Many times famous people and those who are just plain filthy rich bypass the headaches of commercial aviation and opt for the security and luxury of private jet travel.  When they do fly commercial, us regular folks sometimes have a rare opportunity to rub elbows with the rich and famous.

In January 2016, I was on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, NC.  I had purchased a ticket in economy class but was on the upgrade list for first class.  My upgrade didn’t clear until boarding was almost completed.  The gate agent called my name, handed me a new boarding pass for an aisle seat in first class, and I quickly went aboard.

The flight attendants were preparing the cabin for departure.  So I quickly found my seat, the only vacant one in first, stowed my things, and sat down.  I said a short  hello to the man in the window seat beside me.  A flight attendant was rearranging some of the luggage in the overhead bin.  The man next to me politely warned the flight attendant to be very careful with an item he had placed there.  It seemed he was being a tad fussy, but not in an obnoxious way.

After takeoff, a flight attendant from coach came forward and asked my seatmate for an autograph.  The flight attendant was lavish in his praise for an unnamed TV show, which the attendant said was the best thing on TV, and he offered other praise for the man’s work.

Wow!  That sure got my attention and sparked my curiosity about the identity of the person I was sitting next to.  The man looked slightly familiar, but I did not recognize him.  How could I find out who he was without embarrassing us both?

After not getting any clues from his conversation with the others he was travelling with, I finally asked his name and apologized for my ignorance.  He was very gracious and told me his name, Kevin Doyle, and that he and his companions were actors on Downton Abbey.  His role was Mr. Molesley, the butler.

He explained that they had attended the Screen Actors Guild Awards the previous night where Downton Abbey won the SAG award for the best cast in a drama series.  The item in the overhead bin that he had asked the flight attendant to be very careful with was the SAG award that had been presented to the cast.

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Kevin Doyle, Downton Abbey’s Mr. Molesley

It turns out that this was the second year in a row the cast won that award and the third time in its six-year production run.  To win the 2016 award, Downton Abbey beat out Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, and Mad Men.

Although I was unfamiliar with the show, meeting Kevin Doyle prompted me to watch several episodes.  It was indeed a great show with acting and writing that I’ve seldom seen on TV.  The awards were well deserved.

I have been on other flights with athletes and musicians but the only other time I recall having much conversation with a person of fame was in the early 1980s on a Continental Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Houston TX.   Thanks to Continental  CEO Robert Six’ Hollywood connections through wives actresses Ethel Merman and Audrey Meadows and its reputation for superior service, Continental was the preferred airline of many movie and TV stars at that time.

I was surprised, though, to find that I was seated next to Ryan O’Neal.  I recognized him immediately from his starring role in Love Story, a very successful, romantic film costarring Ali MacGraw that was released in 1970.  O’Neal was extremely friendly and easy going.  We had an enjoyable conversation for most of the three-hour flight.  Sorry, there are no photos.

Have you been on a flight with a famous peron(s)?  Please share in the comments below.  Thanks and I hope your week is off to a great start.