January 23, 2007

Parents Whine After AirTran Kicks Toddler Off Plane

So a Boston family gets tossed from an AirTran flight from Ft. Myers, Florida when their 3-year-old daughter freaks out and won't sit in her paid-for seat. After holding the flight for 15 minutes, and refusing to let the too-old kid sit on her mom's lap, flight attendants removed the family. But wait, that's not all they did.

AirTran refunded their money--a mere $595 for three tickets--and flew them home the next day and offered them free roundtrips on a future flight. The family's response? "The father said his family would never fly AirTran again."

Funny, I said the same thing when I had to fly AirTran once in 1999 for work. Only the reason I quit was because the passengers were clueless, noob idiots who acted like they'd never been on a plane before. I'm going with Team AirTran on this one.

Toddler's temper ousts family from plane [yahoo/ap via dt reader sara]


Love you Greg and I love your blog! Usually I'm with you on stuff like this but while I am all for some personal responsibility I'm thinking the problem here is the flight attendants attitude.

The lecture the parents got from the senior AirTran official about how "they would NEVER let their child act that way on an airplane" surely didn't help matters. I'm betting if someone lectured you on child discipline and your parenting skills you'd think twice about patronizing them again regardless of their subsequent apologies. I know I would.

I appreciate that AirTran apologized and tried to make it known that this was in no way policy, that was the right thing to do and I'm glad they did it. I just know I'd be pretty upset if this happened to me and I'm not sure I'd be getting back on an AirTran flight anytime soon.

[Is that lecture mentioned in another report of the incident? Because I took the AirTran spokesperson's quote as a to-the-media explanation of what happened, not something the flt att. said at the time. Obviously, there are a lot of circumstances that are not explained here, and a million reasons planes are delayed. It's entirely possible the kid only started crying at the instant the pilot finally got off his ass and decided to push back. Who knows? But net net, an airline that boots you, then rebooks, refunds, AND gifts you with new tickets is practically unheardof these days. -ed.]

come on tulip! you expect a flight which is already delayed for 15 minutes to continue to wait while the parents calm their screaming toddler? A three year old? How long should they wait? The other 175 + people should sit and possibly miss connecting flights?

The airlines have schedules to keep and lose lots of money on delayed flights. Additionally the government tracks ontime performance of the airlines. Its unfortunate they missed their flight, but Air Tran was generous in compensation.

[From the discussion on the back channel here at DTHQ, it has been pointed out that travelers in the room *cough cough* have sworn never to fly an airline again for far less egregious reasons than this, so unless I'm being hypocritical, isn't it possible that these parents can still be justifiably angry and over and done with AirTran DESPITE the comps? As is often the case, I have to agree, my wife is right. -ed.]

Well I wouldn't fly that airline again especially since they would be unlikely to comp me to that degree if it ever happened again. On the other hand, I might be able to guilt the next airline into more great comps the next time just by telling them what Air Tran did in a similar circumstance.
Oh, and if they're not ever flying Air Tran again can I have their free round trip tickets?

I actually had the tool in the thread I emailed you from the BNL site make a post pointing this situation out as an example of kids and parents both being bad and irresponsible, and I about blew a gasket at him.

This is an extreme example of the problems that can come up when traveling with a kid, but it's hardly an indictment of bad parenting or even a kid being a brat. It sucks all around, as the family paid good money for the seats but the pilots eventually have to make a judgement call on getting the plane out in a reasonable timeframe. I'm a travel agent and I know I'd hear all about it if a client had misconnected because he was on that late flight. But I know I'd throw a fit if I was doing all I could to try and calm my kid down and still got kicked off the plane. It's a tough situation where there aren't really good options for anyone.

I hear you Paul and I agree that AirTran was certainly generous. Greg here's the link to the only article I read before I commented (http://tinyurl.com/22cb4h). Upon second reading & reading the link you posted I can see that what I read is certainly from the parents point of view. And if that's the way it went down I stand by the fact that I'd be pissed. But as Paul mentions there are consequences far outweighing one families inconvenience.
I do think the airline was SUPER generous in their attempt to make good. But for some reason it smacks (to me) of "oh crap! we had NO idea that parents were a demographic. quick give them tickets!"

I think anyone who says they would never LET their toddler behave a specific way has never had a child.

Oh, and, Greg - we're flying with our daughter for the first time Saturday. Thanks for giving me one more thing to worry about...

I think the key with traveling with toddlers is giving them something familar. If the parents had a paid seat, then they should of carried the car seat on board. I know its a pain to lug it around the airport but it will save lots of grief with the child. They know the deal with the car seat...no questions asked.
Air Tran was also very generous.

Wow. Having just endured the Wichita-Newark (via Dallas outbound and St. Louis on the return) trip with an almost three year old for an unexpected funeral, I can totally empathize with this family. What a nightmare- it's the worst case scenario I dwell on anytime I have to travel with the kid. But I also think it's totally unrealistic to expect the flight to wait for you to get your kid settled. That's why you're supposed to board in advance. If it was my kid, I would have either physically forced her to strap in (we use her carseat on the plane which seems to make her feel more comfortable) or begrudgingly sucked up our fate at having to take a later flight. It seems like one of the few situations in which manhandling a child is actually appropriate. Ostensibly, a 3 year old is small enough to pick up and strap in.

I asked my husband what he thought of the story and he said he wasn't sure because our kid wouldn't do that in the first place. It seems like one of the few situations in which manhandling a child is appropriate.

Our fearless editor asks "Is that lecture mentioned in another report of the incident?"

Worcester (MA) Telegram account of the incident, which I think is where AP originally picked it up from.

"They got off the plane, while their luggage and car seat flew on to Boston. In the terminal they were directed to an AirTran supervisor, who told the couple that the stewardess was uncomfortable “because you have an unruly child who struck a woman on board.”

Mr. Kulesza was incredulous. “That was her mother,” he explained. “She hit her on the arm. Lady, this is a 3-year-old child we’re talking about.”

“Sir, we don’t differentiate between 3 and 33,” the AirTran supervisor replied. Mr. Kulesza said the woman proceeded to lecture him about child discipline, and how she would never tolerate her children behaving in such a manner, at which point Mr. Kulesza said, “You really need to stop talking now.” "

Two things stand out for me. One is that the AP article you linked says that the child was having the tantrum "during boarding" - what I get from this is that the flight had already been delayed for 15 minutes for other reasons and when the crew saw this child acting up as other passengers were boarding, they decided to pitch the entire family off - possibly before boarding had been completed, although no one is really clear on that point.

Second, you'll note that the AirTran flight took off with the child's carseat onboard, which leaves me wondering what the parents did to get their child safely out of the airport. The Worcester article says they "returned to Bonita Springs". How did they do that, exactly, without the car seat? id they walk? Did the borrow or rent a car seat? Or did AirTran force them to break the law and endanger their child???

I'm with tulip, in this case. More and more frequently the "theatre of security" causes people in "positions of authority" - cops, security guards, and (in this case) flight attendants and TSA folks - to act in the most draconian of ways. Read the article again - the reason they were removed from the flight was not that the child was having a tantrum - the reason stated to the parents at the time was that the child "struck another passenger". That the child is, well, a child and the other passenger is her mother doesn't matter at all. The Rules Are The Rules, and there is no room to Question The Rules.

Its no wonder AirTran offered them all these comps. They were trying to escape the weight of public opinion falling on them and their bread and butter customer - families - from abandoning them in droves. And, to some extent, from the tone of the AP article anyhow, they've succeeded. I tend to think that the Worcester article, albeit told from the (very angry) parents' point of view, is a more realistic description of what actually happened. Lets hope it never happens to you.

I've travelled by air with my children at all ages and they never acted like that little brat. Even in the video they showed on TV of them complaining, she was going wild and climbing all over her parents. I have two boys and made a point of teaching them to do what I told them to do when I told them to do it. When we were travelling, there were loads of bombings and attacks in airports, so I taught them how duck and cover (I'm ex-Navy)when I told them or if they heard gunfire or any sort of explosion. If your child doesn't understand at age two that "Sit down and be quiet" is for their own safety, don't take them anywhere that danger may be encountered.

[uh, they went to florida. and not even Miami, (which, I will grant you, can be pretty sketchy in spots) And I'm sure you're not suggesting that military-grade discipline is the only solution for raising a kid. Right? What're the hippies supposed to do? -ed.]

Not to beat a dead horse, but I think the problem lies with the stewardess (which Anastasiav touched on).

In this post 9/11 world, stewardesses have been empowered far beyond what is necessary to serve drinks and disembark people in the event of an emergency.

In fact, dare I say it, they are on a power trip. I have seen stewardesses chastise more than one passenger for non-infractions.

I myself have been chastised and was threatened with security upon arrival at the airport. After a discussion with the the 'senior' stewardess, it was decided that I was correct.

Did anyone apologize? No. Was I ignored for the remainder of the flight? Yes.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that true blame here, I think, lies with an over-zealous stewardess.

FAA Airline rules:

1. Seat belts must be worn during take off.
2. Children over the age of 2-- must sit in their own seat.

Without getting into the whole "parenting concept" --- these 2 important rules must be followed for an airplane to take off.

Therefore if ANY passenger is not following the rules, the plane will not take off!!!

Planes need to leave on time and a 15 minutes late departure is a suficient and generous amount of time that was given to the family to try to calm their daughter.

A plane with over 100 other passengers needs to take off and if they cannot accomplish rules 1 and 2 above.....You just can't ride on this plane PERIOD.

Now with the parenting issue. It can happen to any parent. When we all fly there is always that overwhelming hoovering feeling...I hope my child doesn't make a scene. Maybe their child was sick, extremely frightened, etc. etc. and that's ok. it happens. Nothing is perfect. But you want to fly there are rules and if they are not followed you need to leave the plane and what the heck..try again another flight later in the day.

Maybe the flight attendents were rude, we were not there to hear it first off.

In any case I think the airline did a wonderful job by sending them home free and offering another set of free tickets.

as they can ask any passenger to leave an aircraft if they are not in their seats ready for takeoff. (without a grace period of 15 minutes)

[except other reports say the plane was "already 15 minutes late," not that the kid's tantrum delayed it for 15 minutes. The parents have said they weren't given any chance to calm their kid. And that they were booted because the flt att. said the kid hit a passenger, i.e., her mom. We can all agree that no one wants to be delayed; kids can be annoying monsters, especially if they're someone else's; we don't want to be lectured to by random strangers on how to raise our children; and a ride home+a refund+free tix is an unexpectedly generous response. But without knowing exactly what happened, we have no idea how all these things fit together here. I see no value left in debating the right & wrong of this situation, only the kind of emotional junkie-ism that cable news and talk radio thrive on. And I'm officially jealous of someone who has the time for that. -ed.]

The airline went too far in providing free vouchers. I am very disturbed by the parent's feeling of entitlement. How could they possibly believe it is justified to ask 112 people to wait another 15 minutes, risking missed connections, so they could calm their child down? Shame on them and their selfish ways.

[see above -ed.]

Having nearly been kicked off of Jet Blue from Boston (after flying three other uneventful legs on Jet Blue in the past two months,) for having the audacity to install my twenty pound child's convertible car seat *correctly* rear facing.

I've just purchased the new CARES restraint, and my friend who is a flight attendant for Continental told me that they have been trained on it. I fear an incident like this occuring.

My hope is that my daughter (fifteen months who has *counts on fingers* eighteen legs thus far) continues to travel well, but I do let her move around before the flight. If we were waiting for the plane to board, I'd likely hold her to try to calm her. However, I have always made her sit strapped intp her car seat whenever the fasten seatbelt sign is on. I really, really hope that she never melts down like that. I can't say that it would never happen.

Shame on anyone who feels that what happened to this family is wrong. I myself am an Airtran Flight Attendant. From the perspective of a SAFETY TRAINED co-worker, these FA's should be comended. They did everything by the book which we are trained to go by, per the FAA. We are not there for your comfort, we are there for your SAFETY, contrary to popular belief.

There are certain rules and regulations that must be followed by ALL passengers, reguardless of age, size, sex, cultural background...so on so forth.

I personally spoke with one of the FA's from this flight and there seems to be a one sided story from the parents of the temper tantrum throwing child's parent's point of view. The media did a very poor job in relaying the information to the population. The parents also neglected to tell of their child crawling under other passengers legs and seats, screaming and yelling. The fact that the father decided to not partake in helping calm the child down and seat the child in the seat with it's seatbelt fastened. The fact that other passengers had to step in to help try to get the child under control.

I personally have had to have a family removed for the same reason. Fortunatly, they were educated enough to understand why and deplaned without any dispute.

As per the FAA...
A main cabin door cannot be closed for push back until ALL passengers are seated with seatbelts securely fastened. No one is exempt!
Children 2 yrs of age and over may NOT be lap children...no exceptions!
Seatbelts must be fastened at all times when seated and whenever the seatbelt sign is illuminated. (When the seatbelt sign is off, passengers are allowed to move about the cabin, but when seated, ALL SEAT BELTS MUST BE FASTENED.)

SIMPLE RULES....so why can't people follow them. I learned in elementary school that there are rules in place everywhere to keep order and to keep people safe. So why would somone want to endanger their life, let alone their child's life, by not following a simple rule?

I feel bad for this family and every AIRTRANS employee needs to pull their head out of the butts. These are families the people who pay your wages. I have 5 kids and I have pretty well behaved children but every once in a while a wild hair will crawl up their butts and they go off. Any parent knows that their is a beast that lurks within a 3 year old heck even a 10 year old too. I think in todays day and age we are a very selfish society. I know for a fact that a lot of time can be made up in the air. If it takes 20 min for a family to console their daughter who had a PREVIOUS bad exp with a flight than so be it. Where is it going to end... whats next Restraunts... movie theaters... Grocery stores... for the love of god they a KIDS not small adults

That airplane screamer should have been forced to stop and placed in her seat by parents. Hurray for the airlines.

That said, remember Coach Bob Knight?

Screaming, cursing, choking basketball players?

Throwing chairs across the floor?

Throwing a vase at a secretary, because she told Knight to wait a few minutes to see her boss?

And yes, on a plane in Puerto Rico, Coach Bob Knight exposed himself. And slugged a cop-- but charges were dropped. Lucky for Knight -- adults making excuses, tolerating Coach Bobby Knight because he is SPECIAL.

Hmmm.... sounds familiar?

Well, now this has surely gotten people heated. Just check out msnbc's forum. its insanity. I've posted on their but I remain neutral on that site due to persecution by fellow posters lol. I'm all for safety on airlines, but I'm not all for everyone thinking a child's behavior has to be so PC all the time. Perfection is unattainable. The kid is 3. Yes, they were compensated graciously, BUT--here's where I beg to differ with the majority of America, haha. When did children's actions, especially those of a three year old, become comparable to adult actions. We raise our children the best we can, there is no handbook. Sure, in our family we follow the bible, other might follow the yellow brick road. Who am I, or anyone else to say that you, or john, or joe blow raising their child wrongly. I find it absurd that americans will go so far to call this child a "brat", "terror", etc. She's three. My daughter, yes ma'ams and all.. has her moments. I think the problem with america today (and no i do not think they were wrong for removing them, but there might have been a better way of avoiding all this hub-bub), is that the baby-raising generation has ceased. There are fewer children being raised, and more young and older professionals who deem their needs to be more important than anyone elses. Not to stray off subject but look at the employment rate of many college graduates. I can name 20 I went to HS/College with who are now waitressing because there is just enough job demand. Raise a child, see what happens. I'm a younger mother, and I love it. I have a two year old and one on the way and I can tell you what, if my child acts up in a grocery store, yes, they get a stern punishment--yet I get looks for punishing my child in public. America can't have its cake and eat it too. America has Captain Hook syndrome, and has forgotten what being a child, is like.


All these idiots. The brat would not be seated; a federal requirement before take-off. Parents had over 15 minutes after boarding to calm the brat, they were not successful.

The kid is a brat. Listen to the background on news video interviews of the parents, she never shuts up. Mom also comes off like a rich brat. Losers!

[glad your kids are so perfect you're able to be so definitive about someone else's kids -ed.]

ok, I have always been irritated by screaming children in public places. Thankfully, my son was always an angel and the one and only time he tried to throw a temper tantrum, I did what dr. phil suggested way later in his life, I made the world crash down around him and he never even considered acting up in public or in private again. I think people with bratswho just sit there and let them scream, ruining every one elses time, need to be more aware of how totally rude that and need to be aware of the idea that they can change their childs behavior by being strong and swift in reactiong in no uncertain terms to misbehavior by their child and, should actually leave with their child if that child is disruptive to many others.
Peace and love
fragile thunder

As far as I'm concerned, they should have kicked them off the plane. The behavior displayed by that kid is typical of what she probably does each time she doesn't want to do something. So if the parents failed to discipline her, the airline had to think of the other passengers. It was a small price to pay for the greater good of everyone else. In fact, her distractios and disruption could have quite possibly caused a problem in the cockpit. Naturally, the flight attendants would have gotten a lot of complaints from people who were very unhappy with the noise
and the tantrum or screaming. Then the chain reaction...the pilot would become disturbed and who knows what could have happened from there.

It gets under my skin when I see people with these unruly children try to take advantage of everyone else. The public has a right to enjoy activities without being subjected to the rantings and ravings of some kid that is spoiled rotten. And that's exactly what this child is.
Why did the other paying customers have to suffer?
They didn't because the airline took the appropriate action. Believe me, there was a round table discussion, and conference with the pilot, a phone call to "mission control" and may
someday be an act of Congress. No one should be
allowed to get away with this.

I applaud the airline for having the guts to take
a stand and take action. So everyone who is boo hooing about their having done so...just think of how you would have felt if this little piggy had screamed and yelled and kicked and cried all the
way home!

I'm not a daddy, but I had one...so I speak for him.

Kiss, Kiss

[then you and your daddy are making a bunch of wild-ass generalizations that have nothing to do with the reported--and eyewitnessed--facts in this incident. Obviously, there's a flight attendant side to this story, which we don't have. But as it was reported, the kid was only talking in a normal voice and--you know what, just go read the story and then come back and respin your grand unified theory of parenting for us. -ed.]

Instead of comp tickets, how about copies of a DVD of Fearless and the book it's based on for the parents? For those unfamiliar with the plot, a mother with a child on her lap (instead of properly belted in) loses her grip when the plane crashes. She survives, the child doesn't. And she deals with the aftermath & grief.

It's fiction, but think about it. It doesn't even require a crash to kill a child who is unrestrained on a plane. All it takes is a rough landing or take off. A toddler's head is no match for the hard surfaces it can come into contact with in those circumstances. Were the flight crew supposed to let this child die or be seriously injured? Not to mention the safety of the other passengers. That's why they have everyone belted in & you stow all your gear in the bins or under the seats prior to take offs & landings.

What options did the airline have?

1) Take off and possibly endanger this child & other passengers? Yeah & if there's an incident you know these people would be the first to sue. And what if another passenger was killed or seriously injured by colliding with a toddler missile?

2) Delay the flight & let other folks miss their flights to cater to this over-indulged, entitled family?

3) Do what they did and get the family off the plane. Which I think was the best option.

The screaming's not so much an issue as the fact that these parents lacked the control of their child to belt her in for her safety & that of others. They should be ashamed of their bad parenting instead of seeking publicity.

Actually, Googling Fearless, it was based on the Sioux City crash in 1989. Wikipedia describes the experience of a flight attendant and how it's led her to lobby for safer seating for children:

"Jan Brown Lohr - United 232's Senior Flight Attendant. She was forced by regulation to ask parents with "lap babies" (children without seats) aboard flight 232 to place their children on the cabin floor during the flight's final moments before impact. Upon impact one of four children was killed. The deceased child's mother came to her at the crash site and stated "You told me to put my baby on the floor and now he's gone." Since then, Lohr has tirelessly lobbied in Washington D.C. to promote the safety of children on all civilian aircraft and airlines, asking that federal regulations require all children to have a seatbelt on every flight."

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