101 kids kicked off flight, allegedly wouldn't turn off cell phones

Air Tran says that its crew had had enough of a group of kids flying from New York to Atlanta after they allegedly wouldn't sit down and put away their phones.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
The assistant principal's depiction of his allegedly unruly students. Joseph Beyda/Twitter

"We were more behaved than kids should be."

These deeply felt words were offered to CNN by just one of the 101 students asked to leave an Air Tran flight bound for Atlanta from New York on Monday.

Some might feel that kids on planes should just sit like the rest of the adult cattle in a soporific stupor. However, this incident provoked feelings that are anything but sleepy.

Please imagine, too, the bemused thoughts of those few left behind after 101 students (and 8 chaperones) from New York's Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School were ejected by an Air Tran captain and his crew.

The airline alleges that the kids just wouldn't sit down. Worse, some allegedly wouldn't turn off their cell phones. Yes, the airline says they had been asked, presumably politely. Cabin crew always ask politely.

Many are the human beings who have received an icy stare and a prison guard's gruff instruction to turn off a cell phone or else. However, this seems to have escalated beyond normal imaginations.

A representative for Southwest Airlines, which owns Air Tran, told CNN that the captain attempted to restore order and failed. The decision was taken to remove the whole party.

So a group of students that was so looking forward to Six Flags was flagged as being unruly cell phone-wielders.

You might imagine that the adults chaperoning the students called it differently.

One, Marian Wielgus, insisted that the crew had overreacted. She claimed that it was merely a small group at the back of the plane that might have been boisterous. (They always sit at the back, don't they?)

Some students, though, insist this had nothing to do with cell phones or being unruly.

Jonathan Zehavi told CNN: "They treated us like we were terrorists. I've never seen anything like it. I'm not someone to make these kinds of statements. I think if it was a group of nonreligious kids, the air stewardess wouldn't have dared to kick them off."

Well now, Jonathan. Terrorists get arrested. Even suspected ones.

Still, some might imagine that all this occurring at 4 a.m. was too much for a crew that may not have fully ingested its first morning coffee.

The school's assistant principal, Joseph Beyda, took to his Twitter account to amuse rather than stir. He posted a highly provocative image of the kids, smiling cheerily at an airport, not a cell phone to be seen.

It was captioned: "Whitewater rafting in Milwaukee." Yes, the kids had been looking forward to rafting, too. But not after being sent by the cabin crew to the Brew Crew.

Clearly, the trip continued, as Beyda's latest tweet explained they are now in Atlanta. The school, however, says it is conducting its own investigation.

Meanwhile, the students have also taken to Twitter to express themselves. Emily Shrem, for example, offered: "Yes we got kicked off the plane to Atlanta. Who knew Southerners could be so mean."

Some might imagine those accusing the airline of prejudice might not want to cast aspersions on other equally emotional groups. Perhaps they haven't seen "Deliverance."

In this case, though, could it be that the whole group was forced to pay for the cell phone transgressions of a few?

If so, perhaps airlines might make this a firm rule. There would be something so charming if whole groups of cell-chattering business folks were tossed off planes.

They're always the ones with the big PCs who nudge you the whole trip as they type.