run into a few TV celebs and if I like their shows, I usually tell them I like their work. The worst “celeb” interaction I had was meeting Joel Robuchon (twice! What can I say, I was a chef) and getting all gaga over meeting him… but of course he doesn’t speak english and I don’t speak french.

  17. A few years ago I was flying biz from JFK to LAX and Andy Dick was in the cabin. He must have made at least a dozen trips to the bathroom lol. As he was walking back to his seat I finally asked him if he would mind if I took his picture. He couldn’t have been nicer. He crouched done beside me and had the FA take the photo of us together

  18. The funny thing is since I read this on an RSS feed and it doesn’t show whose blog it is until the end; already could tell by the fact someone was actually excited about this, it had to be your blog.

  19. I wasn’t flying, but I did run into Patrick Dempsey one time at a race track. He was doing test runs with his new car. I am a huge fan of Grey’s. Not that it is relevant, but I was also 9 months pregnant. I didn’t ask for his autograph, but I did get a picture with him. He was very kind about it. I actually asked one of his mechanics if he thought Dempsey would mind and he said nope, he is a nice guy. My husband chatted with him about his car for a while and off we went.

  20. Few years ago had Beyoncé & Jay Z with us in the cabin from JFK to DXB.
    Nice people and both Queen B and Jay Z took time to chat with our children.
    Did not ask for pictures to be taken as I respect their privacy

  21. I had a jackpot of a housewives flight a few years back with RHONJ. It was a Sunday night ORD-EWR and about half the cast was flying back after a Manzo wedding in Chicago that had been filmed. I spotted all three of the Manzo kids in the security line and then literally bumped into Teresa Giudice in the airport bathroom (this was pre-prison). On the plane, Teresa and Joe + Jacqueline and Chris were sitting in first and the Manzo kids were roughing it back in coach with me. When I was boarding I heard Teresa on her phone saying Caroline Manzo had flown back early to film WWHL with Andy, which is why she wasn’t on the flight. It was crazy to see them all in person and in one place, sort of felt like some bizarre housewives Disneyland!

  22. I was a flight attendant for 30 years and had lots of celebrities onboard. Most of them were pleasant and low-key. Personally, I found it best to just chat with them as I would with any other passenger, as if I didn’t even know they were famous. Of course it was easier to do as crew; I had a real reason to speak to them. As a fellow passenger I’d never approach a celebrity onboard a plane.

    My favorite celebrity memory was having Prince in first class – seat 1A – from Minneapolis to New York on a 727. He was obsessed with privacy, though the outfit he was wearing, and the ton of pancake make-up on his face at 10 a.m. meant he definitely stood-out from the crowd. As it turned-out, no one else in first class even gave him a second glance. He was the first one off the plane once we landed, whispering “Thank you”. As lead flight attendant, I stood at the door bidding the other passengers goodbye and not one person mentioned the performer’s presence on the flight except an elderly lady – 80 years-old at least – and one of the very last to deplane. Stepping into the jetway she looked back at me and said “Prince, right?”

  23. I’ve been know to watch my share of trashy reality tv like Million Dolllar Listing, etc. but to me these people are not celebrities at all. They are fame seekers that will do and say anything to get noticed and have their extra time in the public eye. I would recognize some of them but i definitely wouldn’t ask them for their autograph or anything like that. Funny related story….I was in Vegas staying at the Cosmopolitan and a guy got into the elevator with me and I kept thinking I knew him from somewhere like work or school or something like that. Later that day he again ended up in the elevator with me so I asked him where I could possibly know him from because he looked familiar…..turns out he was a cast member on the Bachelorette! Needless to say I was embarrassed as hell that I would recognize someone from the show and assume I knew them. 🙂

  24. You are a sort of celebrity to us points geeks — so what do you think of “fans” coming up to say hi or asking for a photo?

    Funny story — I was actually asking myself this question about you a couple months ago.

    I was in Dublin at a popular points geek hotel, and I saw a person at breakfast who looked so much like you that I was convinced it was you (don’t worry, I’m not creepy — I know what you look like cause I’ve seen you speak at FTU). So normally, I would never interrupt someone I don’t know. But I was thinking I would break my usual “rule” just to say thanks, since I was on an amazing round the world trip largely due to great advice from you. (BTW, thanks). Except, in addition to wondering whether I should bother “you,” I also wasn’t 100% sure it really was you. So I was doing amazingly silly things like — 1) checking your blog on my phone to see if it was possible/likely that you were in Dublin; and when it looked like that was a possibility — 2) staring at the bags this person had to see if they matched up with those in your pictures. (which was the main reason I hesitated — no match) All while trying not to stare, of course.

    I finally concluded it wasn’t you – I eventually heard his voice, and the accent was Irish. So you seem to have an Irish twin. But it was a funny episode on my little adventure – and your question here brought it back to mind.

  25. I was at LAX yesterday and didn’t approach you. However, I did tell the CBSA officer at YVR that he was great on Border Security.

  26. What if the ‘celebrity’ is a CEO of a company you admire? Would you talk to the person?

    Case in point: saw Fabrice Braégier, AIRBUS Ceo, in the Pier First Class Lounge at HKG.
    I did not want to bother him in the lounge, but he flew the same flight as I. I wished him a “good flight…on a CX Boeing 777” 🙂

  27. I was on a 7 hour flight in business class with this Bollywood actor I noticed her upon boarding and wanted a picture with her. It was an early morning flight, breakfast was served and after that I went to sleep for a good 4 hours. Once I got up I saw she was also up and watching inflight entertainment. I asked a flight attendant to pass on the message to her that I her fan would like a snap with her. The FA spoke to her and came back to me saying she will come to the front galley in about 5 mins for the photo session!!I was so excited. The 5 mins she asked was for as I noticed on the sly 😉 she put on some make up as she had just gotten up from a nap!

    Once at the galley she was all so gracious and she obliged for a couple of pictures as well as telling me what her final destination was.

    I felt this is the right approach to ask for a picture from a celebrity when on a flight or dining at a restaurant as otherwise it is like infringing into their privacy as they are not at a public event where they are obliged to appear for pictures with their fans.

  28. I flew an LAX-JFK redeye in F across from Kendrick Lamar last summer. I really wanted to tell him very quickly how much his music meant to me but I abstained. A) I didn’t want to bother him (we were all tired, I’m sure) and B) if he was a dick about it, I’d be crushed!

  29. “Is it appropriate to approach someone on a plane and tell them you like their work?
    Is it appropriate to approach someone on a plane and ask for a picture with them?”

    I would say so long as you don’t make a big deal out of it, probably. Then again, most reality TV stars….I wouldn’t recognize them or even know who they are if someone pointed them out to me.

    I’ve flown a few times with celebrities. I have a medical background and there was a diversion for a medical emergency I helped with. This kind of gruff looking fellow offered to help carry this rather large patient off the plane (it was one of those situations where we were at the door of the plane as soon as we pulled to a stop because she needed to be off that airplane NOW). As we’re getting back on board, I said “You look really familiar…but I can’t place it.” Turns out that it was Ronnie James Dio, one of the gods of metal. Really decent and down to earth fellow.

    One of the guys from NSync was sitting across from me on a flight once but I don’t remember which one. Funny dude though. I talked to him for over an hour with no clue who he was until one of the flight attendants asked for his autograph. “This may sound stupid….but why did she do that?”
    “Oh, I was part of NSync”
    “Oh neat. So what are you looking forward to doing on your vacation?”

    Those are the two that jump to mind at the moment.

  30. Travis says:
    February 20, 2016 at 11:23 am
    First question my husband asked before I read him the rest of the article! “Why is she flying commercial”?

    Yes! That’s exactly the question. Girardi speaks often about owning TWO planes. Why on earth would she ever fly commercial? Hmmm???

  31. Many celebs fly both private and commercial…all depends upon who is paying.

    Sometimes they are required to fly commercial for reasons I will not go into.

    Some of the fame whore celebs (more fame whorish that others) like the attention they get and so commercial gives them that energy.

    Certain “true” A-list celebs never fly commercial, except for the odd international flight… or all international, but never domestic.

    It just varies.

    Asking for pics and autographs is sooo 1990. It is ok, and appreciated to tell them you like their work (at that point you can gage how far to go) Otherwise honestly, leave them alone!…they are not gods nor your overlords. 😉 😉

  32. Working in Hollywood for many years and also having had the awkwardness of sitting next to a Kardashian on the plane in first class once it depends how big of a star they are and who they are. You definitely could have approached a housewives actress and asked for a photo and let her know you’re a fan. If it was someone like Jennifer Aniston and you tell them “you’re a huge fan” it’s not like they’ve never heard that one before. So, never approach an A lister. You will come off as super tacky. So C listers and D listers knock yourself out.

  33. I work in the music industry, and I have dealt with many artists on a professional and conversational level. I can honestly say that the majority of them realize how blessed they are to be where they are, and will always appreciate a compliment.

    There are always exceptions to this, but they’re all people too. It never hurts to ask someone something, but do realize that these people work very hard, much harder than most people know.

    I personally never ask for pictures or autographs unless we’ve had a meaningful conversation, and even then it’s rare for me to. They enjoy being treated as regular people more than anything, but all the same they understand that’s very rare so many of them will have walls up.

    At the end of the day, a picture with a celebrity for most people is just to brag to other people with. If it’s to actually remember an awesome encounter, then sure, why not, but do tread lightly.

  34. A few years ago I flew JFK-LAX on B6 – pre-Mint/premium services, on a regular A320. Before boarding, I saw a tall man board the aircraft (the gate agents didn’t make any announcements, not even for pre-boarding for families/people with disabilities).

    Once I got on board, the man had taken his seat in 4A with sunglasses on. That man was Hugh Jackman. The flight attendants, all female, were very professional yet excited he was on the plane. However, his wife was right next to him…I didn’t see anyone take pictures with him or ask for his autograph. I did sneak a photo of him when we were deplaning (I was in 8A).

    On a side note, I don’t know what her appeal is for the the gay crowd (before I hear from the peanut gallery, I’m gay myself.) Her music is so autotuned and her outfits are so trashy when she “performs.”

  35. Lucky, I’m sure people recognize you when you travel sometimes (I’ve seen it happen, in fact). How do you feel when people say hi and/or want a picture? It happens rarely enough that it’s probably not much of an imposition. On the other hand, if you’re mega-famous like Brad Pitt or SpongeBob Squarepants, I would imagine it gets old after a while.

  36. I’m sure this is an age/generational question…when I started reading the question and then reading the replies, I assumed the “picture” meant asking for one of their 8×10 glossies. Years ago, celebrities traveled with glossies for the purpose of giving them out with an autograph. So, yes, I’d ask. [Baby boomer–born 1947.] Then I wondered if the discussion relates to selfies or just asking if you can take a picture of them. That’s more invasive so I’d really want to have one or I wouldn’t ask.
    Lucky, if I saw you, I’d ask you for a picture with me!

  37. This is tacky. Especially after your post re identity theft, I would expect you to be more respectful of others’ privacy.
    I’d be surprised if Ford hadn’t snapped A. Dick on a flight before.

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