Family Of 9 Kicked Off JetBlue Flight… Called “Animals” Over PA?

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a lady who was kicked off an American flight after an altercation with a flight attendant. That was an instance where literally everyone who publicly came forward sided with her, shocked that she was kicked off the plane. And there was even video of the situation.

Post-9/11, airline employees have a lot of latitude to remove passengers in the name of “safety.” The problem is that airline employees seem to be able to define “safety” however they want. Make a rude comment to a flight attendant? They can claim to feel threatened, and have you removed.

Which brings us to the latest story of passengers being removed from a flight. In this case, a family of nine being removed from a JetBlue flight between New York and Punta Cana.

JetBlue

Via Yahoo Travel:

Tal Kimchy of Palisades, N.Y., was boarding a JetBlue flight in New York’s JFK airport along with his wife, mother, brother, sister-in-law, and four children. He told Yahoo Travel that as they put their bags in the overhead compartment, a flight attendant asked Kimchy’s brother to step inside the aisle so others could pass.

Kimchy said his brother responded that he would step aside as soon as he could let his pregnant wife take her seat. She asked him if he was saying no.

“He said, ‘I’m not saying no, just give me a minute,’ Kimchy said of his brother. “At that time she said, ‘It’s my plane, and if you don’t like it, I can make sure you get off of it right now.’ He said, ‘Why, what did I do?’ She said, ‘You’re being a hostile passenger.”

Kimchy said the situation seemed to settle down and the family took their seats, when the flight attendant aggressively re-approached and asked his brother if he was “going to be good now.”

“He looked at her and said ‘I’m OK,’” Kimchy said. “She said, ‘Are you good?’ He said, ‘Isn’t OK and good the same thing?’ She said, ‘I need to know if I need to throw you off the plane.’”

Another flight attendant then approached to defuse the situation, and Kimchy began recording the interaction with his phone. The first flight attendant then went to discuss what happened with the pilot, and soon after, Kimchy’s brother was told he had to leave the plane and catch a later flight.

The rest of the family was going to continue the journey when after more discussion by JetBlue officials and airport police, Kimchy said, they were told they had to leave the plane as well because they were a security risk.

As the family left the plane, Kimchy said, “One of the flight attendants went on the loudspeaker and said, ‘Now that the animals have left, we can continue the flight.”

Something tells me there’s a lot more to the story than that. And even with the one side of the story which is presented, it’s clear the passenger is trying to be confrontational as well.

A JetBlue spokesperson said the flight attendant isn’t being punished, and issued the following statement:

“We love welcoming families on JetBlue, and we do so for thousands of families every day without incident. The decision to remove someone from a flight is never taken lightly and happens only if it is clear that the customer poses a risk to the safe and comfortable operation of the flight.”

The one valid point raised by the passenger (which I’ve asked many times before), is the following:

Regarding the family, including his brother, being allowed to fly the next day on JetBlue, Kimchy said, “I don’t understand how he’s a danger today but he’s not tomorrow.”

I totally agree, and have never been able to figure that out. If an airline removes someone from a plane for posing a safety risk, how is it safe for them to fly on the airline the following day?

Bottom line

Based on the very limited facts shared by the passenger being interviewed, something tells me there’s a lot more to this. And I’m also guessing some liberties were taken with what he claims the flight attendant said. There are two things I take away from this (which I think most of us knew before, but…):

  • Don’t be confrontational with crews; whether these were grounds for being kicked off or not is a different story, but clearly he was being confrontational, even with the side of the story he’s claiming.
  • If airlines only remove passengers for safety reasons, how is it “safe” to rebook someone on the next flight?

What do you make of this story?

Comments

  1. I have mixed feelings about the “Don’t be confrontational with crews” advice.
    No one has the right to disrespect you. In the same way you are no one to disrespect the crew.
    Letting the crew insult passengers without some form of confrontation can be a very dangerous thing if it becomes ‘a norm’.
    It’s good that things like this happen so that the issue can be discussed and everyone’s right be considered.

  2. I don’t want to comment on this incident because we only have one side of what happened. But to answer the question how can someone be a risk today but not tomorrow

    Today they show up drunk and unruly.
    Tomorrow they show up sober and well behaved

  3. I wonder if there is a racial issue here. Picking up from the name of the passengers. The flight attendant clearly sounds very rude and unprofessional.

  4. Cameras in planes, please.
    Public access to the video, please.
    No new “rules” would be required about FA behaviour. It’s really the same as Police Body Cams. If FAs are so powerful they can be judge, jury and executioner, they should execute these duties in Full Public View, subject to YouTube shaming.

  5. I generally agree it is weak to eject people from airplanes for ostensibly for safety only to allow them on the next flight.

    The only scenario where I can see that makes sense is if someone is at a debilitated or truly disruptive intoxicated or high state where if once sober they would be fine. Are there others?

  6. I see the point of “don’t be confrontational”. The point of travel is to fly from point A to point B, and when a confrontation that may or may not end your travel arises, it’s best to back down before it escalates. It’s not about pride, it’s about getting somewhere.

  7. > “it’s clear the passenger is trying to be confrontational as well.”

    What? That’s not clear AT ALL from the information provided. He’s trying to get his pregnant wife situated. He’s getting flak from the FA, it’s very possible he’s feeling attacked and merely getting defensive.

    It’s pretty clear that the reason airlines remove passengers in these situations but let them fly on the next flight is that once something like this happens, there’s a ton of potential for further escalation (by either party) and it’s much easier to separate the two parties by removing the passengers than by removing the crew (which would require a replacement crew and probably a huge delay for the entire flight). Even if it’s a case where the FA is clearly in the wrong, it’s just logistics at that point.

  8. How is it “clear” the passenger was being confrontational? Other than a bit of snarkiness in the “I’m OK” exchange – which the passenger’s response is understandable after the “can you be good” question, which was meant to be demeaning as that is how one speaks to a child?

    Other than intoxication, it’s ridiculous to assert a pax is unsafe today but safe tomorrow. IMHO cabin crew power trips are getting excessive. Any little slight, real or even perceived, is an excuse now for throwing someone off the plane. As with other areas of travel,

  9. Also, if an FA did in fact refer to passengers as “animals,” that FA should be immediately fired, regardless of the circumstances.

  10. Is there a part edited from what you presented? I don’t see what the passenger said as being confrontational at all. We must clearly have different takes on what being confrontational is.

  11. Of course, they aren’t a “safety threat” tomorrow because they aren’t really a “safety threat” today. It proves the lie. People are being tossed off because their mere presence is bothersome to some crew member — rightly or wrongly.

  12. hey Americans that’s the country you live in where cops can attack you or kill you for asserting for rights and same goes on the plane where attendants can do with you what they will, unless you are prepared not to fly then act like a nice lil bitch n smile n say more pls. that’s the country you live in. this does not happen anywhere else …. enjoy

  13. Sorry, Lucky – I’m with Chuck’s take in this too – from what we’ve read so far I don’t see him being at all confrontational, just trying to look out for his wife and being understandably annoyed when being spoken to like a child. I don’t see why FAs should be allowed to get away with whatever they want (albeit it is only a tiny minority of them we’re talking about here)

  14. I bet there is a fair amount of cell phone footage of what happened. When it all comes out the truth will be told. If I had to bet I would put a lot of money that both sides are lying through their teeth. I doubt either side comes off well if their is a video.

  15. The only time I had aggressive feelings towards any flight attendant was during a BA business class flight. The older british man just didnt like me and was rude and condescending through gritted teeth (im assuming from my age and my traveling companion) but I didn’t press the point despite wanting to bash in his face as that would be illegal and waste time for rebooking etc. So all I did was be overly “polite” and used my rights to keep ordering and requesting things just to make it difficult for him 🙂

  16. Is it just me or does this seem to happen mostly on us based airlines… No other countries seem to have these sorts of issues.

  17. I’m sure there is more to the story, but there is a ring of truth to some of the events described. I can totally see a flight attendant going back and antagonizing the customer as part of a power trip. The matter should have been dropped once they were in the seat. I have seen flight attendants rapidly escalate minor situations which could have easily been defused but for their eagle. Removing the entire family from the flight? There really should be a lot more to the story if they did that. Talking back to a flight attendant is not adequate grounds to be thrown off a plane no matter what they think. If the thing about the staff getting on the PA and referring to the passengers as animals occurred (seems doubtful this occurred) then I believe that employee should be terminated immediately.

  18. Lucky – very simple, humans are very emotional, therefore they need to “cool” off from time to time. So yes a person IS a safety risk one day and IS NOT a safety risk another. Also a day may help flush out their systems of alcohol or meds.
    While I don’t travel as much as you, we fly about every two months, and it’s common for large groups to really take their time, continue group conversations and not pay attention to anything around them. Just two weeks ago, we had a group hold a bus that was supposed to take us to the plane because one of their members was late. And they thought they were absolutely right!!!

  19. “As the family left the plane, Kimchy said, “One of the flight attendants went on the loudspeaker and said, ‘Now that the animals have left, we can continue the flight.”

    Regardless of whose side of the story you believe or what transpired prior to this point, if the above is in fact true, that would be enough IMHO to fire the FA.

    Disrespecting anyone is not how you make yourself either feel justified in your actions, or feel better about actions you knew were wrong on your part.

    Still, we have to get facts before we can judge.

  20. I don’t understand how “‘I’m not saying no, just give me a minute,’” amounts to confrontational. The passenger was actually quite calm despite being repeatedly provoked by the FA. There’s probably more to this story, but I can’t imagine anything justifying the “animal” comment. Much too often, these flight crew forget that these animals are the ones that pay their salary.

  21. Seriously, only in the US. Scary to see the abuse of power by flight attendants, which dilutes the actual need for safety! Never seen that happen in Asia, and we have our share of rude passengers!

  22. There are no doubt very difficult and hostile passengers in the world but I can say without a shadow of a doubt I have seen more hostile, antagonistic and confrontational flight attendants in the past 2-3 years than I have hostile and disrespectful passengers. I am much more inclined to believe that the flight attendants took a mildly tense exchange and escalated it to make it as disruptive and punitive as possible. I see it happening regularly, including this week. Once the FA starts escalating the situation, if the passenger does not know how to disengage and defuse the situation they are going to lose every time.

  23. Have to agree with @Joe. Why do these (increasingly common) stories seem to only originate on US carriers?

  24. I totally respect flight attendants. I think they have a pretty shitty deal over all. I would need a lot of free flights and a lot of vacation time to be compensated for all the bullshit they must have to put up with. But that said, that’s really part of the job. Isn’t it? You’re JOB is to stay calm and collected and make sure the passengers are safe. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be there and I would also consider the flight attendant a security risk.

  25. I agree, we need the shoddy cell phone video recording of the second half of the incident filmed between the seatbacks of two coach seats to properly make a determination who was at fault here. Leave it up to the courts of social media!

  26. Again and again!, If airline staff force people of the plane an official investigation should take place – and if the investigation shows that the staff overreached their powers – 1 year in jail most be minimum punishment. Until this kind of punishment is put in place, airline staff will become more and more abusive. Just because they can get away with it. I I’m not talking about airport staff performing the investigation as they will be biased. Such investigation have to be undertaken by an independent body that have absolutely no relation to the airline industry. And yes, if you are an police officer at an airport, you are no longer independent.

  27. If there’s any chance you’re not going to follow a flight attendant’s instructions you’re a safety risk and possibly a security risk. Only the flight captain / attendants can make that call.

  28. If the flight attendant did call the family animals on the PA, that would have been recorded somewhere on the planes recorders. there would also be the entire plane as witnesses.

    If this did infact occur, that is evidence enough of the nature and attitude of the FA, and should be more than enough to kickoff an investigation with serious ramifications for the FA.

    If it proves to be untrue, then the fact the family remember lied about this, will throw into doubt his/her single sided story.

    Either way, this should be relatively easy to get to the bottom off.

  29. @robert There’s a chance anyone could refuse to follow instructions up in the air. In that case, we’re all security risks.

  30. @Joe and Robert: Yes, exactly, we are all capable of misunderstanding instructions or even being difficult. So that means only the crew should be allowed on board? And who says only the flight attendants can make this call? Do police get to just do whatever they want to someone, on the off-chance they could be a threat to public safety? Yes, police officers have powers and they need them. But as they are given special powers that can be abused, they are also subject to public accountability. At least that is the way it works in countries that are not dictatorships or under military rule. Why is the concept of accountability going along with special powers, so difficult for flight attendants to grasp?

    For God’s sake, let’s get a grip here. The vast majority of flights are very safe endeavors. Flying is in fact one of the safest (if not the safest) means of transportation available. With this in mind, why must we accept this para-military “execute all orders immediately without question” nonsense as being vitally necessary? And if its just so important to kick someone off a plane, why would we not have the decision held to public accountability?

    I think we need to have cameras on flight attendants. If we are so concerned about security risks, why would we not have them? We have cameras on on virtually all types of public transportation. If flight attendants are apparently so scared of their passengers, they should welcome the ability to document every little infraction that comes up.

  31. I agree that this seems to be an American phenomenon. You can find FAs on any airline who can be rude, but that’s very different from them being given this amount of power to abuse.

  32. The “animals” claim was corroborated by exactly ZERO other passengers on the plane, who in fact disputed that this comment was ever made.

    The family sounds pushy, entitled, and eager for a confrontation and martyrdom. Let’s not give them the attention they so desperately want. They sound like the kind of folks who will scream and claim they’re being somehow discriminated against when Starwood doesn’t upgrade them.

  33. A family of 9 with 4 children would usually get pre-boarded. If not, then the time it takes for a group this size to get in their seats could delay the boarding process.
    If a FA asks me to move aside, I say, “Yes. ” In this case, who knows? Let’s not rush to judgement.
    This speaks to the airline’s boarding
    practice, FA training and the family member who decided to unsuccessfully “reason” with the FA.

  34. First of all, from the picture on the Facebook page, they are not Orthodox Jews.
    Second, they obviously should have pre boarded.
    Third, they seem very upset and while there may be two sides to every story, I find it hard to believe that a JetBlue attendant could not show a little more patience, or could even deem a big family a security risk.
    Fourth, how come we have not seen anyone from JetBlue comment so far? I guess their legal department is calling the shots right now.
    It is hard to imagine a scenario in which JetBlue comes out of this in the right. No matter who you believe, the JetBlue attendant overreacted. To be continued…

  35. These “rights” of the FAs are one reason, why I avoid American airlines at almost all costs. Fortunately there are enough other possibilities travelling from Europe or Mexico.

  36. According to a Yahoo travel article:

    “A witness on the flight who asked not to be identified for this story said she filed a complaint to JetBlue about the flight attendant’s behavior. She told Yahoo Travel that the flight attendant was rude and “kept pushing” the family but did not recall hearing the “animal” comment.”

  37. Thanks Nick for highlighting the dangers of treating a retelling of an event as if it was a independent transcript – be careful in leaping to conclusions folks, people tend to edit reality in the re-telling.

  38. FAs are beginning to “fight back” after years of mistreatment by drunk, unruly, rude passengers. Passengers that feel that, simply because they have purchased a service, they are entitled to behave however they want.

    None of these actions are right.

    We all have good days and bad days. Just because a FA is having a bad day, or is on a power trip, doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to “stand up”. I make it a point to greet the FA at the door when I board, and if I am seated deep in economy, I make it a point to smile and greet the mid cabin attendant. If they are making the choice to be surly that day, my return surliness or smart-a$$ed-ness, or whatever is certainly not going to change their attitude. Some kindness can go along way, and if not, then I really don’t need to interact with them, other than possibly for a drink order a little later.

    Again, yes, the actions are not right. The pre-flight lecture clearly states they are here “primarily for our safety”. I doubt that the FA unions will ever allow cameras on board, if the rally cry is to try to bust surly FAs. However, if EVERYBODY would treat each other with kindness….KINDNESS…..and not take offense with each other, or feel like we all have to be right…… maybe we can survive our 3 hour flights.

  39. Why do news sites never follow-up any more? A quick Google search found no information beyond the initial articles. Was the video ever made public?

  40. There are three things worth noting here

    First, there was a video according to the Facebook post, which I can’t find. If I were the disrespected party and had a video, I would surely post it online. Given that the family has gone public, I wonder why they haven’t posted the video? There may be a reason for this…

    Second, deplaning a passenger is a big deal. I traveled on over a hundred flights this year and it happened once, in Dallas, to a guy who was so drunk I don’t know how he got on the plane, and boarded with a drink in hand. American Airlines were polite and courteous. It requires paperwork and can easily go against the FA. It’s very inconvenient for everyone involved.

    Third, travel can be very stressful. FAs have a brutal schedule and don’t get paid until the door shuts. They should be patient but in many cases I’ve seen them take their stress out on passengers. The job of the senior FAs is just as much to keep the juniors from doing this, as anything else. Equally passengers can take their stress out in a plane. It’s a confined environment and they sometimes go bonkers. One young man was on his first flight this year and he started freaking out, talking to himself, rocking and sweating. Another passenger moved next to him to calm him.

    And sometimes those forces can come together and be very negative. On one flight, the passenger next to me had a bad day, and so did the FA, and they started arguing. The FA was being a little awkward and the passenger took offense to it, and it escalated. But on one was thrown off.

    Anyhow my check-in reminder just came in. Safe travels.

  41. Welcome to the Hysterical States of America. Ever since 9 11 the USA is paranoid, aggressive and out of control.

    No wonder the rest of the world does not like the USA. The US attitude only makes matters worse.

    The USA is the laughing stock of the western world.

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