City Plan Commissioner Abtahi Kept Off Virgin America Flight Home

Dallas attorney and City Plan Commissioner Bobby Abtahi had a bumpy trip home from New York City Monday afternoon. He arrived to his gate at LaGuardia on time, checked in to his Virgin America flight and stood in the corner of the boarding area with his headphones on, waiting to get on the plane. That didn't happen.

As boarding started, Abtahi, who is Iranian-American, says a gate agent told him the crew did not want him on the flight. After a bit of back and forth, he was given a reason: He'd cut off one of the flight attendants on his way to the gate. Initially Abtahi couldn't figure out when that may have happened, but now he thinks he may have been trapped in the same section of a revolving door with the attendant.

"It was just an awkward personal interaction in a small revolving door," Abtahi says.

He didn't think anything of it, and offered to apologize to get on the flight. The gate agent went onto the plane to consult with the pilot and came back with the same answer, as did a supervisor who later tried to get Abtahi on the plane. In the midst of his trying to get on the plane, Abtahi's wife had booked him a new flight on American Airlines, one that he almost missed before being told for the final time by the Virgin supervisor he wasn't getting on his original flight.

Abtahi tweeted about the incident, and the ordeal went viral before he landed. American tweeted that it was happy that Abtahi chose their airline and Virgin sent an apology email before Abtahi hit the ground in Dallas, offering two free flights and compensation for the flight on American:  Abtahi accepted the apology, but turned down the free flights. Instead, Virgin agreed to donate the travel to the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. Asked about when he might fly Virgin again, Abtahi would only say that his wife, who's flying from New York to Dallas this weekend, has canceled her ticket on Virgin and will be flying American.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young