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Another Family Kicked Off Airline

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yep, you read that right, AirTran kicked a family off a plane earlier this month. No, not because of breastfeeding, but because the family's three year old threw a temper tantrum and could not be "confined" to a seat.

According to the Chicago Tribune...

"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," AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver said.

Julie and Gerry Kulesza, who were headed home to Boston on Jan. 14 from Fort Myers, said they just needed a little more time to calm their daughter, Elly.

"We weren't given an opportunity to hold her, console her or anything," Julie Kulesza said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The Kuleszas said they told a flight attendant they had paid for their daughter's seat, but asked whether she could sit in her mother's lap. The request was denied.

The Kuleszas were rebooked on another flight the next day, had their complete airfare refunded AND were given three future tickets to anyplace that the carrier flies.

The Kuleszas are NOT happy. In fact, they're making a pretty big media stink about the whole ordeal. Google news currently logs more than 300 news articles about the incident. Mr. Kulesza says that they will never fly AirTran again.

As you can imagine, the story is already drawing some comparison to the Emily Gillette incident last fall.

Here's the difference.

Ms. Gillette was seated calmly and quietly in her seat while holding her less than two year old daughter on her lap, per FAA regulations. They were not keeping the plane from taking off, they simply offended a flight attendant.

In the case of the Kuleszas, you have a mother and a father with a three year old that cannot be controlled. The family claims that they simply "needed more time" but you have to consider a few things. First, parents with small children are always welcomed to board early or first. It takes at least 15-20 minutes to board a plane. News stories tell us that the plane was "delayed" for an additional 15 minutes before leaving the gate. That means that the family had a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 35 minutes to get their child under control, or at the very least, strapped in to a seat.

According to AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver "...she was climbing under the seat and hitting the parents and wouldn't get in her seat."

Now, FAA regulations require that a child older than the age of 2 must be sitting in their OWN seat on the plane and must be wearing a seat belt. Thus, the plane could not legally take off before this child was secure in her seat.

There were 117 people on that flight and who knows how many planes being schedule to take off after it. Planes simply cannot sit around at the gate waiting for a 3 year old to finish their tantrum.

I don't blame AirTran in the slightest. I would have removed her as well. The fact that they completely refunded their tickets AND offered them additional tickets seems like more than enough compensation for me.

Let's get one thing straight. Kids have tantrums. If you have a child and your child hasn't had a tantrum at a bad time in a bad place where you can feel like a total fool...give it time. They WILL do it. I don't think there's a parent out there that can't sympathize for the Kuleszas and the frustration they must have felt when their daughter wouldn't cooperate. I certainly do.

HOWEVER, part of being a parent is accepting that sometimes WE have to be inconvenienced in order for other people to get through their days. In my mind, there's a world of difference between being offended at one mom feeding her child and asking another mom to remove her screaming child from a flight that cannot take off while she's on it.

What do you think? Who was right? Should the airlines have waited around until the child could be brought under control? Should the parents have volunteered to leave? Does the airline owe them an apology? Are they simply trying to milk this for some media attention and maybe a "please shut up now" settlement?

What would you have done if you'd been in the Kuleszas shoes?

Hat tip to Mir at BlogHer.


  1. Blogger Damien McKenna | 10:10 AM |  

    The airline was perfectly right to ask the family to leave. My wife and I have been in situations where our 3 y/o (or even when he was younger) was either in an off mood or was bored and acting up, and we've left the situation. But our son's three and you have to expect it to happen. The family have no right to complain, like you said they'd already had quite some time to get their child under control, if they couldn't do so then they needed to leave and come back at another time. I must actually commend AirTran for handling the situation so well, for giving them some time to sort out the problem and then for giving them both replacement flights *and* extra vouchers for later use, too bad the parents can't handle being adults.

  2. Blogger a suburban housewife | 10:38 AM |  

    The last time I flew with an infant I was told I couldn't board early because it was "discriminatory" toward other passengers. Anyway. Even if that were the case, there is a specific reason that airlines don't want non-infant children in the laps of parents during takeoff. The children are safer when confined in a carseat strapped in to the airline seat. Is it a hassle? Yes. But rules can't be disregarded just because they inconvenience at times. Imagine if the plane took off as planned with toddler in mom's lap. Imagine toddler continued to tantrum and fall forward, causing injury. Even more headlines.

    I don't see this in the same light as the Gilette story.

  3. Blogger Carrie Lauth | 11:45 AM |  

    I agree with your take Jennifer, and fwiw, I've never experienced having a child throw a public tantrum. Not once. I have 4 kids, the oldest is almost 9.

    I'm not saying my kids (or me!) are perfect, however, I handle the situation long before emotions erupt into tantrums (by removing the child from the scene, meeting their needs, using distraction, or whatever is appropriate to the situation).

    My kids have each had one or two tantrums (at home) each, but they don't "work", i.e., don't get me worked up or get them what they want. So I guess they just don't figure it's worth the trouble.

    A parent almost always has time to disarm things before it gets that bad.

  4. Blogger Jennifer | 11:50 AM |  

    I do wonder Carrie, exactly what the situation was here.

    I mean my oldest child is 2, so I'm far from having a ton of experience. She's "pitched a fit" in grocery stores once or twice, but usually it's just crying loudly. I can pick her up and calm her down pretty quickly. That said, I know that at some point chances are high that she'll have a public meltdown.

    I'm with you though...remove them from the situation. I HAVE left grocery carts full in the aisle before to take Nora outside to calm her down. I've also left hot meals on my plate at a restaurant to do the same.

    We can't always control how our kids act, but we can control WHERE they are when they're getting that pent up frustration out. No one else should have to listen to my kid scream if it can be avoided, even if it inconvienences me...KWIM?

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:11 AM |  

    I believe the Airline was doing what it should have done. Obviously the parents have experienced this "tantrum" situation on many other occations. The parents need to attend parenting classes. Not all kids throw tantrums. True, kids do act up, but not in the manner told in this story. This is a parenting issue. They need help, and next time, they need to leave the area for the benefit of everyone around. Perhaps being self centered, on the parents part, was not they way they should have reacted to the situation. I will fly Air Tran everytime I can. With this story, I am sure the "Tantrum Baby" will not be on board, nor will any other such baby or parent, and I will get to my destination on time for the connecting flight. (how many on this plane missed their connection due to these untrained parents!)

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:27 PM |  

    I agree with the airlines-my kids know their expectations when we are out in public and would never think to hit me or misbehave in a manner that would offend others. They are kids who have never been spanked or physically punished and are only taught behavior through positive reinforcments. By the age of 3 most children should know how to behave in situations and under no circumstances should it take that long to console a child. Obviously the parents need some classes to teach them some other parenting methods!!!!

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:53 AM |  

    We were flying from Toronto to Berlin earlier this year on British Airways. This was the first time we fly with an infant (7 months). We had no problem from Toronto to London part. Heathrow was a nightmare and that got us all tense. When boarding the plan I insisted that our stroller be put on the plan and not underneath, which they did. Everything was fine for takeoff but during landing my wife asked if we could keep our child in his sling which was strapped to my wife. I tried to convince the attendant that this was just as safe as the flimsey seatbelt. After a few moments the head steward came up to me and warned me that we would not be allowed to fly BA again! Why? For refusing to obey the Steward (which is not true - I only suggested a solution to a problem) and for not thanking them for taking my stroller on the plane. I did not know that we are requried to thank airlines for something I paid for.

    You can imagine my shock. I had thought that people had sympathy with parents with small children. What a shock that was. As it turned out we lost 4 bags because the flight had a compartment full of musical instruments for an orchestra.

    As for breastfeeding, my wife was able to do it discreetly as she had the carrier with her but I have learned that airlines have no sympathy for parents with small children. Tolerance yes. Business is business, no matter how much one pays for a ticket, which for us was one of the hightest fees for this particular flight.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:30 PM |  

    This must have been an extremely difficult situation for the parents and the daughter. We need to recognize how stressful it is to parent, especially traveling. There may be extenuating circumstances that we don't know about that surrounded this family at the specific time. I'm not going to judge how they parent.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:55 AM |  


  10. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:48 AM |  

    Your wrong that "pre boarding" for young children is a given. I have been on more then one busy flights in which I was not allowed to preboard with a young child (all the while the child is crying because she wants to feed and we're stuck standing there in line - obviously not resulting in a happy kid when you board the plane).
    As for if the airline was right to kick them off.. it's too hard to tell from your description. I mean maybe the kid just started tantruming right before takeoff and was fine prior, and having a policy of not letting the kid sit with the mother is NOT helpful when a kid is tantruming.
    The rest of the people that have posted that imply that children should or do not tantrum obviously do not undestand child development very much. Tantruming is a developmental milestone that most children ALL do as part of growing up.

    Basically I just think I would reserve judgement without having read more facts, as it seems it's possible the airline was not very sensative to helping solve this issue - or it's possible they had a full right to do it.

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