The title says it all: would you approach a celebrity (or other famous person) onboard an airplane? My friend John and I debated that onboard our Lufthansa First Class flight earlier this week and reached different conclusions.
> Read More: Flying Lufthansa First Class with Hollywood Stars, Oligarchs, and Executives
John reasoned that celebrities like Jane Fonda and Amanda Seyfried are public figures and therefore engaging with the public should be expected, even on airplanes. He really wanted a picture with each of them and saw nothing rude in approaching them, as long as they were not eating, sleeping, or otherwise occupied.
I saw the matter quite differently. I believe our default position should be to leave people alone onboard airplanes. Unlike on the ground, there is no way to escape so it is incumbent upon us to treat others the way we wish to be treated. For me, that means giving them space and letting them relax on a flight. There’s a difference between a casual chat with a seatmate willing to talk and coming up to someone seated in a different row or semi-private suite and starting a conversation or requesting a photo. That just seems rude.
It’s not that I think first class should be a special sanctuary: I would apply the same logic if the famous person was flying business or economy class. Still, one of the considerations of paying for a first class ticket is the seclusion and privacy the cabin brings.
The two ladies on my flight dutifully signed autographs when they reached Venice with smiles on their faces. Still, I bet they appreciated that they could just be people and not in the spotlight, even if just for 10 hours.
Several years ago I flew with Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife to Honolulu. They were seated in the row behind me and I did turn around and greet them when we landed in Honolulu. It seems to me the issue is not saying “hello” or “goodbye” but rather engaging in unwanted conversation or asking for autographs or photographs. Avoiding (and recognizing) unwanted conversations should be true for everyone, not just famous people.
What do you think? Do famous people have the right to be left alone onboard an airplane? Or am I just jaded from too many unwanted conversations from seatmates over the years?
My husband sat across the aisle from Alec Baldwin on a flight from New York to Toronto in first class. I was sitting in coach (that’s another story). A few people engaged in talk with the celebrity on the way onto the plane and he was gracious about it. My husband did not approach him and I didn’t even think about it. Maybe that’s because we’re introverts, but it would just seem like an invasion of privacy.
I would have asked Jane Fonda if she preferred Lufthansa or North Vietnam Airways.
Well, if it is someone I admire much, I would kindly ask for a selfie or an autograph. If that person seems didn’t want to be disturbed, I go away and stay silent. Then again, there’s not much person I admire….
Leave them alone. My 11 year old saw a famous NBA player shopping at Whole Foods in our city. While he wanted to get an autograph he decided not to ask. He told me that it was his private time shopping and he should not be bothered. It was totally his decision and I supported him.
Unless it were Jesus himself, who cares? Celebrity worship is lame.
Why would it be different if it were Jesus?
A simple hello and “I love your work/movies/whatever” is fine. Beyond that who cares? They’re just people. But I would ask Neil Degrasse Tyson for a picture. No shame there!
Before or After the flight it’ll be okay to approach. But I wouldn’t whilst onboard. I also very much value my ‘alone’ time while on the plane — I wouldn’t want to take that away from anyone.
I do think that flying in first class is a bit different. Overall I’d say try to act like you’ve been there. I was at a top tier ultra 5 star resort near Sedona this week and there was a few celebrities staying there. Running into someone famous and greeting them like any other person is the first course of action. If there is opportunity for small talk, certainly telling them that your a fan or would really enjoy an autograph would be in order as long as it wasn’t during a private moment for them. Think of it this way…say you book a first class seat. When you get on-board are you running around making a scene or are you casually enjoying the experience like you do it every week.
I also think you should factor into if it is a famous person you like versus don’t like. For example you might be a big fan of say George Clooney and want a selfie but if you get seated next to Al Gore you’d want to debate him on his preaching of global warming (of course that wouldn’t happen because Al uses a private jet for just this reason 🙂
Be classy, it’s not Wal-Mart folks.
I would not approach a celebrity onboard. If it’s someone I recognized and am a fan of, I might turn to them as I’m leaving and say “I love your work, hope you enjoy your visit”, but that’s about it. Celebrities deserve downtime, too, after all.
Agree 100 %. Leave them alone during the flight. Wave or just say hi getting off the plane or at baggage. Once was seated next to Mel Gibson on a TWA transcon. I just said hi, liked his films and that was it. Gibson actually started a bit of conversation during the landing / taxi, and it was quite a pleasant celeb experience. Flight attendants also came by to say hi to Gibson. But there were no autograph / picture requests. Was also seated behind Tom Selleck on a transcon. He was of course in first, but in a middle bulkhead on a 767. Just about every passenger recognized him and had requests. He was nice to everybody, but this started to delay boarding. so crew put an end to this, blocking left side aisle. Selleck was then finally able to just relax and sleep.
No. Don’t do it.
Living in Washington (“Hollywood for ugly people”) I see politicians and journalists some of whom I like, some of whom I loathe with some regularity. They deserve to be left alone.
Charlize Theron on CX F 1A while I was in 2A a few months ago. Didn’t realize it was her until 8-9 hours into the flight lol.. She looked exhausted so did not interrupt.
I agree with Geoff. Only if it was Jesus H. Most of Hollywood is a cesspool. I would also say hi to Ron Paul and shake his hand and thank him for being one of the only reasonable politicians.
You are right, your friend is quite wrong. It’s extremely bad form.
Amanda Seyfried is one of my favorite actresses so it would be hard to go an entire flight without any sort of interaction. I would generally say you leave celebs alone, although a simple hi or small talk probably wouldn’t hurt. It’s definitely a no no to approaching a celeb and just straight up asking for a photo or an autograph with no other interaction –that’s just rude.
i was on QF F on LAX-SYD and Russell Crowe was there about 2 seats away. i didn’t even ask for a picture cuz i was afraid he’s gonna give the Mercer-Hotel-clerk treatment.
I lived in Malibu for a time, and you could tell the tourists from the locals. As a local, you saw the “stars” around town regularly, but you let them live their life. The tourists would flock to them wherever they were. Everyone deserves time alone.
Seriously?! Celebrity worship is just tacky.
Leave them in peace to enjoy the flight. I think it’s cooler to act like you don’t know who they are. I saw Greta Garbo in NYC once, but it never occurred to me to try to talk to her…
I was flying to LAX when a celebrity decided to greet the entire plane by taking the F snacks and hand them directly to each pax while asking them how they were doing. He graciously talked on cellphones to pax relatives, took pics, and gave words of encouragement to people in difficult situations.
Who’s that? I’m certain they wouldn’t mind that good deed divulged. 🙂
I give about zero farks about celebrities in general (and even less about autographs and pics with them) so would treat them as any other passengers – minimum interaction.
No, you definitely don’t ask for a picture.
Just because someone is “famous” doesn’t mean they are required to be available and “on” whenever they step outside in public. If there is a point where interaction is natural, then engaging on a short “hello/I enjoy your work/you bring me a lot of pleasure” conversation is OK. Everyone enjoys and appreciates receiving compliments or a smile & hello from someone, but pictures today can end up on the internet a minute later, violating their privacy yet again. Often it only takes one person with the, “Well they’re famous so they owe me,” attitude to tacitly give everyone else around them permission to start in also doing the same thing. Where does it end? Especially in a situation where the celebrity can’t easily escape puts them on the situation of either going along with every interruption, or saying no and coming off like an asshole. I lived in Beverly Hills for 13 years and saw A to Z list celebrities constantly. A very few I approached over the years while out shopping, but it was always for just a short greeting and to tell them how much I admired what they did. I didn’t need a photo to document that. They owed me nothing. But the idea of Sydney Poitier being bombarded with selfie requests while he’s out shopping at Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon just because “he’s famous, he owes it to the ‘public’ is just WRONG.
I never understood the purpose of having someone write their name on a piece of paper. What does one plan on doing with this paper later? I find the act of getting an autograph a very strange act. Same with getting a photo with someone. What does one use the photo for? To prove to friends they stood next to said person? Selfie’s and autographs seem like such a selfish, one-sided way of engagement with someone.
With all that said, they deserve their space and privacy like everyone else. After all their job is to entertain via music, film, sports, whatever the case may be, but when they are flying or walking down the street, they aren’t at work, they are trying to enjoy their life. I don’t think the argument that they are public figures is valid. They choose to do a certain job because they love it/good at it/make money at it, for the same reasons many others choose their careers, but people still talk about what work/life balance is with certain companies. So simply because their work is more public showing, doesn’t necessarily give people the right to interfere with their quality of life.
Just my two seconds worth.
I agree with Jay. 99% of the time people I’ve met who got autographs either lose them or forget them any way so why bother? Leave people be regardless of their celebrity and act like you’ve been there before.
Why celebrate the clowns in the circus of hollyweird. What do they offer and sad that this country is obsessed with these people. Sadder that I wasted 3 minutes reading this tripe.
I personally think it comes down to your intentions. If you just want a picture to send to your friends and online followings, I say lame and I’m not in favor. If on the other hand, you want to pass brief well wishings, I see nothing wrong with that.
A friend had an encounter in Concorde Room once where a top British celeb turned down a photo, but said they are welcomed to pull up a chair and have a chat. I think some celebrities don’t mind a quick chat or a polite praise, but I think bothering someone to make yourself feel more important is lame.
Also, slightly off topic, but the selfie, which is intended to capture the celeb in the background is the mother of all a*hole moves in the world, I think.
I agree you Mathew, everyone deserves peace, & onboard an aircraft is the prefect place for that. A simple “hello” & “love your work” is the extent I will ever go. Now if they open up further then I’m all for it but I don’t want it to be forced. I’ve sat next to or in the same cabin as Ed McMahon (JFK-LAX UA F), Michael Bolton (OGG-LAX UA F) & Daniel Radcliffe (SAN-SFO UA F) to name a few and they all seemed content with minimal interaction. I find most to be cordial but appreciative for the silence.
Would I ask for a picture or autograph? No.
On two separate occasions, I sat at the restaurant table next to famous Food network stars that I adore but I didn’t say a word to them because I didn’t want to infringe on their family time.
However, while waiting for a shuttle we found ourselves next to a famous business show star and I could not resist saying how much we enjoyed watching his show with our son. He turned right to our 11 yo and started asking him questions. They had a nice chat while we waited and it seemed he was genuinely interested in talking business with our son. My husband and I just stood back and kept quiet.
I spotted Lucky and Ford on my flight from AUH-MLE in Feb. I went back to business class and spoke to them. They were very gracious and friendly even though Lucky was recovering from a stomach virus and trying to work before takeoff! Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture with them 🙁
I was sitting in front of Cate Blanchett from a LA-SYD flight and definitely did not want to bother her during the flight (especially such a long one) since as you rightly say, there’s no where for them to go. Fast forward 14 hours and we landed. As we were waiting for the crew to open the cabin doors she was just standing behind us waiting patiently. I was SOOO tempted to ask for a photo (and I would have if I hadn’t realised the following…) her kids were with her.
If it was just her and her husband I for sure would have, its a quick moment, and hopefully she appreciates the support (especially since it was just before the Oscars where she won for Blue Jasmine) and is sued to being recognised. If she said no, of course I would have respected that. BUT since her kids were there I didn’t want it to be a “typical mum being famous again” moment for them, I just wanted them to have a normal family trip without feeling like her career had any impact on them. I’ll admit, I took a sneaky pic, but I didn’t trouble her at all and her kids were on the other isle so wouldn’t have seen 🙂