Recently, TMZ posted an article and video alleging that Aventer Gray, the wife of Associate Pastor John Grayat of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and star host on Fox’s new talk show, The Preachers, had a “melt down” after a “standoff” with a member of the American Airlines flight crew headed to Atlanta through Dallas on July 22nd.
However, according to a statement from Gray, the videos posted on TMZ only show a small portion of the interaction between her and the flight attendant.
“After three weeks away with my family and my husband filming [The Preachers], we were heading to Atlanta, Georgia through Dallas from LAX early on July 22nd on an 8:00 a.m.” Gray says. “We have two small kids, ages 3 & 4 that now must occupy seats. Usually, when we fly with our nanny, my husband places me and one of the children in First Class and she and the other really close or in premium economy, so that they are able to see me and I can assist when necessary if one is having a rough time and he isn't with us. This time he was only able to obtain one first class ticket. He did, however, ensure that our two babies and our nanny were in a row close by me seated together.”
Unfortunately, when Gray, her family, and nanny finally arrived at the gate—the initial ticketing agent had forgotten to give the nanny her boarding pass which required her to return to the ticket counter to obtain it and be escorted by security to the departing flight—the airline had moved her children’s seats and given them to standby passengers.
“I explained how that will not work and I needed it to be fixed as the seats were changed and should not have been at all. They can't sit apart…again they are 3 and 4 years of age.”
Gray was instructed to ask a crew person on the flight to move so that the children can sit and the crew person obliged.
“After 15 or so minutes, my kids and nanny headed to the very back of the plane with only a few rows behind them. The kids had become uneasy and were crying. It was a great deal of stress and discomfort. In an effort to NOT disrupt the rest of the passengers, I texted our nanny to tell her to, ‘Please take my seat and I will change with you so they can settle down.’ I get my things and proceed to the back."
As Gray made her way to the back of the plane, she was confronted by a flight attendant named Bret who told her that she needed to go back to the front. Gray tried to explain that she had a seat and was heading to the back to switch seats with her nanny so that she can help her children. The attendant seemed to be offended by her response and from that point the situation escalated.
“From there, the antagonistic efforts of Bret began,” Gray goes on to say. “I took my seat. He communicated with someone and then I was approached by another attendant stating that I had to deplane. I asked why, but was simply told I had to leave the plane. I asked for an explanation again and was told there were not enough seats. I then said, ‘I'm not getting up.’”
Believing the situation was over, Aventer settled in the seat with her children. However, the flight attendant returned and leaned over Gray’s daughter’s head to aggressively confront Gray who was seated in the middle seat.
“He pushed my shoulder down twice and said, ‘You are being disruptive.’ I then proceeded to express that he is unable to ever place his hands on me and that it was unacceptable. I tell him to never touch anyone or me and that now we have a problem. Other passengers also began to express displeasure with his actions."
At this point, the pilot was called to the back of the plan to assess the situation. After explaining what happened, the pilot, according to Gray, turned to the flight attendant and asked what he wanted to do about the situation and he says that he “wants her off.”
Gray explained that at this point, some passengers were upset at he unfairness of the interaction and began recording. They also believed that she was being profiled. Others were calling customer service on her behalf and their own.
“I am being asked to leave the plane, with my two small children, when we did nothing. When I asked another flight attendant what was the protocol for making someone get off a plane, she stated that they would get the police. My response was, "Well, let's do that.”
Gray says that she did nothing wrong and did not deserve the treatment she received.
When two officers boarded the flight, one Black, one white, they were met with boos and yelling from passengers who were shocked that the situation had gone so far. The officers hesitantly asked Gray what happened.
“At this point, I began to cry at the stress and anguish of this entire ordeal. None of it was warranted. I truly believe the only reason the officers did not physically take me off the plane was because of the other passengers’ stance for me.”
According to Gray, the hostile flight attendant hid in the back of the plane as the police spoke with him and the other flight crew. After asking questions, they escorted Bret off the plane. One officer asked Gray to go with him, until he could obtain statements from other passengers.
“Another woman came on and told me to stop crying. She looked me directly in my eyes and said that all would be just fine, she just needed me to come with her and bring the kids so that she could talk to me. She told me I would be back and to leave my things. My kids and I followed her off and because the passengers didn't understand what was happening, they became even more upset.”
Ultimately, Gray was cleared of any wrongdoing.
“The pilot came over to me and apologized and asked for someone to give my kids water,” Gray says. “He said, he should've listened, but just wanted to get the flight out. He later realized that was a mistake. Even the officer said that he was prepared to take me off until he sensed the climate of the people on my side. That is what led him to hear me out. He said he realized that the attendant was just using his authority in hopes of making an example out of me.”
The flight was delayed two and a half hours because the airline needed to find replacements for the flight crew who were removed.
Polly Tracey, a representative from American Airlines, responded to EBONY's inquiry for comment. They still referenced Gray as a “disruptive” passenger.
"We always try to diffuse situations with disruptive passengers; our overall goal is to get all of our customers where they need to be safely and in good time. In this case, we requested to speak to the disruptive passenger on the jet bridge [and] we resolved the issue and the passenger re-boarded the aircraft to Dallas."
Yet Gray’s account of what happened and how the issue was resolved indicates that she was not the one who initiated the flight’s disruption.
“I was told to get back on the plane. My kids and I were met with applause, cheers and statements like, ‘We've got you’, ‘Glad to see you back,’ Tthis was insane,' ‘I'm so happy to see you back because I would've never flown this airline again.’”
Flight 2450 took off about 10:35 and landed in Dallas after that. And until the TMZ article, that was how this horrifying experience ended.
On several social media posts, Gray and her husband, John, have vowed to press the airline for an apology through the hashtag #AmericanAirlinesBullyingGray.