The Flight Is Full – "Ike" Stiffs Mr. Hughes

Posted September 19, 2003

By Ken Vineyard

Back in 1957 when I was a new reservations agent at MKC, I received a call from the red phone (hot line) at the ATO. On the line was a man who may have had a little too much to drink, as he spoke in a slurred voice asking for a first class seat on a specific flight non-stop to LAX. After checking availability, I told him the flight was full. However, I did have a first class seat available on a flight 30 minutes later, which made one stop before arriving in LAX and I offered it to him. 

The man then loudly stated, "THIS IS HOWARD HUGHES AND I WANT A FIRST CLASS SEAT ON THE NON-STOP FLIGHT." Being new, I figured Howard Hughes would not be calling me directly and that he very likely wouldn't be drunk and abusive.  

My cheeky response was, "Well, this is President Eisenhower speaking and the flight is still full". The customer hung up on me, and I later found out he showed up at the ticket counter and managed to wheedle the first class seat he wanted. 

When I subsequently learned my customer on the telephone that day was indeed the real Mr. Howard Hughes, I just knew I wouldn't have a job much longer. Thank goodness, he hadn’t gotten my real name and I went on to enjoy a long and interesting career at TWA.

Ken Vineyard (1957-1990) worked in Reservations and ATO Customer Service in MKC and STL.

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