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D'Amato apologizes after airline incident

Aileen Chuang, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Two days after he was escorted from a JetBlue airliner, former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato said the incident was an "overreaction" on both sides.

The former Republican senator from New York tried to incite passengers to protest after sitting on a Fort Lauderdale to New York flight at the gate for five hours Monday night.

Later, D'Amato confronted the captain after he had asked a few passengers to move from the front of the plane a few rows back due to weight and balance issues, according to witnesses on board.

D'Amato, 79, said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" he told the captain, "You said you were going to do something. Why don't you do it?"

The captain replied to D'Amato, "You're outta here," the former lawmaker said.

JetBlue responded in a statement, saying: "If a customer is causing a conflict on the aircraft, it is standard procedure to ask the customer to deplane, especially if the crew feels the situation runs a risk of escalation in-flight."

D'Amato's representatives said he lost his patience after the long delay and a "long and demanding trip to Florida to visit an ailing friend," the New York Daily News reported.

"JetBlue has apologized to the Senator for over reacting and the Senator apologized for speaking his mind at a time when he clearly had left his patience at the gate," D'Amato's representatives told the newspaper in a statement. "Anyone who knows Senator D'Amato knows he speaks his mind."

D'Amato served three terms in the Senate, from 1981 to 1999, before being beat by Democrat Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the current minority leader.

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