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.