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Osteen family leaves plane after dispute

Houston Chronicle, USA
Dec. 21, 2005
Armando Villafranca and Harvey Price
www.chron.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday December 21, 2005

FBI agent says the pastor’s wife didn’t follow a flight attendant’s instructions

A dispute involving the wife of Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen delayed holiday travel plans for a planeload of passengers, but few details were released Tuesday.

At least some people aboard the Continental Airlines flight were less than pleased after waiting about two hours at Bush Intercontinental Airport while the Osteens left the plane and their luggage was removed, said a woman who witnessed the incident.

“She was just abusive,” said Sheila Steele, who said she was sitting behind Victoria Osteen. “She was just like one of those divas.”

A church spokesman said the couple and their children left the plane voluntarily after the incident Monday and took another flight to Vail, Colo.

However, FBI Special Agent Luz Garcia said the Osteens were asked to leave the jetliner after an “altercation.” She said Victoria Osteen “failed to comply” with instructions from the flight attendant. She added that no one was detained.

The incident occurred in the first class section on Flight 1602. Continental spokeswoman Julie King declined to give details.

The Osteens could not be reached for comment, and the Chronicle was unable to contact other passengers to corroborate Steele’s version of events. However, the Vail Daily newspaper reported similar accounts of the incident from other first-class passengers.

Passenger Barbara Griffith told the Colorado paper that Joel Osteen was “very calm, very professional.”

Lakewood Church spokesman Donald Iloff said Victoria Osteen contacted a flight attendant after noticing that a liquid had been spilled on her seat. The spill apparently was not cleaned up to her satisfaction, Iloff said. The family left the plane voluntarily and took another flight, Iloff said.

The airline issued a statement saying corporate policy forbids identifying passengers.

“There have been various accounts regarding events that occurred on one of our flights,” the statement added. “We can confirm that there are no remaining issues between (Continental Airlines) and those passengers, and therefore, both parties feel no further comment is necessary.”

Steele said Victoria Osteen was upset about liquid on her pull-down tray and asked a flight attendant to have it cleaned. When the attendant, who was carrying paperwork to the cockpit, told her she couldn’t do it immediately, Osteen replied, “Fine, get me a stewardess who can,” Steele said.

She said Victoria Osteen pushed a flight attendant and tried to get into the cockpit. Passengers quoted in the Colorado paper did not address those details.

Soon after, authorities were called to the plane, she said, although it was not clear Tuesday whether they were airline officials.

Garcia said Continental officials contacted the FBI about the incident. The agency decided not to investigate.

“It was quickly resolved between the airline and the Osteens,” Garcia said.

Steele said she and other passengers were upset that they had to wait about two hours while the Osteens’ baggage was removed from the plane.

Joel Osteen is a nationally known author of self-help books.

He became pastor of Lakewood Church in October 1999, building it into what some observers say is the largest church in the U.S.

Victoria Osteen also preaches and plays a significant role at the church.

The congregation in July moved into the 16,000-seat Compaq Center.

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