Man Sues Airline Over Soda Spat

Image credit: Bob Riha Jr/Getty Images

His name may mean "Wine Drinker" in Italian, but it wasn't alcohol that got Salvatore Bevivino into trouble on a Virgin American flight.

According to a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California on April 28, 2012, Bevivino, 52, a business manager for Genentech, boarded a flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, where he now lives.

According to the suit, which seeks $500,000 in damages, Bevivino had pressed the call button and asked a male flight attendant for a soda. The flight attendant told him that he had to order by using the touch screen on the back of the seat before him. "He just pointed to me, pointed to the screen and said, 'Use the console, sir'," Bevivino told ABC News. "I said, 'I don't want to turn this thing on.' He said, 'I don't have time for your attitude' and left.'"

A minute later, a female flight attendant approached Bevivino and told him to use the seatback ordering system. Once again, he refused, and said that he would complain to Virgin America. A third attendant finally brought him the soft drink.

There were no further interactions between him and the flight attendants, the suit maintains. Instead, Bevivino spent the remainder of the flight working on his computer.

Once the plane landed, Bevivino gathered his belongings to disembark. But the captain stopped him, he claims, and told him to follow a group of police officers waiting in the jetway corridor. "I see all these cops there and I said, 'Sure,'" Bevivino recalls.

Bevivino followed the group, which consisted of about six airport police officers and TSA agents, to the gate area, "in full view of all the exiting passengers," he said.

Bevivino was subsequently questioned by the police, who asked him if he knew why he was being detained. He said he did not, and recounted what had transpired during the flight. The officer then asked Bevivino to wait while he got a statement from the flight crew. While the officer was taking the crew's statement, the pilot sat down next to Bevivino, he says, and asked why he had been yelling obscenities at his crew

Bevivino replied that he never used any obscenity during his interactions with the crew.

According to a police incident report, a flight attendant told an investigator that Bevivino had gone to the bathroom, and "came back out with a smile on his face and began using profanities. [Name redacted] passed by the restroom and saw that Bevivino left the door open and did not flush the toilet."

The police report adds that the captain did not believe he or his crew were in danger.

According to Bevivino, he told police that he had not left the toilet unflushed.

After about twenty minutes, Bevivino was released, he said.

Not long after, Bevivino said he called Virgin Customer Service and asked for their ordering policy on flights. "I was told that if I elect not to use the console, the flight attendant has to provide you with one-on-one service," he said.

A month later, he hired an attorney.

He and his lawyer sent Virgin a Letter of Demand, noting that he has since experienced, "depression, worry, and anxiety surrounding his detention by law enforcement." He asked for $50,000 and an apology; the company offered $3,000 to settle, he said, but no apology. He refused, and Virgin then offered $5,000. He again declined, and subsequently filed suit.

"I'm going to have some kind of record because of a flight attendant fabricating events?" says Bevivino. "They're being given too much power. That's what concerns me. The only thing I have is my reputation. Lies just irk me. And it's such a weird one."

In an email to ABC News, Jennifer Thomas, a spokesperson for Virgin America, said that she could not comment on ongoing litigation. However, "We do take all guest issues seriously and we take great pride in our award-winning service; and after reviewing the facts of this particular case, we believe our team handled the matter appropriately."