Many airline passengers have had the unpleasant experience of having their seat kicked by the passenger sitting behind them, and while it can be extremely annoying, no one expects the passenger to be kicked off the airplane. Apparently, that’s what happened on a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York on June 25.
According to the Washington Post, a family of five was kicked off the flight with no explanation. However, they believe that their 1-year-old daughter, who was sitting on her mother’s lap, had been kicking the passenger seat in front of them.
According to the airline, the situation at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport had become a “verbal altercation that included physical threats and profanities,” so the pilot returned the plane to the gate.
According to attorney David Templer, married couple Tamir Raanan and Mandy Ifrah and their three children were already fastened into their seats and ready for the return trip home to Brooklyn when their 1-year-old started to cry and kick the seat in front of them.
The attorney explained that Ifrah apologized to the passenger, then put her attention back onto the children.
Another passenger used a derogatory slur, saying, “Why don’t you tie your baby’s feet down”?
Even though Ifrah was offended at the comment, she doesn’t recall doing anything other than attempting to calm her child down.
“Then it was over — it was a non-event,” he told the Washington Post on Wednesday. “It was like getting flipped off in traffic and you just keep going.”
However, the plane returned to the gate, and a JetBlue supervisor told the family to gather their things.
“The family were basically humiliated in front of this crowded airplane, humiliated in the gate and abandoned thousands of miles from home.”
Cell phone video taken by Raanan shows the couple arguing with the JetBlue supervisor, who told the family to get off the plane so “we can discuss this.”
In the video, Ifrah can be seen saying, “No, discuss it here. I have three kids – I’m not taking my kids off this plane.”
The airline supervisor insisted, saying, “What I need you guys to do is come with me outside the plane so we can have a discussion.”
Ifrah responded by saying, “I need to get to New York. I need my kids back home.”
She went on to complain about the passenger who had been seated in front of them, saying the passenger told them that they should tie their daughter’s feet because she had kicked the chair.
“You’ve got to be kidding me — you’re stopping a whole plane. This is ridiculous. I never in my life heard of such a thing. This is ridiculous. I cannot believe this. I am in shock.”
— ABC News (@ABC) July 20, 2017
Once off the plane, the couple continued asking for answers about their removal, but the supervisor explained there was “no need to give an excuse.”
Deputy sheriffs from Broward County then stepped in, and they can be heard off-camera trying to calm things down.
“Just listen to me for a second, if you listen, I’ll explain. They’re kicking you off the plane — whether it’s right, whether it’s wrong, this is their plane. So, they can do whatever they want to do. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any recourse. It doesn’t mean you can’t solve this in another way. You’re not getting home tonight on JetBlue.”
When the sheriff’s deputy was asked again for answers, he said that the family had “all kinds of options,” including making a complaint or even suing JetBlue, but that they “have to go.”
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 19, 2017
The attorney said that because the family’s luggage continued on to New York, they were forced to buy diapers and baby clothes for the night, get a hotel room, and then book a flight the next day on a different airline. After arriving in New York the next day, they discovered that JetBlue had returned their luggage to Fort Lauderdale, so they had to hire someone to pick it up and ship it back to Brooklyn.
But here’s the strange part. The couple always assumed they’d been kicked off the JetBlue flight because their child was kicking the seat in front, but when speaking to the Washington Post, a JetBlue spokesperson said an altercation had occurred that included physical threats against another customer.
“The aircraft door was reopened and our airports team politely asked the customers to step off to discuss the situation. The customers refused repeated requests and our crew members deplaned the entire aircraft. Law enforcement escorted them out of the gate area and we provided a refund. The customers were not removed due to the actions of their children. We are investigating whether the customers’ behavior warrants restrictions on JetBlue travel and we thank our crew members for their professional handling of this unfortunate incident.”
According to attorney David Templer, the airline’s version of events is “false and defamatory,” and although there are no immediate plans to file a lawsuit, if one were filed, it would be for libel and slander, in addition to breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 19, 2017
Templer believes that had the mother threatened another passenger, the Transportation Security Administration would have been alerted immediately. An incident file was not reported by authorities.
An email message from a TSA spokeswoman stated, “Passengers who have disputes with members of the flight crew or other passengers onboard aircraft are deemed customer-service issues and do not involve TSA.”
According to the New York Daily News, JetBlue blames the removal of the Brooklyn family on a “verbal altercation that included physical threats.”
According to Ifrah, when her 1-year-old daughter started kicking the passenger’s seat in front, the annoyed passenger stood up to change seats. While Ifrah was trying to calm her daughter down, the woman seated in front complained to her travel companion.
That was when the pilot announced that the plane was returning to the gate, and security came on board and told the parents and three young children to pack up their belongings and get off.
“We kept asking, ‘What’s the reason you’re kicking us off the flight?’ Other passengers said, ‘Nothing happened, it’s not right, let’s just leave.'”
Their attorney has now discovered that Raanan and Ifrah are banned from flying with JetBlue while the company investigates the incident. He believes the airline’s claims are “total nonsense” and says that authorities hadn’t questioned the other passengers involved. Not only that, a mother traveling with young children wouldn’t use profanity, and JetBlue had not lodged any complaint regarding threats of violence.
“I would never in my life talk like that in front of my kids or anywhere. That’s not who I am.”
Initially, the family only wanted an explanation and apology for their treatment from JetBlue, but in light of the airline’s defamatory statement, Templer is now considering legal action.
Two videos were filmed of the event: the first while the couple was still seated on the plane, showing the JetBlue official insisting that family follow him off the plane, but without any explanation. The second video shows the family after they had exited the plane, still asking for answers. It shows Ifrah crying as she questions how she will get her children’s belongings and return to JFK International airport.
“We were left stranded. We were thousands of miles away from home. I asked them if they could at least get our luggage off the flight.”
The entire aircraft was evacuated when Ifrah’s family was asked to leave. While the deputies escorted the family to baggage claim to search for their bags, the other passengers were allowed back onto the plane.
According to Templer, JetBlue’s statement references its Contract of Carriage. This agreement, revised in May, includes the reasons why customers are refused transportation, including intoxication, offensive odor, and intimidating or threatening behavior. He believes that if Ifrah issued “physical threats” then JetBlue would have notified authorities immediately.
“It is imbecilic to believe that the incident occurred the way JetBlue wants to suggest.”
“It is so sad and disgusting on their part,” Ifrah said. “You have no voice and there is no one to talk to. It’s just not right.”
[Featured Image by Gilmanshin/Shutterstock]