Airline Downgraded John Kasich – But He Wouldn’t Leave First Class

Earlier in the month Alaska Airlines needed to bump a passenger from first class on a New York JFK to San Francisco flight for a pilot traveling to a duty assignment. The passenger they downgraded to economy was John Kasich, who just finished serving 8 years as Governor of Ohio and who sought the Republican nomination for President in 2016.

Only Governor Kasich didn’t leave the first class cabin, he sat down in another passenger’s seat instead.

Passenger Julie Klausner agreed to take a later flight rather than engage the drama. Alaska Airlines reimbursed the cost of the margherita flatbread she purchased while waiting an extra four hours.

It’s been reported that Kasich was asked to move to extra legroom coach (‘premium’) and also to 12F which I don’t think is an extra legroom seat on any Alaska aircraft (and we know that since this wasn’t the last flight of the day on the route that the aircraft was an Airbus A320). Here’s where he sat instead.

A Kasich spokesperson “attributed the whole ordeal to confusion, though didn’t elaborate on specifics.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Alaska-you have got to be kidding. Give me a break. . Moving him for a pilot. Really lessens my confidence in Alaska if it terns out you buy a ticket and suddenly it means nothing. Bad on Alaska.

  2. Last minute surprise that the pilot needed to be in this flight? If I paid for that seat, I’m sitting in it! Put the pilot in the later flight!

  3. I always fly Delta. I always see pilots flying in economy, unless there’s something open in first class. Sounds like something else was going on.

  4. If i paid for a first class ticket and got downgraded for a pilot I wouldn’t be happy either. Especially on a long flight. One would just hope someone of Kasich’s stature would handle this in a civil manner. Showing a little bit of class can go a long way, something neither party seems to understand.

  5. It’s obvious that the majority of comments are from people that don’t know this is liable to happen on any airline. Just because you’ve been upgraded to first class doesn’t mean you get to keep it. Also, what you paid for the ticket, how early you checked in and employee contract are considered. Sad world when people think the are entitled or they can make this politically connected.

  6. Most Airline pilots have contracts that state that they are to fly first class. The reasoning behind this is so that they can be well rested to safely fly the public.
    Most politicians fly around on taxpayer money. Do they really need to fly first class?

  7. Kasich did a nice job on Ohio’s budget and managing the State, but ever since suffers from crybaby Trump Derangement Syndrome and is now. RINO. He has no chance to unseat the Donald in the primary.

  8. What needs to be noted here, is that Kasich gave up his seat, for the pilot, but took another “paying” passenger’s seat. No matter how you slice it, it’s the behavior of a spoiled over-privileged brat.

  9. So… did you know that John Kasich’s dad was a mailman??? Yes, he told us so during the 2016 election approximately 8966 times.

    Oh, and recall, he was a blip on the radar in terms of the fraction of a percent of people who wanted him to be the RINO… errr, I mean… the Republican nominee for President until all the other RINOs left the race, and then he earned a very solid 1-2% performance afterward. Then, he stayed in the race till the absolute end, months after he had zero chance for the nomination. Even today, while he regularly bashes Trump, he still thinks he’s presidential timber. No… he’s first class all right – a first class dick. This just solidifies what all of us except his similarly deluded RINO friends know and think about him.

  10. This airline, any airline, has no right to put their dead heading staff in the best seats when they are occupied by paying, or upgraded customers. I do see this on other airlines from time to time, but it is a poor business decision when customer loyalty is at stake. I know it upsets me when I see it.

  11. This is all about Customer Service. If Alaska Airlines thinks it’s employees are more valuable than the passengers that pay their salaries, then they should sell the company. Are you serious -this is insulting. Pilots don’t fly the plane with 1st Class Seating – go up in the cockpit & look at their seats. The Pilot should have sat in the open Coach Seat & this story is a NON issue. Wow

  12. What else could you expect from someone who thinks he is above the rest of us. His ego is bigger than his brain and decency index.

  13. Do all of you who don’t want a pilot to take a first class seat, do you want that pilot who is possibly tired from flying over their time limit, to fly you on your next trip???? No one knew what the reason was for the pilot to be given a first class seat. And I wouldn’t have gladly given up my seat to Kasich for any reason. He is a self centered, egotistical, whinny, Commycrat.

  14. My husband was bumped from an overseas flight where he had a paid first class seat because they changed the equipment to a smaller plane. He moved but the gave him three seats in economy to straight out, brought him a first class meal and a voucher for $4000 to any where he wanted to go . He understood the airline had donc their best so he was nice about it. Since he flew that flight somewhat regularly the staff remembered him and his further flights were well served. Extra treats etc. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, Mr Kasic.

  15. Typical airline screw-up…bumping real people for pilots. Why didn’t he sit in the jump seat? What a bunch of jerks on this airline. And all they paid for was this lady’s flatbread? Duh.

    No wonder airlines are the lowest rated businesses, next to the media, in America.

  16. This is SO WRONG! Pilots are employees. Employees are lower than ANY paying customer. Stupid gate agents doing WRONG by the customer.

    Once the upgrade is done TOO LATE Alaska! PLAN BETTER!!! Stop screwing the customer to fix YOUR scheduling issues. Put the pilot in COACH and be done with it. Why did the pilot need First? I bet there were plenty of business execs on that flight that had meetings and needed to be 100% up to speed too when they landed, but they were stuck in coach. Deal with it.

    I have personally seen too many pilots put in FC on Alaska. They try to hide the fact, but you see them a mile away. Their fake cover stories are so obvious. I finally told one once his act wasn’t working. Too bad that Alaska employees think THEY are worth more than paying customers.

    Pilots need to drop their god complex too. They are a DRAIN on the company financially compared to the rest of the millions of employees, so need to temper their beliefs.

  17. Probably singled out by some liberal airline employee who hates Republicans. You tell me what are the odds he was randomly selected. Just another Democrat showing their shallow vindictive bias.

  18. Since you cannot reply to comments on here, I am posting again after reading all these pro-pilot posts now.

    All these pro-pilot posts must be friends and families of pilots. The reality is that a DOCTOR, a CEO, or other person making life and death decisions could be on that plane. It is OK for them to be in coach but pilots must be “fresh” in First Class? LOL….

    This is Alaska First Class. Domestic First Class is NOTHING like international First Class and Alaska’s seats on the 737’s do NOT recline even on the 6 hour flights so not that much better, so these “rested” comments not based in the reality for flying Alaska FC. I will note this was an Airbus from the VX days and the seats in FC do recline.

    The issue is also that some pilots choose to live in non-hub cities and then “fly” to work to start their day. They choose the last minute flight because they do not want to be to work early. In Alaska’s case their is ONE and ONLY flight a day, or most likely in this case the last flight of the day, so the pilot HAD to get there.

    But this is the pilots issues. His action should not impact paying customers because he or Alaska planned badly. Yeah stuff happens, but Alaska creates a lot of their own drama by not staying on schedule and lax gate agents with the “they can make it up in the air” mentality..

  19. I wouldn’t have gotten out of my seat for Godzilla. If Alaska can’t manage things better than this, they deserve a little push-back. Nice that the lady took a later flight, but no way is this the passenger’s problem. Perhaps now Alaska will take a look at their procedures so they can stop annoying their paying customers.

  20. Something doesn’t sound right about this. Im a frequent Alaska flier and have sat beside several pilots in either premium or in the exit row… so? Did these pilots just take what was available or? I was unaware of the rule about pilots being in 1st class but it makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is this story – sounds like lack of preparation on Alaska’s part – doesn’t surprise me as I’ve seen a huge decline in Alaska across the board since their purchase of Virgin America.

  21. next time pilot needs a female passenger’s seat the gate agent should tell him,”i’ll ‘ask ‘er (al as ka) rather than just unseat the passenger.Live up to the name Alaska

  22. This website absolutely has the dumbest people on it. The pilot negotiated a contract that says he gets First Class when deadheading. He is going to fly another flight with ~160 people on it. If he gets bumped, an entire flight gets delayed. That inconveniences 160 people, not one. Math is hard for the spoiled and entitled I guess.

  23. No one has explained. Did he purchase the ticket with his own funds? Did he pay the full first class fare or was he upgraded? People should know the full facts BEFORE expressing any opinion!

  24. What kind of business long ago forgot the maxim, “the customer always comes first”. The airline industry – duh, no surprise! Bump a passenger for an employee. Only if really essential and don’t give him “first class”. That a prominent politician was the victim this time should be irrelevant, but sadly it isn’t.

  25. Regardless of why Kasich was asked to move back to economy, or what the CBA does or doesn’t call for wrt Pilot seating, it has always been my experience that it is the crew’s job, when involuntarily moving passengers, that they actually take their assigned seat.

  26. Rediculous airline policy. If airlines want to fly their employees priority over PAX, they shouldn’t sell those seats. Issue only surfaced in this case because a VIP was involved.

  27. Doesn’t surprise me that a privleged, entitled politician acted that way. Aren’t they better than us “normal voting” people who put them into power? We should all be politicians.

  28. Oh the politicians and specifically Progressive Politicians are CERTAIN that they are so much more important than the ‘serfs’. Will some one please revoke their citizenship and them to Venezuela or Somalia.



  30. Based on the comments I read, the story leaves many questions unanswered. Did Kasich pay for the seat? If so, why was he chosen to be bumped? If he didn’t pay for the seat, he has no complaint. What gave Kasich the right to bump the lady? I’m almost 100% sure AS would not bump a full fare paying passenger for a deadheading pilot. Normally they would bump upgraded passengers first (those using mileage upgrades). If the story was complete, I’d bet this was a non-story.

  31. Larry Lundberg hit it spot on. Did he pay for the first class seat? Of course he didn’t he paid for a cheap economy seat. When he got to the gate he put the arm on the gate agent telling them he was the former governor of Ohio
    Etc, etc. and got himself upgraded to FC which I am sure he and his cronies
    do on a regular basis. The pilot is entitled to that FC seat by contract. Of course the Fat Cat is not going to move he is entitled. The reason he was chosen to be moved, because he was upgraded from economy. Let’s not be stupid people….

  32. While I question taking a seat from a paying customer to give it to airline staff, what makes you think Kasich was a paying customer? It’s more likely that he has enough miles earned by flying on the taxpayer that he will never have to pay again.

  33. The power of fake news. One person reports that Kasich did something and of course it’s true, whether or not it actually is.

  34. Any politician should be honoured that somebody pays their fares to anywhere except the devil kingdom

  35. I am with the governor on this one. The airline was wrong. You don’t bounce a revenue passenger from first class for a non-revenue passenger employed by the airline. The airline employee should have been given the seat in coach. I have flown on Alaska airlines only once in 25 years, but it now has new nonstop service from my city to Seattle, and I was thinking of taking it. I do not think I will do that now.

  36. I am amazed that people resent the people governing our country flying using our money. That is, after all, one of the reasons we pay taxes. I am sure most of us would not want to live the kind of lifestyle they live.

  37. a deadheading pilot travels F/C because it was negotiated in their contract, Alaska had no choice….crew you see in coach in uniform are commuters traveling to from work and home

    Kasich is a DICK


  38. Why didn’t the woman take the economy seat instead of waiting for a new flight? I don’t understand why she had to wait?

  39. I have read through most of these comments and probably few will read mine. I don’t care if he paid or if he used points or upgraded. Once confirmed you do NOT randomly or un-randomly move a customer. They should have asked for volunteers upfront before creating this situation. I would not have moved without an argument or discussion that is a long flight. But like all other news, we probably don’t know all the details. If he had made it through the primaries, I would have voted for him.

  40. Poorly handled by Alaska. Handled worse by Mr. Kasich. So much for his “Man of the People” BS.
    However..what it clearly shows is that Alaska is still a small-time, local, airline and has NO business in the Big leagues. When they merged, I thought, maybe I’ll give them a try. NOPE..I’ll stick with the adults. The adult airlines may have trouble but at least they KNOW the difference. Alaska needs to stick with the twin-engine OTTERS.

  41. This story seems thin on facts; the title and body says he was downgraded, though one person says he doesn’t deserve the upgraded seat. Plenty of pilots travel coach/premium so needing to bump from FC sounds fishy but definitely void of enough information. Not that I like Kasich or respect him but if he was given a seat, upgrade or not, the airline should have handled it differently.

  42. Apparently, the staff and cabin crew tried to explain this to John Kasich, but he did not understand and was confused (Statement provided by his PR team). Julie then decided to choose her battles and disembark to fly on a later flight. Why Julie did not take the premium seat either is not understood at this time.

  43. So this means the pilots MUST fly first class? I don’t know which is worse, the airline or Kasich.

  44. If Kasich paid for his first class seat why should he agree to be downgraded? Interesting how many made this political, almost all of them part of the mindless cult of Trump, by far the worst American President in my lifetime.

  45. Pilots are EMPLOYEES. They should NEVER be given seating-class priority over CUSTOMERS. If a pilot needs a SEAT in order to arrive in time to do his/her job, that’s fine, even if it does mean a bump. but stick them in ECONOMY.

    Pilots in general are entitled a-holes. They are bus drivers, no more, no less, and in general their jobs are easier than a bus driver’s. About 99.9% of all air travel is automated and would work just fine with no pilots at all. And in the 0.1% of cases where some atypical event requires skilled intervention, studies show that the pilots make things WORSE about as often as they make things BETTER. Let’s implement 100% automation of flying of commercial aircraft ASAP!

  46. And why couldn’t the PILOT have gone to the extra legroom seat instead of the paying customer??? What bulls…! They often fly in coach, so this sounds fishy!!

  47. And why couldn’t the PILOT have gone to the extra legroom seat instead of the paying customer??? They often fly in coach, so this sounds fishy!!

  48. Let’s get real Kasich showed up at the the gate with an economy ticket. Like all these entitled politicians went to the boarding agent and put the arm on him or her for an upgrade. Normally that works out fine as they always get taken care of because of who they are. In this case they needed that seat.
    They had every right to return him to his original coach seat that he paid for.
    What nerve to take another passengers seat that he did not pay for. The airline did everything correct, I applaud them. Who the hell does he think he is?

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