Alaska Airlines’ removal of passenger draws reaction; Amazon build on Prime Music; twisty fry design spurs court dispute.

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Alaska Airlines removed a man from a plane last Sunday after he heckled a female flight attendant, calling out “sexy!” as she demonstrated how to use a life vest.

The incident, chronicled in a Facebook post that by Thursday drew 21,000 reactions and more than 1,600 comments, occurred before a flight from Seattle to Burbank, Calif., Alaska spokeswoman Ann Zaninovich said Wednesday.

The Associated Press reported that Zaninovich provided few details other than to say that the airline stood behind the decision of the crew to remove the man from the flight. She also said the account posted on Facebook was accurate.

In that post, Amber D. Nelson of suburban Los Angeles said a man in the row behind her began calling out to the flight attendant demonstrating the life vest.

After the attendant asked the man to be respectful, he answered “C’mon, I’m just playing with you!” Nelson wrote.

As the man was escorted off the plane, he objected, saying he hadn’t done anything wrong, according to Nelson, who did not respond to an attempt to reach her.

Nelson praised Alaska for supporting the crew “and those of us onboard who were demeaned by another passenger’s juvenile and exceedingly disrespectful behavior.”

Airline employees have broad latitude to remove passengers, who are often allowed to board a later flight. Alaska did not identify the passenger or say whether he took a later flight.

People who commented on Nelson’s post took both sides, with some applauding the airline and others saying the crew overreacted.

“I would have done the same thing. What a jerk! You never interrupt a Flight Crew Member,” wrote one woman who identified herself as a retired Alaska flight attendant.

— Associated Press and Seattle Times staff

Amazon builds on Prime Music

Amazon.com’s new premium streaming music service could quickly become a hit as it builds upon the popularity of the Prime ecosystem — and that of the Echo, an artificial-intelligence enabled speaker.

Analysts with Cowen estimate that more than 49 million households in the U.S. subscribe to the Prime loyalty program, which costs $99 a year and includes perks ranging from video streaming to guaranteed two-day shipping.

That huge base of users has made Amazon Prime Music, a bare-bones music-streaming service, surprisingly successful.

Sixteen percent of respondents to a Cowen survey said they listened to Prime Music, more than the number of listeners who paid for Spotify or Apple Music, or any other paid music source, except for satellite radio.

The caveat for that comparison is that Prime Music isn’t really a paid service, because it comes bundled into the Prime smorgasbord. Amazon Prime Music is particularly popular among adults older than 35, Cowen found.

The stand-alone service unveiled last week, dubbed Amazon Music Unlimited, costs Prime members $8 a month, or $79 a year when paid upfront. That’s cheaper than Spotify, for example, which charges around $10 per month.

The new service is also custom-made to interact with Alexa, the artificial-intelligence software that powers the popular Echo devices. The combination of the new pricing model and the innovation in how it interacts with users “does move the needle” in a field full of entrenched players, says James McQuivey, an analyst with research firm Forrester.

McQuivey says Apple struggled to reach about 17 million users for its music service, still lagging behind market leader Spotify.

The Seattle behemoth “will have an easier time catching up to Apple’s 17 million users” than Apple did carving its market niche, he speculates, because “you have a lot of people already in a paying relationship with Amazon.”

Also, given the popularity of Echo devices, “it definitely has the potential to suck up a lot of Spotify users,” although Spotify can also be used on the Echo, McQuivey adds.

There is lots of overlap between subscribers of premium music services and the Prime program. About 70 percent of subscribers to Spotify’s premium service were Prime members, and so were 75 percent of Apple Music’s subscribers, Cowen said in a report Wednesday.

“While Amazon Music Unlimited’s impact on the current music landscape is unknown, given Amazon Prime’s massive scale, it’s reasonable to assume it could take share,” Cowen analysts wrote.

— Ángel González: agonzalez@seattletimes.com

Twisty fry spurs court dispute

Two major French-fry producers are facing a court battle over a new twisty fry design.

The Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho, reports the J.R. Simplot company of Boise filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against McCain Foods in U.S. District Court, claiming the competitor copied Simplot’s idea for a twisty French fry.

Officials with Illinois-based McCain Foods have not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, and they didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the lawsuit, filed Oct. 7, Simplot introduced the twisty fries called “Sidewinders” in 2013.

Simplot attorneys said the product was an “overnight success,” and they’re now offered in several varieties, including craft-beer batter, seasoned crisps and smoky barbecue flavor.

In the lawsuit the attorneys contend Simplot officials reconfigured production lines and added hardware to the Caldwell processing plant to keep up with consumer demand.

Simplot says it has a patent for the ornamental features of the fry, and contends in the lawsuit that McCain Foods’ new “Twisted Potato” fries are copycat versions of the Sidewinder fries.

McCain Foods began advertising, promoting and offering the Twisted Potato products in the U.S. in June, according to the lawsuit. Simplot attorneys say McCain Foods is attempting to piggyback off the Sidewinder design and unfairly compete against Simplot.

J.R. Jack Simplot started the Simplot company in 1929 in the small town of Declo, about 40 miles from Twin Falls. The company grew from one-man farming operations to one of the largest privately owned agribusiness companies in the world.