When Alankrutha Giridhar boarded her flight Monday, she was understandably more concerned with finding overhead luggage space than meeting her seatmate.
Then she got a closer look at his face.
“When I sat next to him, I was like, ‘I’m 100 per cent sure it’s him,’” Giridhar said, “but I didn’t want to prod or be weird or creepy.”
The man sitting next to her — in economy class and the middle seat, no less — was Timothee Hal Chalamet: the 23-year-old Oscar nominee (for ‘Call Me by Your Name’), Frank Ocean fanboy and early adopter of the luxury fashion harness. Er, bib.
For the first hour and a half of the journey, Giridhar tried to conceal her excitement about sharing limited legroom with Chalamet. But when he asked her when the flight would land, Giridhar couldn’t help addressing his fame. She told him she knew who he was and asked him why he was in economy.
“He was just like, ‘What do you mean?’” Giridhar said. “He didn’t actually answer. I said, ‘People must recognise you.’ And he said, ‘You’re the only one. Nobody else has.’”
In flying coach, Chalamet joined a long list of public figures who have been noticed in the cheap seats. Prince William flew coach from Memphis, Tennessee, to Dallas in 2014 after a wedding. His brother, Harry, and Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, reportedly took up three rows with their security team when they travelled to Nice aboard British Airways last year. In 2012, Jessica Alba sat in economy on a trip from Los Angeles to New York while her two kids and their nanny were in first class, according to Radar Online. Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and their six children took an Air France flight from Paris to Nice in 2015, according to The Daily Mail.
Travelling in economy “is relatively common for people of all pay scales,” said Liana Corwin, the consumer travel expert at Hopper, a flight-booking app. “I think the key thing is convenience.”
Corwin added that celebrities and professional athletes regularly book flights through Hopper, and the app only offers seats in coach. “They’re people just like us and they have schedules they need to maintain, and sometimes economy will get them there faster and easier,” she said.
Claire Danes said as much about her choice to fly coach after she won the Screen Actors Guild award for best actress in a TV movie or miniseries in 2011. “It’s the only seat available, and I have to go back to work tomorrow morning,” Danes told Extra. “I get to shower in the hotel and then I go to set — and act some more.”
But it isn’t always about convenience. In 2014, Amy Adams, a six-time Oscar nominee, traded her first-class seat from Detroit to Los Angeles with a soldier who was in coach. She told Inside Edition that the point was to bring attention to people serving in the military.
Politicians are often spotted on aeroplanes, too. An observer once captured a shot of Mitt Romney snoozing with his mouth open in an aisle seat. Bernie Sanders has appeared in coach enough times to spark a hashtag: #SandersOnaPlane. Though convenience might certainly be a factor in both cases, it doesn’t hurt that flying “with the people” gives a politician a relatable gleam.
Giridhar certainly experienced that with Chalamet. “He was asking me so many questions about my life,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is so weird. Why are you asking questions about me?’”
Later they took a selfie, which Giridhar tweeted as part of a witty, charming Twitter thread about her experience.
Their conversation continued for the remainder of the journey.
“When the flight landed, we were talking about his upcoming films,” Giridhar said. “He wished me luck with my career,” which is in information technology.
Her response? “I hope you win multiple Oscars one day.”