The Most Likeable Celebrity I’ve Ever Flown With

Filed Under: Travel

When I talk to my non-frequent flyer friends about our hobby, one of the most common questions I get is “what celebrities have you flown with?” While I’ve flown with a ton of celebrities over the years, it’s a question I struggle to answer:

  • Aside from reality TV and YouTube, I’m really bad at pop culture, so I probably only recognize a tiny fraction of the celebrities I’ve flown with
  • Even when I do recognize them and they’re pointed out to me, it’s not something I really remember, since I don’t really get “star struck” — they’re just humans, and rarely memorable

As I sit here and think about the celebrities I’ve flown with, not many come to mind off the top of my head, even though I know there are dozens. Perhaps the most memorable for me were Jennifer Coolidge (because she’s hilarious) in American first class and Grace Mugabe (first lady of Zimbabwe) and her entourage in Singapore first class (what a terrible human being). And of course His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, which was possibly the highlight of my life.

On Saturday I flew from Dallas to Beijing, and I actually had a memorable celebrity aboard, for once. And he was memorable because of how patient, humble, and pleasant he was.

I settled into one of the center seats in row three, and didn’t pay any attention to the guy in the window seat until one of the flight attendants asked to take a picture with him. Then I noticed he looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite figure out who it was. I took a creeper picture and sent it to a friend, who confirmed it was Chris Pratt. That’s Andy from “Parks and Recreation,” and now from a couple of other movies, as his career is blowing up.

I can’t even begin to say how pleasant and friendly he was… and for that matter how borderline excited he seemed about flying American’s (rather trashy) first class. The purser came around to take his meal order, to which he responded “hmmm, so I can order a few of these things?”

American first class

A lot of crew members came by wanting to talk to him, and he was always polite, smiled, and engaged them in conversation.

Then about 12 hours into the flight the purser came up to Chris and said some economy passengers wanted him to sign DVD copies of his movie, which he gladly did. I thought it was really tacky of the purser to facilitate it (especially since the passengers probably heard he was aboard from gossiping crew), but he did it without batting an eyelash.

When the crew wasn’t harassing him he was busy solving a Rubik’s Cube, which he was adorably bad at.

So he’s one celebrity I’ll remember, not just because I think he’s hilarious, but because he was hands down the most pleasant celebrity I’ve flown with. And that makes me like his acting even more.

Have you flown with any interesting celebrities?

  1. Totally agree with you that it was tacky for the purser to ask him to sign autographs for fellow passengers, but beyond classy that he was happy to!

  2. I flew with Warren Buffet in Delta One from MSP to Tokyo. He was continuing to Singapore with some family to go on a cruise.

  3. Every time you write these posts you never talk about your direct interaction with the famous person but how they interact with other people. Did you actually introduce yourself and talk to them or were you just observing them?

    Cause one of those things is kind of creepy.

  4. I admit I know nothing about watching movies on a plane (yes, admitted luddite). But, is it normal for a bunch of passengers to have a particular movie DVD on board with them?

    Off topic, I know. Just curious. I thought everything was loaded at home (or streamed) so people didn’t have to carry DVDs.

  5. I would be a bit like you. Most of the times I hear that a “celebrity” of some kind is on a flight with me, my usual response is…”Who??”

    I am, however, seriously disappointed that I missed out on a flight my siblings took that had Billy Idol on it. I mean, how could you not love an entire flight of “since we let our first class passengers do pretty much whatever they want…” jokes?

  6. @Kyle

    Warren Buffet flys commercial??? let alone Delta which doesn’t even have first class?
    this is kinda shocking.

  7. @ colleen — I found that odd as well. I don’t remember the last time I’ve even owned a DVD, so was odd that people randomly seemed to have them.

  8. @ David — I didn’t talk to him, I figured enough people were bothering him. Not sure what you find creepy, though? The guy on my other side slept half the flight and worked on his laptop the rest of the flight, the people in front of slept the whole time, etc. The flight attendants talked loudly. Is noticing things when you’re in close proximity to others creepy?

  9. @Lantean. I was surprised too. I’m guessing it was because he was with such a big group and Singapore is so far away. I know he does have a private jet also.

  10. @Lantean,

    You don’t think he made all those billions of dollars wasting it purchasing Singapore F did you? 🙂

  11. This entire post is dedicated to talking about memorable people you flew with, but they don’t even know you exist. Chris Pratt doesn’t know that you secretly snapped a photo of him (you called it creepy yourself), and he probably doesn’t know that you think he’s “adorably bad” at Rubix cubes. For someone who doesn’t get starstruck you definitely write posts that suggest otherwise.

    If I were a celebrity I’d prefer overly enthusiastic fanatics with DVDs over someone who snaps photos of me in secret and writes a blog post about it.

    You got some great content, Ben, but this is some next level creepiness.

  12. NetJets. Buffett (and family) was such a satisfied customer that his Berkshire Hathaway bought the company.

    Can’t venture a guess about his DL flight.

  13. His wife, Anna Faris, is incredibly nice too. We met her at Comic Con the other year and she was very gracious and sweet. Good to know that they both are like that!

  14. I saw Chris Pratt in the LAX Flagship lounge on the eve of the last episode of Parks & Rec. (I guess he was getting on the redeye to JFK, because the whole cast was on Jimmy Fallon the next night). I didn’t speak to him even though we were the only 2 people in the back area of the lounge. (My Mouserat t-shirt was in my checked bag – d’oh!) But I did observe his interactions with his Five Star minder, and with the other staff. He was SO nice to everyone. He even bussed dirty dishes that were not his own, and cleaned up some trash on some tables. I hope he never gets the hang of the celebrity thing.

  15. I sat next to Eva Longoria in F from LAX to DFW. She was very sweet and friendly, and graciously let us take a selfie together.

  16. Warren Buffett is that type of billionaire that wants to show he does not care about money. He likes the frugal image!!! He still lives in a very simple and old home in Omaha and drives an old car every day to work. Thus, flying on Delta One was probably a huge upgrade for his lifestyle.

  17. @david

    Its not THAT weird to want to observe what a celebrity says and does when you’re around them. Idk why Lucky couldn’t just ask for a pic though. I saw Peter Dinklage once at LHR and asked if I could take his photo. He was very cool about it. He told me people try to sneak photos all the time and told me it was kind of obvious and annoying lol.

    Ask them next time Lucky! Dont be a creep!

  18. too many to count being JFK/LGA based. pleased to report they’ve all seemed exceedingly gracious. it’s always the anonymous road warrior types who are the ones pulling DYKWIA.

  19. Funny you just saw him! I just arrived back home and in my mailbox was June 2015 issue of GQ Magazine…… with Chris Pratt on the cover!

  20. I enjoy your commentary on these flights and I suppose people being rude to you in comments is par for the course but please ignore these jerks and continue writing whatever you like because I really enjoy your reports

  21. I aisles across from Uma Thurman and her infant baby LHR-EWR on BA business class. If BA VIP staff didn’t escort her on and off the plane I wouldn’t have known she was a celebrity. Not a single passenger or crew members bothered her.

  22. Not a flying story, but I did have a one night stay at a lodge recently in which the PM of the country was also there. He was very humble and fun – played pool and had some drinks with us even. 🙂

  23. Don’t mean to brag, but in 32 years of flying, i have flown with Madonna, Brigitte Nielsen, Tommy Hilfiger, Barbara Bush, Peter O’toole, Joanne Rivers, Ivana Trump, Naomi Campbell, Martina Navratilova, Richard Quest are the ones i can remember off hand. The least friendly was Madonna and Tommy Hilfiger. The most friendly n approachable Joanne Rivers and Richard Quest. We laughed a lot on those flights. One interesting observation here, most celebs were on British Airways flights. First n Concorde. If you’re ever in a BA first class lounge, be on celebrity alert if you’re into spotting them.

  24. You should’ve at least asked him if he got the ticket for $440 and upgraded with a systemwide. Better yet, offer him a luggage tag.

  25. PS. I didn’t even realize Madonna was on Concorde, until 2 teenage girls passed my row and asked her to autorgraph the front cover of their Hello Magazine’s which she was gracing that week.

  26. Several notables:

    Sean Penn from LAX-SFO in 2B reading a script the entire time, didn’t even accept a water from the FA and was first off the plane and headed to his home in Marin County.

    Ethan Hawke (just as he was in divorce proceedings with Uma Thurman) with his smaller daughter at the time in 2C/2D on an A319, LAX-DFW. He allowed her to completely trash the cabin, was very demanding of the flight attendants to keep her occupied and even let her play in front of the jumpseat by door 1L during cruise. I thought from what I observed he was a terrible parent.

    Soledad O’Brien on JFK-SFO and at the appropriate moment I said hello as I was sitting across the aisle and had really enjoyed her work as a morning anchor on CNN and watched her when she was locally on TV in the SF Bay Area. She ended up talking to me for a couple hours, interviewing me for a piece she was working on and then had her assistant ship me a box full of CNN stuff as a thank you.

  27. On a trans-Atlantic flight a few years ago, I sat three or four seats away from one of the greatest rock & roll stars, now getting on in years. I recognized him instantly. (Plus, not everyone has an electric guitar as a carry-on.)

    But, more to the point, no one on the plane bothered him, including me.

    I’m afraid, however, that I did ask one of the FAs for the lowdown on how he ended up on my flight.

  28. Rubik’s Cube, not Rubix. Inventor Rubik, a Hungarian sculptor/architect, in the ’70s.

  29. Not inflight, but I sat next to Geena Davis in the LAX Red Carpet club waiting for a flight to JFK while listening to her ask her assistant how she should fill out her Academy Award ballot.

  30. Met Lupita Nyong’o on United J from LAX to JFK a couple of weeks before she got her Oscar.she was super sweet!!

  31. Didn’t fly with him but saw Jackie Chan at one of CX’s lounges in HKG. Was with my Dad who took a picture, which I thought was a bit tacky.

  32. Oh, how could I forget – signing sensation Psy was in 1A on an Asiana 747 (I was in 3A) flying from Seoul to LAX and he was in his PJs and ready to relax before we left the gate. He changed back about 10 minutes before landing and one of his assistants came up from the back and asked if they could sit in an empty F seat during landing to help whisk him off the plane as soon as we reached the gate. The assistant got the green light to sit there and indeed, Psy was the first person off the plane. I noticed he didn’t care much for several of the meal courses frequently engaging with staff and supervisors would come around to try to assuage his feelings.

  33. I know his faith plays a huge part in his life especially after his son was born prematurely; not saying that you can’t be a decent human being without faith/religion but for him it provided perspective.

  34. Last October I flew next to Bill Cosby on a Delta ATL-LAX flight, so I would classify that encounter as the most unlikeable celebrity I’ve ever flown with, and I’ve been on a plane with Rudy Giuliani, which is saying something.

  35. I’d say more than tacky it was very inappropriate for crew to ask him to sign autographs while he was off the clock, although I wouldn’t assume crew told the economy pax. Chances are they saw him at the gate as he was boarding, no?

  36. I wonder why he is going to Beijing. Sure, almost every industry is pursuing Chinese bucks (because Chinese are so damn rich!) But his show is not even considered good in China (mainly because of culture difference, who cares a comedy about burning government jobs in U.S.?)
    It would make more sense if some gay celebrities come to visit China ( Jim Parson, Matt Bomer, Wentworth Miller…) for some reason, lots of East Asian ladies have gay man fetish….

  37. I actually spent the better part of a day with Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. I introduced myself prior to boarding and we ended up being seatmates LAX to ORD. I then invited him into the UA lounge as he was not a member and we spent a couple hours talking miles and points and baseball before he headed on to ESPN in Hartford I think. He gave me tickets to his box for a Padres game and we kept in touch for a couple years. He plays the game.

    Katy introduced herself to BB King (may he rest in peace) on a flight after getting clearance from his bodyguards. He gave her pictures and autograph and was very friendly once she got by the guards.

    My only other “celeb” encounter was with Rep Maxine Waters on a flight to her home district. We are on different ends of the political spectrum but we made cordial chit chat for a few minutes while waiting to deplane. We each got in a friendly shot 🙂

  38. Also flew once w/ Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. Was definitely a few yrs ago, possibly before they were married? But yea… they seemed like really cool, nice people

  39. He was doing a press tour for the new Jurassic Park movie in Beijing… Just google “Chris Pratt Beijing” and you’ll see the news articles for it 🙂

  40. Not surprised. I read a LOT of celebrity gossip sites and Chris Pratt is well known for being nice.

  41. Back in the 80’s, I splurged on a BA first class ticket from LHR to JFK. Seated right behind me were Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. I remember them as being very quiet. I also remember that Ms. Anderson was stunningly dressed. She was downright tastefully glamorous, which I thought was interesting given her public image.

    I am an out and proud Luddite! Glad I am not alone.

  42. I have had the experience of flying with a number of ‘celebrities’ over the years but just a few days ago (May 18th) I had the pleasure of flying with Nicholas Hoult from LHR to Montreal in Air Canada’s Executive First (fancy name for Business Class). He was going to Montreal for filming of the new X-Men movie. This man was a quiet, pleasant and completely unassuming gentleman but also one of the sexiest men I have EVER seen! My god, how could Jennifer Lawrence ever let him go?

    The most obnoxious ‘celebrity’ I have ever flown with was Ethel Merman (probably before most of you readers’ time)….on TWA First Class. Loud, over-bearing, completely self-absorbed, believed all FA’s were only there to serve her……all negatives and not a single positive was observed with this unpleasant ‘broad’.

  43. Don’t really care about celebs, but I feel bad for the ones who get bugged all the time. Even a nice guy deserves some privacy. Highly inappropriate for the crew to have asked him for anything other than his order.

  44. I flew nexy to freida pinto In asiana first class a380 suites. Apparnelty she is a model also but didn’t seem like it on the flight

    I also flew next to Larry Hughes (NBA player) and informed he was traded before he found out from his agent. Apparently he listens to the flight attendent about turning off phones. He had no idea and let’s just say it was a interesting 3 hour flight from Phoenix to Chicago

  45. At the bar in Sky Club terminal F when Bob Saget walked in. Not sure what flight he was going to, didn’t approach him, nor did many people seem to recognize him.

    This past February, had a delayed flight going home to DC from DTW, when I saw a guy about my height hiding in a pulled up hood and sitting by himself and a female. Walked by him 1x and verified it was RG3, he was incredibly nice and introduced me to his wife and took a picture with me. Sat 1 row behind him in first on the way back.

  46. I never bother any of them, and find most are perfectly normal and don’t do anything worth writing about.
    I do remember Jessica Simpson on a MIA to ORD flight though. Much shorter in person than I thought, and quite the complainer. Yelled at her assistant to get her bag down from the OH bin and stormed off ahead fuming and muttering to herself. Assumed she was having a bad day.

  47. Warren Buffett owns Delta and Amex stocks and is a fan of Delta Private Jets.
    Delta as you know runs a good operation
    Warren Buffett owned USAir when it filed bankruptcy (along with co-Owner BA)
    and he then got out of the airline business in general

  48. I sat next to Sherri Shepherd (from The View, which I’m an avid fan) on UA from EWR-IAH. She was on her way to New Orleans for a music festival. She was really nice. The captain came out of the cockpit and asked her for a picture with him. I usually leave people alone (celeb or not), but Sherri actually engaged me in conversation and had a blast talking to her throughout the flight. This was the time when she already announced that she was leaving The View, but we didn’t know yet who would replace her. So I asked her…she said that she had a feeling it would be Rosie O’Donnell. Her feeling was right!!! I also took a selfie with her 🙂

  49. The tackiest thing is the purser’s actions. I bet those DVDs waiting to be autographed were hers and not “from the coach cabin”.

  50. Lucky, it’s very cute how you’re trying to play it off all cool like you’re not completely in love with him like the rest of us on the planet. You’re so coy, like “Who is he?? Oh, he’s been in a movie of two?” Just admit you were as giddy as everyone else on the plane! 🙂

  51. Hmm… I agree with a commenter above — who carries DVDs on planes nowadays? Perhaps, they were just bringing them to China to watch there…

  52. Sat next to Frank Abignale. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, look up the movie Catch Me If You Can with Leo DiCaprio. Not surprisingly, the entire flight crew wanted a photo with him. Too bad he didn’t have his Pan Am uniform with him.

  53. Across the aisle from Paul McCartney on Concorde — London to New York. Neil Simon was on the same flight.

  54. Wow, Frank Abignale–that is almost poetic! I think it’s fun to see them but I’m not interested in autographs. I automatically avert my eyes in an effort not to make them feel uncomfortable. It would be so weird to walk around with people knowing who you are.

  55. Lucky, while not a celebrity, I’m sure you get recognized once in a while. Honestly, how do you feel about it when random blog readers approach you? What do they usually want – just to say hi, a photo with you, a more extended conversation? I feel like you have a perspective here that most of your readers don’t have. I’m really curious – is it flattering, annoying, a little bit of both?

  56. @lucky
    I have to say this is another one of your amazing blog posts and I’m glad you post many times a day, or else I would have so much boring free time. I have seen many celebrities on Virgin America (even in prem econ and econ!), although I wish they had more flights out of ORD and/or started service to RSW. If I ran into you on a flight/at the airport, I would probably freak out (but respectively give you your privacy). I was also wondering if you were planning on doing another giveaway? Thanks.

  57. @Neil: I’ve been hearing about some budget movie coming out soon that Chris is in, something to do with dinosaurs…

  58. Sorry Dan, but doesn’t getting “giddy” over celebrities depend on how old you are?

  59. That’s pretty cool! I’d personally freak out. 🙂 I’ve read a handful of interviews he’s done and he totally seems like a down to earth super friendly guy who knows how lucky he is to be getting paid a bunch of money to make movies. Glad to hear he wasn’t a diva!

  60. I flew with Adriana Lima (VS angel) on AA JFK-MIA around last year’s world cup. She is beautiful without any makeup and she was traveling with her 2 kids and a nanny. What really surprised me is that she was taking care of her kids the whole flight and the nanny was basically sitting in F just watching her do her mommy duties. She was stunning but was busy for most of the flight so I didn’t ask for a picture or anything. Really down to earth girl and, again, STUNNING!….

  61. “what celebrities have you flown with? While I’ve flown with a ton of celebrities over the years…”

    I find it strange to word celebrity encounters like this. You aren’t flying with them unless they invited you along – you are just flying on the same aircraft and happen to be somewhat in their vincinty. Suggests a relationship that doesn’t exist.

    Personally I think it’s fine to take a glance and even get a bit excited if you want, but to put them on surveillance and to attempt to inject yourself in their awareness runs the risk of being downright tacky. Like anyone else, you let them set the agenda – if they want to interact with others, it’ll be clear, if they want to be left alone then leave them the hell alone.

    People have the right to enjoy their privacy – whether celebrity or not. Don’t be like Lucky’s Sri Lankan tailor friend and pester others, when clearly it’s not wanted (people shouldn’t have to spell it out for you in order to take the hint).

  62. I was alone in the terminal when Harold Ramis walked by. I gave him a thumbs up. He smiled and nodded. This was the most meaningful celebrity interaction I’ve ever had.

    I was on a plane with 5 of the 6 congressmen from my state. Both senators and 3 representatives. I didn’t much care, although I found the one sitting in first to be insufferable and the one in economy to be a stand-up guy in the multiple conversations I’ve had with them since.

    I guess now I’ve reached the nadir of my life.

  63. @ Jack — Hah, thanks. If you see me by all means say hello. I do have some amenity kits I’ll be giving away again soon.

  64. @ James — It does happen quite often (my record was 14 readers on a single flight once, randomly), and I always appreciate when people say hi. It amazes me anyone reads my little corner of the internet, so I’m thrilled when it happens. Sometimes I’m super tired after having flown for days, but always happy to meet readers. 🙂

  65. My most memorable celebrity encounter is Julianna Marguiles – the Good Wife and previously Nurse Hathaway on ER. I was on an American flight (LAX-JFK) about 10 years ago. I had seen her checking bags, not realizing she’d not only be on my plane, but in the seat next to me.

    We were in the bulkhead row – me on the aisle and JM on the window. It was an early morning flight, so she slept for the first few hours. When she woke up, she immediately started to get up to go to the bathroom. Naturally I started to unbuckle my seatbelt to get up so she could get by. But we were in the bulkhead, so she said, “don’t worry about it.”

    Long-story short, as she was passing in front of me, she slipped and ended up in my lap. I was stunned. Instead of getting up quickly, she turned around, while in my lap, and simply apologized.

    I had a huge grin – among other things – for much of the rest of my flight, and a story that I still tell to this day. Man was she hot back in the day!

  66. @Todd – Back in the day! She still is smoking hot in my view. And a great actress for that matter. She can fall into my lap anytime – and I hope she does not apologize 😉

  67. I always say hi to whomever I’m sitting next to – celebrity or not and ask if they are going home, going on vacation, going to work or whatever. In the last 1-3 years I have sat next to Seth Meyers (not a particularly talkable guy), Steve Wozniak (extremely talkative and I have even spoken with him since and my kids got to also talk to him), and most recently, Keanu Reeves in April 2015 (nice, somewhat talkative) and finally Felipe Rose laste last month. Felipe Rose is the co-founder of the Village People (he is the ‘Native American’) and is by far the coolest ‘celebrity’ I have flown with. We had drinks, took selfies, he and the band signed pictures for my Mom and we are now friends and are planning to go out for drinks the next time I’m in NY and he is in town and not touring.

    The way I see it, celebrities are no different than any of us. If they want me to leave them alone I respect that. I’m the same way with people as well.

  68. OK-calling the purser tacky for helping the passengers get autographs, is a bit much. I think it was a very cool to help facilitate, after all the passengers could have just walked right up to him and moved that paper thin curtain. Now you sneaking a picture of him and posting it on Facebook, might just be tacky. 🙂

  69. I flew with John Glenn and his wife Annie a few years ago CMH-DCA; they sat in the row in front of me in economy. No one said anything or seemed to recognize him until we were exiting the plane and the pilot greeting everyone recognized him. The pilot was so excited to have flown his hero!

    I also flew with the real Erin Brockovich last year LAX-CMH as she was on the way to the West Virginia chemical spill. I’m not sure if she was more horrified that she had to sit bulkhead coach or that she was going to WV!

  70. Like you, Ben, I wouldn’t recognize a celebrity if they punched me in the face. About 20 years ago, I was working out beside Bruce Willis in North Vancouver, BC and only found out who he was when he was surrounded by almost every female (staff and customer) at the gym.

    But, the most memorable encounter was with Zac Efron about six years ago. The airline I was working for was ensuring that he had a smooth transit, so I had an opportunity to meet his flight. From the moment he met us at the end of the jet bridge to the moment that we left him in our lounge, he was a class act all the way. He was humble and an all-around nice guy. He didn’t hesitate to sign a printed photo of him for my then-teenage daughter. She still won’t forgive me for not letting her cut class to take her to the airport with me. 🙂

  71. Years ago, in the seat next to me was Mike Judge the guy who did the voices for Beavis and Butthead as well as King of the Hill (not a fan of either) but he was a really nice and likeable fellow.

    Probably the kindest and most genuine person I was ever on a flight with was the metal musician Ronny James Dio. One of the most easy going and polite people I have ever met. He smiled and laughed when I asked for his autograph. There was an elderly woman who had been put into business class with us because she was feeling ill part way through the flight (a deadheading pilot switched seats with her so she could lay flat; nothing serious just dehydration). I’m a former medic and respiratory therapist so a doc on board and myself kept an eye on her. When we arrived where we were going, we stood her up (she refused to be carried off the plane) and she promptly passed out momentarily. We decided to carry her off the plane and Ronny stepped in to offer his assistance and he and I carried her to the jetway where a wheelchair was waiting.

    I turned to tell him thank you and he stops me. “I didn’t do anything. You took care of her so thank you”. He insisted on taking the doc, her husband, their two kids, myself and my girlfriend at the time to lunch as his way of saying thank you.

    He also apparently remembered me because I was on another flight with him a couple of years later and he came up to me, addressed me by name and asked how I had been.

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