Arianna Huffington removed from plane after refusing to turn off her BlackBerry

By Michelle Haag on 12 Jan 2011 09:18 am EST
Arianna Huffington

First it was actor Josh Duhamel and now it's media mogul Arianna Huffington. What do these two have in common? Well, if you remember back to December of last year, Josh was removed from a US Airways flight for refusing to turn off his BlackBerry. This week Arianna Huffington, co-founder and columnist for The Huffington Post, was on a United Airlines flight. Arianna apparently ignored the captain's instructions to turn off her device as they were about to take off from Dulles Airport in Washington, DC. This allegedly outraged a fellow passenger, causing him to get out of his seat and start causing a scene of Arianna's continued use of her BlackBerry. Law-enforcement sources said the face-off began at 10:10 p.m. as the flight was taking off and the other passenger "advised her to turn BlackBerry off. She was slow in complying."

Another passenger on the flight gave this statement:

I was on a United Express shuttle flight from DC to LaGuardia on Saturday night. Arianna Huffington was in my row. She wouldn't turn off her blackberry, even when we pushed back from the gate; we took off and it became apparent that the phone was still on, which very much upset her neighbor and a burly Brooklyn type a few rows behind her, who started heckling both her and the flight attendant ("Hey lady! Don't you speak English?" "How come she gets to use her electronic devices but nobody else does?"). Nobody seemed to have any idea who she was. When we landed, both she and the heckler were pulled off the plane first by Port Authority cops. The woman who had been sitting next to her said, "Wasn't that Arianna Huffington?" The flight attendant said, "No! I'll tell you who it was," whips out his passenger list, and there she was.
Arianna and the other passenger were removed from the plane when it landed at LaGuardia and questioned about the incident. Both were released without charges. Her rep, Mario Ruiz, said: "There was a passenger who seemed upset. Arianna thought he didn't like the snacks. Guess not. Maybe he was an iPhone fan. As you know, the battle between iPhone lovers and BlackBerry users can get pretty heated."

Thanks to rrrebo for sending this in to us!
Michelle Haag Michelle Haag "@_Miche11e_ and C0001B3B5" 1214 (articles) 1695 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Arianna Huffington removed from plane after refusing to turn off her BlackBerry


I never turned off my blackberry or camcorder, I never got thrown off or questioned. So... WTF? Airlines just keep using that stereotype of "electronics will crash planes", what about the other devices on sleep mode? What about digital wrist watches? What about radios? What about the wireless flight instruments? There are soo many things that could supposively bring down a plane, but it never happened! Lol

Bad guys use electronic devices to detonate IEDs. If your on my plane, then I will say something very loud! Just grow up and follow the rules.

She should have just turned off her phone as per protocol its not like its a new rue, doesn't matter who she is. The heckler should have been more diplomatic about it.

What a great society we live in, all adults im sure were the ones squawking like a bunch of 10 year olds. Grow the f@#$ up.

she's just your typical statist liberal, they think they are above the rules that their subjects have to follow.

Really? That is just a liberal thing? Gotta love when people jump on an opportunity to attribute someone's wrongdoings to their political leanings without merit. Thank you for the misinformation, this is more of a class issue where rules don't apply to them. It isn't just their perception, people with money / celebrity are generally treated differently.

I leave mine on all the time. If you turn the radios off, it's no big deal. Nobody asks you to turn your digital watch off, and it's most likely got a microprocessor in it too. Nobody makes anyone turn of a hearing aid, and it has amplifier circuitry in it. People are way too uptight these days. Myth Busters tackled this subject once, and tried and failed to create enough interference to even twitch any gauges in their test plane, even with the wires exposed and unshielded. The chances of a cell phone bringing down an airplane are a LOT slimmer than the chances that your pilot doesn't even turn his/her phone off...

Now where is news we can use? Like a new device rumor or snapshot?

While I agree with what you say technically (a pilot friend proved as much no a little Piper with three BlackBerrys all in action simultaneously, radios on and all), the issue here isn't whether Huffington would have brought down the plane but a paying passenger's ability to follow the rules and regulations of the service provider with which they have voluntarily contracted.


Why is it that just because a rule is outdated or perhaps misguided so many people today seem to feel they do not need to comply. The rules are the rules and compliance is mandatory! With out this discipline society will just continue to deteriorate. I am so glad I ma as old as I am. I would not want to live is this society in another 20 years. I feel so sad for my grandchildren. :-(

Because I try to avoid doing stupid things, like following stupid rules.

I'm pretty sure your grandparents (and everyone else's) felt the same way.

First off the mythbuster's test was highly flawed. Too much to post why the test was flawed. You'll just have to trust me on this one. A digital watch to a cell is like apples to oranges. A watch is very low powered, and they do not give off any type of signal.
Bad guys use cell phones and other communication equipment to detonate IEDs.

It's not about whether you agree or not with the electronics rule, what matters most is the double standards we have come to expect and accept in our society. If you are rich or important you automatically get a pass as if the rules don't apply to you. If the average citizen has to turn off their phone, then Arianna should have to as well. She is not above the rules despite how important she thinks she is.

Politics and personalities aside, it is a really stupid and annoying rule to have to turn off electronic devices. People leave them on all the time (by accident if nothing else -- I know, as I've later found mine on in my pocket) and planes don't have any problems as a result. A Kindle, as another example, isn't any more "off" when you click it off then when you're reading; it just ignores the other button presses and displays a different ("screensaver") image. Yet they hound people to turn off their Kindles (like the person sitting next to me last week) and mention them specifically.

If electronics truly endangered the aircraft they wouldn't let you bring them on. (If it's a ploy to get you to pay attention, as I've heard suggested, then it's pointless, as people read books or magazines instead, and neither earplugs nor screaming children are forbidden.) If it's simply a "better safe than sorry" approach and there's no evidence of any actual EM interference, then nobody should get hyped up or removed from a plane because of it.

The more pointless Security Theater rules they layer on, the more people ignore them all, including the ones that actually matter.

Dumb rule.

Of ignorance. I don't think it is so much as iPhone vs BlackBerry, rich or poor, it is just plain blatant disregard for authority. She agreed to Rules & Regulations when she purchased the ticket!

I fear the day when they finally allow cell phones to be used. Imagine the shouted bluetooth conversations going on from all sides.

I've often felt this was one of the big reasons no airline is pushing to allow phones to be used. Besides, the airlines would lose airfone and onboard wifi data income.

I agree that people talking loudly (into phones or otherwise, including screaming children) should be minimized. I wouldn't mind a rule that said no voice cell calls or loud talking / loud noises, to ensure that instructions from the flight crew could be heard (and of course for passenger sanity).

But forbidding one to read an ebook on one's BB (as I do), or using a Kindle, iPad, etc., is just ludicrous.

Ok, this post is too funny. Let's make rules legislating no screaming children. Heck, babies should be first and foremost on this list. Let's lock them up and put them on no fly lists if they don't comply.

Forbidding reading ebooks and iPads on takeoff is just ludicrous but this makes sense?

I don't think it's a matter of using the phone as much as the fact that cell phones have been used to detonate explosive devices. Rules may not make sense at times, but it's difficult to differentiate for every situation, thus the turn off all electronics capable of transmitting a signal. Just one of the reasons I never fly anymore. A sad commentary of the times we live in...

Edited to add: BTW, the title of this story is misleading. It makes it sound like she was removed from the plane and not allowed on the flight. Maybe better to say she was questioned upon arrival.

You do realize you're allowed to turn your 'electronic devices' once the plane has reached altitude right? This post is a sad commentary of your life.

Fully agree with your second paragraph.

I don't know why she would want to leave it on. I've tried turning my phone on once I'm in the sky and there is no service. Even in places where there is service on the ground below you.

Some of the Emirates Airlines (Middle East) flights has AeroMobile which allows passengers to make phone call or sending SMS using their own mobile devices when the plane is flying.

God knows perhaps some of the US airlines flights has this capability too, but only VIP or government agents can access it :)

having the phone on or off at take off doesn't really matter, ive left it on multiple times and nothing happens

The point being made is that there are some basic rules for flying. Arianna has demonstrated arrogance and an inability to say or do the right thing.

I'd bet money the idiot who reacted like an obstinate 5 year old in retaliation was a Republican/Conservative.

Just like a Conservative to act like a blustering obnoxious buffoon, right?

As people have mentioned before, if electronics caused any interference with the plane they wouldn't be allowed on board at all - the only reason why airlines make passengers turn off electronics during take-off/landing is so they are aware of their surroundings in the event of an emergency. Although there are plenty of ways people distract themselves on planes, it's much easier to get their attention if they're just reading a magazine or chatting with their seat neighbors than if they're listening to music that's cranked up to drown out the plane noises. This is also why flight attendants wake up sleeping passengers just before landing.

I do agree though that it's much better to follow the instructions, I wouldn't take the chance of getting kicked off.

Stupid! Everyone knows you can leave your phone on when in flight without causing problems, you just have to use it candidly... AKA pretend your in HS again... LOL

What annoyed me was the flight attendant who told me to turn off my iPod for take off... I said it was on Airplane Mode, and she said,
"That's not the point... take off and landing is the most dangerous period of a flight, and if perchance something happens it is important that the attendants have the full attention of all the passengers so as to give directions etc."
Maybe this was a BS answer, but it sounds legit to me and it's all i need to at least put my phone and iPod away during take off and landing, even if my BB is still turned on (which it usually it :p ).

That's what I've always understood the reasoning to be. I know originally they said it would interfere, but you don't really hear that too much anymore. Anyway, the above stated reason makes much more sense to me.

I am a flight attendant. First off we are fined if we do not get passenger compliance. A very large fine.
Electronic devices are as much a security issue as much as a safety issue.
Bad guys use electronic devices to detonate IEDs.
We do also need no interference when giving safety information. Not only for you, but others. FAA mandates that we have everyone attention during safety demos. If we don't, then we are fined.
Also, yes electronic can cause interference. The mythbuster's test was highly flawed. Its not just interference with airplane systems, but also navigation and communication equipment.
We must ensure that all electronics are completely powered off. Hibernate, Airplane, sleep, etc. is not completely powered off.
If one does not like this, then take it up with the FAA and any other prospective terrorist.

Reading a lot of th comments here, I'm glad I'm not on BB anymore if there are so many neo cons using it.

When did Crackberry turn into

Let the woman do as she pleases with her BlackBerry!!! Rock on CrackBerry!!! Since when do the passengers get to enforce the rules? Did the guy see that her radio was on from two seats back? Get the heck out of here the commenters(not even a word shhhh...) on this story are the uptight ones :) Happy BlackBerrying CrackBerrians!!

(x2) in agreement with:

DrewDT :

"Really? That is just a liberal thing? Gotta love when people jump on an opportunity to attribute someone's wrongdoings to their political leanings without merit. Thank you for the misinformation, this is more of a class issue where rules don't apply to them. It isn't just their perception, people with money / celebrity are generally treated differently ".



" ...Because I try to avoid doing stupid things, like following stupid rules. ...The average citizen can break the rule too ".

Facts are immutable and incontrovertible truths, absent of any point of view at all. The terms left and right, liberal and conservative are often used to spin a particular point of view, rather than as simple descriptors, displacing arguments about policy by raising emotional prejudice against a preconceived notion of what left and right mean. People of both perspectives use BlackBerry, an individual's political perspective should not have any bearing on who uses BlackBerry devices.

I am more liberal leaning. I am a flight attendant. I've had Arianna Huffington on 2 of my flights.
She does think she is above everyone, and is known for not complying with rules. I personally witnessed this, and had to ask her to turn off her phone on both flights. I took several times, and me having to raise my voice. Another passenger did get involved because of her attitude, then she finally complied on one occasion.