Temper tantrum kid thrown off plane [Updated]

Temper tantrum kid thrown off plane [Updated]

“Family removed from plane after child’s temper flares”

Flight attendants often deal with obnoxious passengers who won’t listen to instructions by kicking them off the plane. But a Massachusetts couple think AirTran Airways went overboard by treating their crying 3-year-old daughter in much the same way.

Julie and Gerry Kulesza and daughter Elly were removed from the flight when the girl refused to take her seat before takeoff, airline officials said Tuesday. But her parents said they just needed a little more time to calm her down.

The Kuleszas, of Worcester, planned to fly to Boston on Jan. 14 from Fort Myers after a four-day visit with the girl’s paternal grandparents. She was removed because “she was climbing under the seat and hitting the parents and wouldn’t get in her seat” during boarding, AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver said.

AirTran officials say they were only following Federal Aviation Administration rules that children age 2 and above must have their own seat and be wearing a seatbelt upon takeoff.

“The flight was already delayed 15 minutes and in fairness to the other 112 passengers on the plane, the crew made an operational decision to remove the family,” Graham-Weaver said.

But Julie Kulesza said: “We weren’t giving an opportunity to hold her, console her or anything.”

“Elly was sitting in front of our seat crying,” she said in a phone interview. “The attendant motioned to a seat and asked if we purchased it for her.”

Yes, we’ve now flown with our under-1-year-old baby on two roundtrips and while she can be a normal baby sometimes, I also know that she’s especially well-behaved in public. I also believe that children should be accommodated, even if they act, you know, like children.

Still, there’s something about this story that makes me wonder if there’s more to it. Specifically, this phrase: “Elly was sitting in front of our seat crying.” Am I to understand that these parents bought three seats as required, but had their three-year-old daughter sitting alone in front of them, while they sat next to each other? No wonder the child was out of control.

These parents also have to ask themselves whether everyone on their flight—as well as everyone down the line waiting for this aircraft on all subsequent flights—should really be required to wait on their convenience. They had already delayed the flight 15 minutes. My guess is that the flight attendant didn’t suddenly throw them off the plane, but that this had escalated over time and this was the last straw. Methinks that this wasn’t just some fussy child, but a full-blown temper tantrum thrown by a kid whose parents weren’t prepared to fly.

The Orlando-based carrier reimbursed the family $595.80, the cost of the three tickets, and offered them three roundtrip tickets anywhere the airline flies, Graham-Weaver said.

But that’s too little, too late for the Kuleszas. The father said they would never fly AirTran again.

And for that I bet that AirTran—and its passengers—are supremely grateful.

Update: There are two sides to every story and I now I’ve found one told from the parents’ point of view. If what it says is accurate then I’m a lot more sympathetic to the parents. Getting lectured by a gate attendant on child discipline and being told that the airline makes distinction between the behavior of a 3-year-old and 33-year-old when ejecting them from the plane would indeed be ridiculous.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
23 comments
  • I do not understand parents who travel with obnoxious or very young kids when unnecessary.  I consider necessity to be a wedding, a funeral, or a visit to a relative who’s health prevents them from traveling.  If family members (i.e. grandparents) are healthy and don’t have kids, why don’t they do the traveling?

  • There could be many reasons. It could be a holiday and the grandparents have several children with grandchildren. Everyone wants to be together so at least some of the kids will have to travel.

    It could also be that the grandparents live someplace warm while the parents and kids live someplace cold.

    It is not an axiom that very young kids are obnoxious. While proper rearing of children helps alleviate problems, it’s also true that our society has come to be more and more anti-child. In theory people like the idea that there are children somewhere, just as long as they don’t have to see or hear them.

  • And to think I was going to visit Italy this summer with three children under 5 to see immediate family!

    This story gives fuel to the “anti-child” crowd. I don’t like that term, so please give me a better word. But children do exist and we can’t lock them up until the age of 18, because adults don’t want to deal with them. If you don’t want to be around children when traveling then drive a car to your destiniation.

    Maybe the daughter had to sit in the seat assigned to her name? Is that a new FAA rule?

    Children aren’t and will not be perfect. Children can’t be knowingly obnoxious, but adults can be just think about the concept of road rage. I haven’t had anything like this yet , but people have no problem scolding a mother rather then her lending a hand.

  • The airline was probably right to have the family leave the plane.  Other passengers have rights, too and airlines are judged in large part by their percentage of on time departures/arrivals.

    But refusing to let the family fly for 24 hours was absurd.  Yes, passngers ejected for unruly behavior are forbidden to fly for 24 hours, but usually they need to sober up!!  A child should not be grouped together with an disruptive and physically assualtive drunk.  Seems like the family was unduly punished for the incident.

    Lots of gate and flight attendants are nice, but there is a subgroup of unpleasant, easily annoyed employees too.  Remember the Saturday Night Live skit with the flight attendant Buh-Bye skit?

  • I think the decision is completely justified. While the kid was only 3 there are still safety reasons.  Once on a trans-Atlantic flight, an obnoxious child (about 3 years old) decided to run through the plane, this was annoying. But what made it worse was that this child like to go hangout by the emergency exit door presumably to play with it during flight.  While I’m sure it’s difficult for a three-year old to open the door, you never no if he could trigger something that he shouldn’t.  The entire flight, the flight attendant had to stop her work several times to get this kid to go back to his seat. 

    So if a kid cannot sit down, there are definitely legitimate reasons to kick the kid and anyone traveling with the kid off the plane.

  • Like I said in the blog entry, if the parents can’t control the kid they then need to be held responsible, but that’s a far cry from saying kids shouldn’t travel except in very rare circumstances.

  • Some of the blame may fall on the airline.  Planes are rushed in and out of airports, necessitating that boarding come off without a hitch, and with no time to accommodate a fussy child. 

    On a recent flight from San Diego to Texas there were no children involved and no disruptions I was aware of, yet somehow the passengers took longer to board than was allotted.  Our flight was shuffled to the back of the runway line, at least according to the rumor that circulated among the passengers. 

    We sat on the runway while 7 other flights took off, which meant that we were an hour and a half late in leaving San Diego, and connecting flights would have been missed even had the rest of the flight gone smoothly (which it didn’t, but that’s another story). 

    Children and airline flight schedules are a confrontation waiting to happen.

  • I am a lot more sympathetic to these parents since adopting our son. I have 3 biological daughters 12, 9, and 7. They are extremely well behaved, especially in public. We were always able to take them out to eat or to the mall or wherever(they have never flown though). We would always get complimented on how well behaved they were and are. I would think to myself, “We must be such good parents to have such children.”

    Then we adopted our son. He is a terror. When he is not sleeping he’s full GO! He climbs, he jumps, he shoves things up his nose! We are exhausted by the end of the day. He is extremely difficult to take out. We don’t even try to take him out to eat anymore because the few times we tried were a nightmare. Now I think to myself, “Maybe we aren’t as good at parenting as we thought.”

    Moral of the story: don’t always blame the parents for bad behavior, sometimes kids can just be difficult.

  • I am generally on the side of the airline in this dispute.  I listened to the father on the radio yesterday, and as a dad I sympathize, but there was one thing in his attitude that I have heard from more than a few young (and even more so not so young) parents, and that is that people generally should accommodate their kids.  He admitted that they already had delayed things a few minutes, but just said they would have had her under control before take off and they should have given them a few minutes to do this.  In other words, the plane was waiting to pull from the gate.

    My kids were not perfect, but when they acted up in public I immediately addressed it.  I accept that kids will be kids, but I also don’t think it’s my responsibility to tolerate an unruly kid, it’s his parent’s to control him or remove him.  You see this in restaurants a lot.  I have been in a situation in a nice place where I went out for a dinner with my wife, and a kid in a nearby table was disruptive – literally spinning around on the floor and shouting while his parent and another couple blithely continue their meals.  After the second waitress nearly tripped over him, a hostess asked the parents, nicely, to take care of him.  You would think that she asked them to amputate his legs.  “I want the manager” manager comes out “I’m not paying for the dinner” the whole nine yards.  Finally they left and the dining room broke out in applause.

    This was a dramatic example, but you see it all the time in little ways.  It’s not the kid misbehaving that bothers me – kids do that, it’s the parents who think either it’s cute or that even if the misbehavior inconveniences or harasses you, that’s not their problem.

  • At the end of the day, the parents demonstrated that they were unable to control their child and having them leave was, in my view, the right choice.  I would have liked to see a little humility and apology from the parents.  Why is it that today, when people are wrong or breaking the rules and you point that out to them (or make them suffer the consequences), they never say, “Oh, sorry for the inconvenience.”

  • Like family bathrooms, you would think (especially flights from Florida) they would have family friendly seating. There are many different settings of eateries, but there airlines come in one mold.

  • It’s probably a symptom of a culture that has fewer and fewer children as the years go by.  When there are lots of children around, we structure our events, our time, and our thinking around the fact that there will be children around.  When there are few children, we structure our events, time, and thinking in an adult mode.  In America we have done a lot of the latter.  Take a look at the passenger list of a typical plane.

    Imagine how the web would change if everyone had large families to care for.

    At the same time I’m sympathetic with those of you who believe that parents in many cases simply do not control their children.  I’m learning less and less tolerance for the child who disrupts the entire Mass from the seat behind me.  Kids will be kids.  It’s time for parents to be parents.  Which means that my children do not have the right to make life unpleasant for the adults around me.  When the kids are taken into adult surroundings, they need to behave in a manner compatible with adult activity.  If they can’t, they shouldn’t be there.

  • “It wasn’t like she had a bomb strapped to her waist,” she noted. 

    Yes it was.  They said she had ear problems when they landed the first time.  I saw one of my children go through that and he had medicine in him in preparation for it.  My wife and I did take 3 small children to Rome back in 2000.  It was a risk but we were willing to take it. 

    One simple question.  If I was traveling with an adult and they suddenly, upon boarding became irrational, should I expect that we could be asked to leave the flight until the person could get under control?  That is the risk when traveling with a child.  Did the airline act completely appropriately?  Obviously not since they are trying to make up for some of the actions and are going to use this for training but the parents too obviously didn’t prepare for the flight correctly with the pain the child went through on the first landing.  Yes society needs to expect to see children around but a plane is a special environment.  It is a place for business travelers paying big bucks, pleasure travelers, families, etc.  I think the main responsibility is upon the parents traveling with the children and that parents need to understand that children are not always going to be rational and maybe, just maybe the best laid plans may be grounded.

  • Three cheers for Air Tran.  After 15 minutes of “we’re trying” it was time to kick their sorry behinds off the flight.  I bet I know exactly what they were “trying.”  I bet they were trying to reason with an unreasonable child.  I’d bet dollars to dimes it went something like this. “Now sweetheart, please sit in the chair like a good little girl.”  Or even better, “If you sit in the seat like a mummy and duddy ask, we’ll buy you that new toy you’ve wanted.”  Meanwhile the kid refuses and even stikes at her parents. Rubbish.  We’ve all seen that kind of parent too many times. The problem is not a society that is too anti-child. The problem is a society that is so enamored with childhood, or at least adolescence, that some people never grow up. The problem is parents who can’t act like grown ups.  If the child doesn’t sit in the seat when told, you pick her up and put her in the seat. You don’t “try” to get her into her seat. You do it.

    Dr Rosemond, call your office.

  • Fenian,

    Your post struck a cord with me.  My father would NEVER NEVER have responded to the flight attendant’s request with, “We’re trying.”  The impotence in the statement is astounding and is something prior generations, in my view, didn’t experience as regards their children.

  • As the mother of two autistic boys, I have never traveled by plane for this reason.  They are totally unpredictable and one thing could set them off and we could be in for a long episode.  At the age of 3, this child sounds to have the beginnings of a disorder or handicap.  Children are normally not diagnosed that young because they haven’t had enough data to make a determination.  Regardless, airlines should have a plan for treating everyone with respect and dealing with situations such as this.  I would be horrified if we had to travel by plan to a funeral or the like and we were treated this way due to one of my son’s phobias kicking in.  Although I can imagine calling the airline in advance to explain our plight.

  • Institutions and corporations can and often will be entirely unreasonable about childhood behavior. I believe in discipline, and my kids understand consequences so their version of a fit in public has mostly been muted.
    In the same vein; Does anyone remember an incedent where a 2 year old ran from her parents in an airport and the airport staff attemted to stop them from chasing her down a restricted ramp. The father threw the (male) staff member to the ground and seriously hurt him. I was horrified as I could easily identify with the father who may now be in jail.

  • Maybe I’m living on a different planet, but it has not been my experience that things are less family friendly than when I was a kid or when mine were little – 20 years ago (the internet excepted).  My experience has been the exact opposite.  Everything from kid only clothing store like Limited Too – or as I like to call it Prosti-tots – to kid meals to kid networks.  More to the point, many parents take their kids everywhere they go.  I appreciate some kids have special needs, but I have thrown formal dinner parties where couples show up with their two-year olds.  It’s like no one has ever heard of a babysitter. I’m with Fenian on this.

    As for airlines, I was in the military, and had to fly my family around a lot, and found they tried to be very accomodating. You have know idea what traveling with kids is like until you have flown from Europe or Asia on a military charter full of Army, AF, and Navy families with dozens of dogs barking in the cargo hold.

  • Sean, I see your point, but from my experience is that society wants nothing to change when a person becomes a parent. People want me to participate in adult only settings and functions as if I never had a baby or three, but I can’t hire a babysitter at every oppotunity. At the same time I don’t think I should be locked up in the home for a decade during my child bearing years.

    My kids are kids. At family gatherings they’re crazy and wild, they don’t sit there like procelian dolls. But they do have a routine and reasonable expectation of how we behave when we go to Mass.

  • The cure for most temper tantrums is tylenol.

    Kids can’t tell us when they have headaches, etc., or at east they don’t know how to.  Our 5-year-old had a horrible tantrum last night, telling us all sorts of horrible things.

    My wife has had migraines her entire life.  I’ve had tension headaches my whole life due to my poor vision.

    So, last night, Allie was screaming and fussing, and i put her in her room for a time out.
    Eventaully she calmed down a bit and said, “I’m mad because my head feels like it’s breaking.”  So I takled with her, and it turns out she had a bad headache, and she says she gets them every day.  So I gave her some tylenol, some hot cocoa and a cool washcloth, and she was 100% better.  This morning, she started fussing a bit, and I asked her if her head hurt, and she said yes, and I gave her a tylenol.  She’s been fine ever since.

  • We traveled with our usually unruly 2-year old over New Year’s, and he behaved pretty well.  Why?  In the airport, we restrained him in his stroller.  On the plane, we restrained him in his car seat.  Not only was it physically impossible for him to get out, but the familiarity of the car seat helped his nervousness, and helped him fall asleep.

    That being said, it’s not easy juggling a stroller, 2 car seats, 2 carryons, a 2 year old and a 4 month old at the security checkpoint, especially when they won’t let you into the special assistance lane…

  • Rick,

    You’re absolutely right. Growing up, misbehavior was bad enough, but misbehavior that merely attracted the attention of other adults was quantum levels worse!  It reminds me of something William Bennett said about the purpose of education (and keeping in mind parents’ roles as the primary educators of their children) to the effect of the purpose of education being to civilize young barbarians.  Too bad so many don’t see that.

    Sean,

    I love your reference to the Limited Too.  I think I’ll steal that one.

  • Just a thought, from the father of a 3 year old:
    What say we all step back and stop reading this story as a confirmation of what we already believe?

    We weren’t there. We don’t know exactly wha thappened. MAYBE the kid was way out of control, and the airline employees did the right thing (I’ve seen my son pitch some major tantrums, so I know it’s possible; I wouldn’t expect a plane to wait around forever for me to get him calmed down and strapped in). Or MAYBE the flight crew was unduly impatient and rude (I’ve learned the hard way that the days of smiling, helpful stewardesses beaming “I’m Pam, fly me” are long gone).

    We don’t really know. But whether we’re doting parents or exasperated “child-free” travellers, we’re awfully quick to read such stories and choose sides instantly. I suggest that the child-free not be too quick to assume that the little brat got what she deserved, and that parents of toddlers not assume the airline just hates kids.

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