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Muhammed Ali - UA #123 - Float like a butterfly - Sting like a bee

Muhammed Ali - UA #123 - Float like a butterfly - Sting like a bee

Old Jul 17, 03, 12:16 pm
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Muhammed Ali - UA #123 - Float like a butterfly - Sting like a bee

So I board UA 123 ORD-LAX yesterday and sit in my usual 1A on this 2-class 767. Just another ordinary ho-hum flight. I skip the meal as usual on UA domestic flights these days. I get up once the meal has been served to chat with the FA's. One of them is from Hollywood so I warn her to stay away from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on the way home since the ESPY's are tonight.

"Oh!", she says. "That must be why He is on board". I wonder for a moment who He is. Then another FA comes in showing off a sketch drawing on a napkin. She says "He gave it to me, isn't He something?" Another FA said "He is doing magic tricks for all the people around him". I'm awfully curious now so I look at the manifest for familiar names and I see Ali in seat 4E. Then he walks up (I guess He skipped the meal too) and I get to meet the Man. Wow! Despite the Parkinsons (or whatever) disease, he was not only alert and able, this guy was Buff! I know he was the greatest fighter in the world, but that was a very long time ago. Yet Ali today is still much stronger than I am and it is obvious that he is still working out regularly.

The rest of the flight the whole first class cabin is laughing along with Ali's pranks. Except one old guy over in seat 1H. So Ali sneaks up behind him and gently lays a napkin on his head. The guys is reading and doesn't move. Then Ali tears a piece off the napkin and drops it on his lap. Ali races back to his seat. The guys looks around to see where this thing came from, then goes back to reading. Ali does this several more times in different ways and the guys starts to get a bit angry. Meanwhile the rest of the cabin is cracking up. The guys starts yelling at the people behind him in row 2 and they just laugh and say "it's not us!". Ali finally relents and goes up to the guy and introduces himself. I should say at this point that Ali was wearing a silly looking mustache that must have been fake. But nearly anyone in the world could still tell it was Muhammed Ali.

After that, anyone with a camera came up to have their picture taken with Ali and he happily obliged. He had the bigger guys pretend to throw hooks at him while the picture was taken. It was all fun for the rest of the flight. At one point I stood up near the galley and looked back and every single face on the plane (including the crew) was smiling. I realized I had never seen such a sight. As we were approaching LAX, the captain came on the loudspeaker and did his usual speech, and then he said a "big thank you to Muhammed Ali for flying with us today". I've been on many flights with celebrities and I've never heard the captain say their name on the speaker before. Most wouldn't want it nor deserve it. This was special. Out of the nearly 2 million miles I've flown, this was the best flight I've ever taken.
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Old Jul 17, 03, 1:33 pm
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wow. what a great story. thank you.
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Old Jul 17, 03, 1:55 pm
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Excellent story. I too have been humbled in the presence of the great Ali. He is truly a wonderful guy. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jul 17, 03, 2:03 pm
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Great story. Completely different from what I'd always heard he was like in public.
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Old Jul 17, 03, 2:09 pm
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Darn, I was killing time at ORD yesterday and almost attempted to get on that flight, but was shooting the breeze with some colleagues at the "C" RCC instead. I was on the next flight an hour later.

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Old Jul 17, 03, 5:04 pm
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wow, great story....I really wish I have the same luck some time. What a fantastic flight.

Although, I must admit the napkin story didnt really tickle my funny bone either, but it was probably one of the "you had to be there" moments.

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Old Jul 17, 03, 5:13 pm
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Patrick A. Inouye, LMT
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Old Jul 17, 03, 5:31 pm
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I have had the pleasure of being on three flights with the Champ, all of which involved Las Vegas. Two were on United and one was on AA. On the AA flight, he was seated in Y. I felt bad because I was in F (but I guess not that bad because I didn't offer to switch).
On the two UA flights, he was up and about a little, letting pax take pictures with him and giving them autographs. On one, the captain did the same thing as yours upon landing - he announced that Ali was on the flight and the whole airplane erupted in loud applause - it was great and he loved it.
Really a "Champ" in all ways!!
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Old Jul 17, 03, 6:19 pm
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Sounds like typical Ali. I did not know he still does the magic tricks. I am in the memorabilia business for over 20 years. Ali is a character. At one autograph signing he upstaged Joe Dimaggio by signing for people 8 hours straight. Personalizing etc. He was paid big money but still went out of his way beyond the contract sometimes. Joe Dimaggio was so pissed he walked out of the signing.
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Old Jul 18, 03, 2:07 am
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Having done a million YYZ-LAX roundtrips over the past few years, sitting alongside C-list TV-movie actors and ex-boy-band singers who refused to speak with fans onboard, I find this story especially refreshing. I once met boxer George Chuvalo (a friend of Ali) and we discussed "the Greatest". Chuvalo told me some great stories about him and encouraged me to introduce myself if I ever had the chanceto see him. I hope I do someday.
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Old Jul 18, 03, 9:41 am
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Thanks for the great story. It is good to know that Ali is as you describe. By the way, I am yet another FlyerTalker who has met him (and has his autograph). In my case it was not on a flight though.
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Old Jul 20, 03, 1:18 pm
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cool story!
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Old Jul 20, 03, 9:19 pm
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Spelled "Muhammad," for what it's worth.

Has Parkinson's syndrome, which seems to carry all the symptoms of actual Parkinson's.

And, the mustache is real, just not the usual Ali look.
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Old Jul 21, 03, 3:38 pm
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Sounds like a fun flight. Did you happen to notice if he's 1K, 1P, 2P, UGS??
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Old Jul 21, 03, 10:49 pm
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Thanks for the info bebopper.

Ali only had Mileage Plus next to his name on the manifest. No elite status. I recall from the recent 60 minutes segment on him that he doesn't like to travel much these days.
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