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Everything we learned about Nancy Pelosi’s flying habits from one photo


(J. Scott Applewhite/AP, iStock; Washington Post illustration)

Most of us pass a flight delay unproductively: sighing in frustration, tweeting peevishly at the airline for updates or perhaps binge-watching the latest season of “Stranger Things” on our phones.

But most of us are not the speaker of the House with a budget agreement to reach.

Monday afternoon, CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny tweeted a photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holding a phone to her left ear on a crowded Delta plane in Detroit, where she had been “negotiating the fine print of this budget deal” during a flight delay. She had been that way for somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours, he said. Zeleny added in his post: “For those wondering, she’s in coach.”

Aside from her productive use of time and likely excellent backup battery power, here’s what else we learned about Pelosi’s flying habits from a single snapshot:

  • She flies coach (at least sometimes, at least this one time) — and not the semi-decent, extra-perks coach: Seat 23D, which is not shown in this photo but which was later confirmed as hers, is boring old back-of-the-plane coach. Not even an exit row!
  • She lives that aisle life. The fight over which is better in the aisle-vs.-window fight will never end, but no one will disagree that Pelosi made the right choice by avoiding the middle in this scenario.
  • No athleisure here: The speaker is wearing a bright pink dress and what appears to be a scarf draped over her shoulders (the sensible approach to layering for cold plane temperatures in summer). Photos show her in the same pink dress at the NAACP’s national convention in Detroit, along with a pair of pink pumps. We assume you don’t become speaker by taking part in barefoot antics on planes.
  • Just like the rest of us, she has to hold onto her plane trash for longer than she would probably like, judging from the plastic cup tucked into the back of the seat in front of her.
  • We don’t know about cross-country flights, but at least in this situation, Pelosi is not a recliner. Her right arm isn’t fully visible, but from the position of her hand, she does not appear to be hogging the middle armrest.
  • Discretion is key: She’s not taking notes, there’s no paperwork that hints at the conversations she’s having and her phone is obscured by virtue of being pressed to her ear.

According to Zeleny, when the plane finally neared departure, Pelosi followed the rules of airplane order and put her phone away. The story offers one additional tidbit not seen in the photo: Before taking off, the speaker shifted her attention to another staple of air travel: a crossword puzzle.

Read more:

Pssst. Mobile Passport is the best-kept secret in air travel.

Turns out, misbehaving on a plane could cost you big money

Recent incident over attire highlights the ambiguity in airline dress codes

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