The Hotel Rwanda and Ocean's Eleven star was travelling back to Los Angeles from a concert when he encountered rude airline staff who thought he was trying to sneak into first class to sit next to his partner Bridgid Coulter.
But he insists he was just asking if the couple could be seated together.
He recalls, "We get up to the ticket counter and we're trying to get our seats together. As we walk up to the counter there's a crowd and we hear, 'Everybody just back off! Just back off!' So I walk up to her (airline worker) and say, 'Don't you mean back up?' And she goes, 'Yeah, you're right. Back up and back off!"
Cheadle decided to try a different approach and ask a stewardess when the couple boarded the aircraft - but he was shocked to find she was even ruder.
He explains, "I go up to a flight attendant on the plane and say, 'Ma'am, we're seated in different seats...' and she says, 'Well I can't change seats on the plane.' I said, 'No, I'm aware of that,' and she goes, 'What you (sic) want me to do about it?' (I said) 'Nothing, that's fine.'
"So later I go up to her (again) and ask her what was the problem. She went, 'Well, what did you want me to do about it?' So I said, 'I just wanted you to attend, help me.' So I turned around (to sit down) and she goes, 'Don't you turn your face to me. I will get you thrown off the plane.' The woman had to be on some drug, I imagine! So I used a colourful expression to her and kept moving to my seat..."
The flight attendant finally came to her senses and apologised to Cheadle: "Right before the end (of the flight) she puts two bottles of Courvoisier (cognac) between our seats. I said, 'What is that? Why are you giving it to me?'
"She said, 'I'm sorry, this is my way of apologising. I was told there was a black guy with a hat on sneaking into first class and I thought that was you.' So that's just racism? That's cool!"
To make matters worse, the airline crew member mistook the Oscar nominee for U.S. TV funnyman Tim Meadows.