NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A group of around 100 Brooklyn high school students traveling to Atlanta were ejected from an AirTran flight after the pilot and crew lost patience with kids who wouldn’t sit down and put away their phones.
The incident happened at around 6 a.m. Monday at LaGuardia Airport and involved seniors from the Yeshivah of Flatbush school.
AirTran is a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines. Southwest said in a statement that some of the kids in the group would not sit down in their seats or put away their mobile devices — both of which are violations of federal air regulations and airline policy.
The flight crew, including the captain, asked passengers several times to comply with the rules and when they didn’t, the whole group was ordered to disembark.
Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins wouldn’t get into details as to why the entire group was kicked out, but said “I have no indication that the flight attendants overreacted.”
He said the AirTran cabin crew made “repeated requests” for an unknown number of the students to behave.
“The point at which the captain comes on the PA system and says ‘You all need to sit down’ is unusual,'” Hawkins said.
The flight was delayed for about 45 minutes while the students filed out of the Boeing 737, which seats about 137 people, leaving the plane mostly empty.
Everyone in the group was accommodated on other flights, the airline said.
It took 12 hours for some to reach their destination via transfers that took them as far out of their way as Milwaukee, Wis.
Natalie Vilinsky’s son, Tsvi, was one of the students booted off the flight.
“He’s like nobody, there was just a kid that didn’t want to turn off quick enough his phone and two girls that giggled and then everybody had to get off of the plane,” Vilinsky told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon.
Vilinsky said she can’t help but wonder if the fact that the group is religious had anything to do with the incident.
“It took away one day of their senior trip and it’s not fair,” Vilinsky told Rincon.
“I can well imagine 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds being very excited to be going someplace for a senior trip. I can’t imagine that it reached the level that they were out of control to that extent where an entire group had to leave,” another mother told Rincon.
The students were on a three-day trip that was to include a rafting excursion and a visit to a Six Flags theme park.
Some of the students posted pictures and video of their journey on social media sites. At least one sent a barrage of Twitter messages to media organizations, complaining that the way they were being treated was a “scandal.”
The school’s executive director, Rabbi Seth Linfield, said administrators were still looking into the situation.
“We take this matter seriously and have already opened our own investigation. We will continue to speak with the chaperones and students and reach out to Southwest Airlines to determine the facts,” Linfield said in a statement. “Preliminarily, it does not appear that the action taken by the flight crew was justified. We acknowledge that Southwest Airlines has offered vouchers for future air travel to faculty and students.”
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