When Plane Ride Meets Red Carpet: 11 Epic Celebrity Encounters at 30,000 Feet in the Air

Flying can often be a mundane experience, with a seemingly endless wait for takeoff, cramped seats, and occasional turbulence. But for some lucky passengers, their plane ride can turn into a red carpet event when they share the flight with a celebrity—and even sit beside them. Several people recount their epic celebrity encounters in an online forum and here’s a look at 11 of the most memorable ones.

1. Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker speaking in public
Image Credit: Texas Monthly.

One traveler shared his experience of sitting next to Herschel on a first class flight and not realizing he was a famous athlete. As they started talking about their plans in Dallas Herschel said, very nonchalant, something along the lines of “I was here to lobby people up on the hill about an initiative we are promoting.

So the traveler was then sure that’s he’s a lobbyist of some kind. Then they exchanged names and found out that he’s an ex football pro, but since the traveler’s not into football, he didn’t recognize the name. The traveler even said something stupid (his words) like “good for you”.

The traveler even switched seats with Herschel’s wife when she needed a seat closer to her husband. It wasn’t until he arrived at his destination and told his girlfriend about his trip that he found out Hershel’s true identity. 

2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Image Credit: Shutterstock

One traveler was on a flight back from Utah to LA, and a young family was on the plane a few seats behind them on a small regional jet.

They had a baby “that was clearly unhappy with the cabin pressure, which was almost certainly painful to the ears of any little one.” The baby cried for half the flight, and finally, his father, in desperation, picked him up and started pacing back and forth down the aisles, trying to calm the cries while letting his wife rest.

When they landed, this traveler went to wait for their bag, and a family walked out behind them. As they walked past, the baby daddy smiled and immediately apologized for the baby crying during the flight. They never realized who it was until a man said his name. What a great dad!

3. Britney Spears

Britney Spears
Image Credit: Shutterstock

The pop princess is a Queen. Someone shares a story of their sister who traveled on the same flight to Las Vegas. Spears was on her way to Vegas for the Grammy Awards at the peak of her fame many years ago, and their sister ended up seated next to Britney and Britney’s best friend. They got chatting about “mundane” stuff — can you believe that?

In the end, the sister had a lot to say about Spears. To sum it up, she found her to be “the opposite of a diva. In fact, she found her to be a (positive) character straight out of a Disney movie. Sweet and nice and seemingly innocent.”

4. Niall Horan

Niall Horan attends the 2016 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jamie Lamor Thompson

In this story, the traveler was with their teenage daughters, who kept insisting the guy in front of them was One Direction’s Niall Horan. They thought it could not be as he would not be traveling Business Class. Still, they insisted it was him, even when a flight attendant denied it to avoid a fanbase stampede on the singer.

Eventually, the girls asked him if he was Niall. “He said he was and chatted very sweetly to my girls for a bit,” they say. “He was returning from The Teen Choice Awards. back to his base, which was London. He was kind enough to do a selfie with my kids, which was the hit of the internet for about 3 seconds.”

5. Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark

Arriving to Official visit in Latvia of his Royal Highness Crown Prince of Denmark Frederik
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gints Ivuskans

It’s one thing to travel next to a celebrity; it’s another to travel next to royalty. A jet setter was boarding a commercial flight from Copenhagen to Firenze when all passengers were told to empty their pockets to do a “random” security check.

After the search, they saw about three police cars from the window seat. This freaked them out, but the flight attendants asked them not to worry.

When they landed in Firenze, their dad asked an attendant on the way out. He whispered quietly that Crown Prince of Denmark, Frederik, and his wife, Mary Donaldson of Tasmania, had been on the plane.

6. Jeremy Renner

jeremy renner
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Jeremy Renner is the Avengers star who plays Hawkeye. To know him, you don’t have to be familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, a superfan met their luck when they happened to be on the same flight with him.

“When we were in LAX at the Korean Air lounge, I saw Jeremy Renner get whisked off into a closed-off room, much like a mini-suite. These rooms are reserved for VIPs, which Jeremy Renner certainly qualifies as,” he says. He also got a selfie with the actor.

7. Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen attends the closing ceremony screening of
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Denis Makarenko

One traveler was in First Class when Viggo Mortensen walked in and sat in the seat in the next aisle. They were super excited and almost wet themself. They nervously asked him if he was Viggo, and he showed them an ID, after which they almost fainted.

“I somehow managed to stammer out ‘Can I please have your autograph?’ without coming off as a desperate fan,” they share. “He was really sweet and signed a photograph and gave it to me. He even signed my movie-cover copy of Return of the King, which had his face on the front. It was a great experience.”

8. Kimora Lee Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons on location for Habitat for Humanity NBC Today Hurricane Katrina Benefit, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY,
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Everett Collection

A traveler sat on a long plane trip next to the American model, fashion designer, and entrepreneur Kimora Lee Simmons. Anyone would be bound to be star-struck!

They write, “She had with her an apparently beloved older tiny dog, which kept smelling so badly, it was impossible to talk. She kept apologizing and going to the restroom to take care of this problem.” Finally, they think she is “stellar all round.” Yes, she is!

9. John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry during a joint press conference with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in Kiev
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Drop of Light

A couple of years before John Kerry became the Secretary of State, Quora commenter A. Eldritch Peacock had the job of ensuring that he got to all his appointments on time and had his needs met while he was traveling officially.

Peacock shared that he would be completely silent for 20 minutes at a time and then ask questions like, “Annika, tell me what the inter-tribal faultlines are in the Abyei region?” After a response was given he’d fall silent for another 30 minutes or so before asking more impossible-to-answer questions. “What size hat does Salva Kiir wear?” and “How much does this plane weigh?”

He had an unusual schedule and appeared to have different eating and sleeping habits than most people. He spoke infrequently, and his conversations were challenging to engage with.

The commenter was unsure if this behavior was consistent for him, saying “He was good at his work, a smooth talker, very logical and strategic in his presentation. And more than charming enough to get the job done. But, one-on-one, it was a different story.”

10. Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith at the 56th BFI London Film Festival at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square
Image Credit: Shutterstock / landmarkmedia

One traveler shared he was flying back from South Africa with his college students on the London to Minneapolis leg. He was surprised to be bumped up to first class because they oversold economy.

As the seat next to him was empty, he requested the flight attendant’s permission to have his students take turns sitting beside him for a few minutes each. He intended to have a quiet discussion with them about the knowledge they had gained during their trip.

After about an hour, an elderly lady seated in the middle section of first class, who seemed to have consumed alcohol, started making loud comments about letting people who she considered to be of lower class into first class.

He approached a cranky old lady and attempted to explain his actions while apologizing for any offense caused. However, she refused to listen and responded by cursing at him. He returned to his seat and avoided any further interaction with her during the rest of the trip. Although the lady seemed familiar, he was unable to recognize her identity.

That weekend he went to see the movie, “Harry Potter” and lo and behold, there was his friend from the flight! “Professor Minerva McGonagall” – Maggie Smith!

11. Robin Williams

robin williams
Image Credit: Shutterstock

A traveler recounted an experience of being in first class with Robin Williams and his male friend sitting across the aisle during a flight, shortly after the release of the cartoon movie Alladin. Williams mostly engaged in conversation with his companion and appeared to be reading a script for the duration of the trip.

The traveler found it interesting that the individual appeared calm and quiet despite having a typically frenzied public persona. However, the traveler waited until the end of the flight before mustering the courage to say something to the individual. Upon landing, the passengers were standing in the aisles, waiting for the flight attendants to open the door.

So he said to Robin, “Can I ask you a question?” He said yes and so he asked him, “What was Alladin really like?” The traveler thought it would be funny to ask him what it was like to work with an actor who was in fact a cartoon character. But Robin didn’t understand the question and said, “You mean the story?”

After the plane door opened, everyone began to exit. Robin smiled at him in a manner that suggested he thought he was foolish. “I had tried to be funny with a comic genius and failed miserably.”

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