At the beginning of the pandemic, some homebound theme park fans imagineered #HomemadeDisney “rides" in their living rooms. Some museum lovers replicated the world’s most famous art using household objects like toilet paper and towels (plus, occasionally, pets and children). And some once-frequent fliers turned toilet seats into airplane windows and “took off” with a little help from YouTube.
Now there’s Seattle-area dad Steve Simao — who missed traveling so much he bought Delta airplane seats for his house.
On his Instagram profile, Simao describes himself as a father, photographer and passionate traveler, in addition to being the vice president of sales at Windstar Cruises. But it’s his daughter’s TikTok account that alerted the public of his recent purchase.
In the initial video, which has now been watched more than 160,000 times in four days, Simao’s daughter, Annisa Simao, first introduces her father. “So this is my dad,” she says. “If you know him, you know he’s pretty goofy, always doing the most, pretty extra.”
While Annisa was away at the University of British Columbia in November, she goes on to say, she got a text that her travel-yearning dad was looking at an eBay listing for “DELTA MD90 Jetliner, Aircraft, Airplane FIRST CLASS Leather Seats” and followed up with a text saying, “I want to buy this,” with a cry-laughing emoji.
But his interest ended up being no joke: Steve bought a pair of the seats a couple days later.
“He actually never really buys anything for himself, so in terms of purchases, this was kind of out of character,” Annisa told The Washington Post in an interview. “But if there’s anything he was going to buy, that does add up.”
In the weeks that followed, Annisa said, she received photos — sometimes multiple a day — of her parents appreciating their new first-class furniture, which came complete with the in-flight safety card.
“My mom would send me a video of her bringing food to the [tray] table and him just sitting there enjoying it,” Annisa said.
When she returned from school, she came home to her father sitting in his airplane seat, tucked in with a red, plane-appropriate blanket, playing a Delta in-flight safety video on his smartphone.
“It was exactly what I was expecting, but at the same time, just so funny," she said.
According to the still-active eBay listing, the seats (which apparently recline) cost $600 and were pulled from a retired Delta plane in June.
“These are in excellent condition with no tears or stains but being used, expect normal wear,” the listing reads. “All mechanisms work as they did while in service. They include their respective first class pull out trays and legs fully assembled.”
As Annisa’s TikTok videos of her family enjoying the seats reached more people online, viewers increasingly began tagging Delta’s account in the comments to get the company’s attention. After Annisa didn’t hear anything from the airline, she shared her dad’s story with Delta on Twitter, and she got a reply in a few hours asking for Steve’s full name and address.
In her latest TikTok, Steve and Annisa shared that Delta sent the family a video from CEO Ed Bastian (and Steve got star-struck).
“Ed made a video, wow!" he exclaimed. "I’ve only ever seen his safety videos.”
As a token of the company’s appreciation, Bastian said, Delta is giving the Simaos three round-trip, first-class tickets to anywhere in the United States.
“I understand your dad really misses travel on Delta during this crazy year we’ve been through," Bastian said in the clip. “I’m glad he’s enjoying those first-class seats in your home, and we’ve got first-class seats waiting for him when he’s ready to start traveling again.”
Annisa said her family is still deciding where to fly using their tickets, but Hawaii is a contender.
Those who might like to follow Steve’s lead still can: The eBay seller says they have “several hundred seats (doubles and triples) from all three classes/sections (first class, business class and economy/coach)."
If there’s a Steve in your life that you’re shopping for this holiday season, eBay is a treasure trove for such airplane paraphernalia, whether you want seats from other airlines, emergency exit doors or “fasten seatbelt” signs. Some airlines also sell fun items, including stocked drink carts and in-flight meals, on their own websites, and travelers can shop online for weird and wonderful items left behind on planes, too.
Among those looking for more: Steve Simao, who is now hoping to find some life jackets to complete his airplane set. Since the videos went up, Annisa said, people who work for airlines and airplane junkyards have reached out with tips on where to find more gear.
In the meantime, her dad has been enjoying the seats immensely — at their other furniture’s expense.
“He prefers the seats. They’re actually quite useful,” Annisa said. “The tray table comes out, so he’s been eating meals on it and he watches TV on it. But my mom and I still prefer the couch.”
Travel during the pandemic: